Before it unraveled, a plan to use Duke University's chapel tower in a call to prayer for the school's Muslim community was meant to promote religious unity and pluralism. But after a flurry of objections arrived by phone and email — along with reported security concerns — Duke canceled a plan to have members of the Muslim Students Association read a moderately amplified call to prayer from the tower for about three minutes each Friday. Instead, Muslims will gather for their call to prayer in a grassy area near the 210-foot gothic tower before heading into a room in the chapel for their weekly prayer service.
The original plan drew the ire of evangelist Franklin Graham, who urged Duke alumni to withhold support because of violence against Christians he attributed to Muslims. Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, said emails and calls came from alumni and others in the community. He also said there were concerns about safety and security, but he declined to elaborate on whether any specific threats had been received.
In her column written for The News & Observer of Raleigh, Lohr Sapp acknowledged the headlines generated from violence by extremists in the Islamic State group, Boko Haram and al-Qaida. But she contrasted it with the peaceful worship of Muslims at Duke. "This face of the faith will be given more of a voice as the Duke Muslim community begins chanting the adhan, the call to prayer, from the Duke Chapel bell tower on Fridays beginning this week," she wrote. Duke has nearly 15,000 students, including about 6,500 undergraduates. The university says more than 700 of its students identify themselves as Muslim. Muslim students have been holding prayer services in the basement of the chapel for the past two years.
— The Associated Press