Under Religious Right Threats, Duke University Backs Down over Muslim Use of Chapel


According to the American Family Association’s Bryan Fischer, who back in January said “It is impossible to blaspheme Muhammad [because] Allah is represents a demon god,” freaked out over the decision announced Tuesday by Duke University to allow Muslims to use the school chapel bell tower to chant a weekly call-to-prayer.

This is a decision that has now, as of Thursday, been reversed as a result of Religious Right bigotry. Previously, the 700 Muslim students on campus had to use the basement of the chapel for their prayers.

Duke University had cited the needs of religious pluralism, which are exactly the needs of a modern liberal democracy. But Fischer claimed yesterday on his program that Muslim student associations are terrorist sleeper cells, and warns that when “this call to prayer goes out” today, “and Muslim students go to prayer and they invoke the name of Allah, they are inviting the demons of the abyss onto that campus.”

Watch courtesy of Right Wing Watch:

(For the full version of Fischer’s whine-fest, go here).

According to Duke:

The adhan is the call to prayer that brings Muslims back to their purpose in life, which is to worship God and serves as a reminder to serve our brothers and sisters in humanity,” said Imam Adeel Zeb, Muslim chaplain at Duke. “The collective Muslim community is truly grateful and excited about Duke’s intentionality toward religious and cultural diversity.

This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission,” added Christy Lohr Sapp, the chapel’s associate dean for religious life. “It connects the university to national trends in religious accommodation.

Fischer, on the other hand, claimed that,

When Christian students at Duke University go to prayer in the name of Jesus they are inviting and invoking the presence of God, the Son and the Holy Spirit to come to that campus and manifest his presence.

When Muslim students go to prayer, they’re appealing to Allah, this demonic counterfeit god, to manifest his presence on the campus of Duke and he will. That’s what’s dangerous about this. It’s not harmless, it’s not just a matter of innocent accommodation or innocent multiculturalism or innocent diversity. It is an extremely dangerous thing for Duke to do.

So what Fischer is saying is that the First Amendment is dangerous and incompatible with his beliefs and that therefore it must be set aside. Of course, he pretends to believe the First Amendment was written to apply only to Christians, and it may be that he is indeed that ignorant, but the effect is the same, that is, to deny basic First Amendment rights to those Americans he does not approve of.

Standard Old Testament fare.

Of course, Fischer is far from alone. According to The Washington Times,

Franklin Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham, wrote on Facebook: “As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering and beheading Christians, Jews and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism. I call on the donors and alumni to withhold their support from Duke until this policy is reversed.

According to Graham, Muslims are “rapists and killers.” And donors and alumni listened and threatened Duke’s pocket book. And when you have a university by its pocket book, its heart and mind will soon follow.

So now Muslim students will be relegated to the out-of-doors for their call to prayer, and then retire to a room inside the chapel for their actual prayers.

According to Duke Today,

“The University announced Thursday that the first weekly call-to-prayer would not be held from the Chapel bell tower Friday as planned. Members of the Muslim community will now hold the call-to-prayer on the quadrangle in front of the Chapel.”

Michael Schoenfeld, Duke’s vice president for public affairs and government relations, said,

There was considerable traffic and conversation and even a little bit of confusion, both within the campus and certainly outside, about what Duke was doing. The purposes and goals and even the facts had been so mischaracterized as to turn it into a divisive situation, not a unifying situation.

Yes, you might say that cries of demonic infestation did “mischaracterize” the situation. Schoenfeld says that, “Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students.” It’s committed to tolerance. It just can’t show it right now.

Schoenfeld insists none of this is because of Franklin Graham. But it is because of Franklin Graham, and because of Bryan Fischer and other Religious Right demagogues busily whipping up fear and loathing of Muslims in the wake of the Charlie Hebdo shootings.

We know this because Duke Today tells us that according to Christy Lohr Sapp, associate dean for religious life,

“The administration had concerns that precipitated the decision.” And Schoenfeld admitted the same, that there were “potential safety threats.”

“The University was made aware of serious and credible safety concerns and has increased security to address those concerns and protect students and the campus,” he wrote in an email Thursday.

Which pretty much means that Muslim hating religious extremists operating under the guise of Christianity, have threatened violence if Muslims are given equal rights to white folks with AR-15s.

Duke Today quotes junior Nourhan Elsayed, who is Muslim, as telling them that, “I am very grateful to the Duke administration and the Duke students who did support the [adhan] being announced. I really hope that we as an academic community, however, can reflect on how to eliminate islamophobia, and all types of racism from our time at Duke and ultimately from our lives.”

I wouldn’t hold your breath. Two years is a long time, and there is no hope for change until 2016. Until then, we are stuck with a government infested by racists and misogynists and religious bigots of every stripe, and at this point, these men – and they are overwhelmingly men – are prisoners of their own rhetoric.

We have just seen how Texas lawmakers have installed panic buttons in their offices after their own well-armed constituents paid visits to their offices Wednesday to “urge” them, basically at gun-point, to support House Bill 195.

HB 195, by the way, would end the ban on openly carrying unlicensed handguns.

It’s not just votes our elected officials have to fear in these heady days of homegrown right-wing terrorism, but bullets.

And Duke University, I am sure, no matter what they’re saying, understands that as well as the next guy.

Photo from The Duke Chronicle

27 Replies to “Under Religious Right Threats, Duke University Backs Down over Muslim Use of Chapel”

  1. God did not give us our magnificent minds merely to be obedient to another’s Spirit.

    Until Civilization regards Institutionalized Religions as anything other than Collectives of profound moral cowardice, it cannot approach True Enlightenment.

    We remain. then, but mean beasts of Greed, Hate, and Warfare.

  2. what’s interesting about self described ‘christians’ and their vitriol about Muslims and a false god is that being ‘christian’ means that they’ve accepted Jesus…

    Islam reveres Jesus too and accepts him as Muslim… just not as the Messiah… which the Jewish faith also believes…

    this is a shorthand version of course and you can read more here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam

    Wikipedia is also a shorthand version and you can delve deeper if you like but… you know… ignorance is bliss and also helps self serving moral rectitude…

  3. The right-wing nuts were frothing at the mouth yesterday. I have some people I know who are friends on Facebook, I’ve known them all my life, and they posted stories of this and the comments were demented. I’ve known these people since high school and to talk to them on the street you would think they were normal people, but when it comes to politics, they are off the charts stupid. I was very surprised at many of them. They also went ballistic over Nancy Pelosi’s appointment of a Muslim to a security post in the House.

    I leave these people as friends so I can see what the right is posting and to see the comments. In this case, there were 100s and 100s of truly ignorant, vile comments. It is actually very alarming to read what these people think, we have a huge problem in this country with the likes of hate radio, Fox prpaganda network, and others of that ilk.

    I don’t know how we can do anything about it, but I just don’t believe the first amendment was meant to protect hate…

  4. Cowards. The bunch of them. Franklin and Fischer are bitter old men who have no “faith.” Their fear mongering attests to that.

  5. Since the early days of TV and radio, religion has coerced and co-opted the followers of religion to give money and their beliefs to the preachers like Graham and Fisher.

    These people operate with fear and threats of an unearthly ending to peoples lives in order to suck money out of the following minions. In the 70’s and 80’s this was huge. Fake healers, preachers growing wealthy on the backs of those too stupid to understand what was happening. The Graham family is complicit in a vast way in these efforts. Today we have the giant church’s that grow very rich and influence local politics.

    There is little we can do about the Grahams and Fishers except to help people understand they themselves are the ones who allow the hate and division to continue. The ones who through fear do not allow our constitution to live and breathe

  6. Any one who thinks that we are not living in the exact copy of times in 1930’s Germany needs to read some REAL history. The Christian ReichWing IS the Nazi party that drug us into a world war. I know people who claim that we do not need freedom from Religion, those are the people who are clueless beyond belief.

  7. Thank you for bringing that up. In fact, in many ways, Jesus is far more honored and respected in Islam than in Judaism. Mary, the mother of Jesus, is mentioned even more in the Quran than she is in the Bible.

    It is the behavior of Christians that has caused there to be the problems between Islam and Christianity, not the feelings about Christ.

    And in all religions, there are people who go too far. I saw a tweet yesterday from a Muslim who wondered when Christians were going to apologize and condemn the atrocities of some Christian groups in Africa who are slaughtering Muslims. Events that we are never told about.

  8. Joseph, how true. Right now it is Muslims being ostracized. Who will it be next? Jews, Catholics, women, atheists, etc., etc.?

    Yes, blueprint of Germany in the 1930s. I think people are afraid to admit that course is being followed. Denial never helped anyone. Wake up Americans, vote, and keep connected to what is going on in our country.

  9. My forebearers fled Europe to avoid being slaughtered by warring religious factions. Death in a howling wilderness was much more attractive than the inquisition or constant marauding armies.

  10. Robyn, it is very scary.

    My father was a survivor of the Holocaust, and thank God he is no longer on this earth or he would be absolutely stunned from what is going on in this country today.

    He came to the US, became a citizen, and felt that this was the greatest country on earth. Worked hard and lived an honest, simple life.

    I am so glad he is not here today to see this mess, it would break his heart.

  11. In 10th grade back in 1974 I wrote a report in Civics/Economics class that predicted accurately the very war on Democracy that we see today. The Conservative teachers who read it were upset not only because of it’s contents but because I received such an A+. I even received an A+ when I submitted the same report in Sociology class. The town I live in is very Conservative and Christian, it’s like living in an asylum at times there is crazy all around me,my sanity stands out like a turd in a punchbowl…

  12. Joseph, I hear you. I live in the same kind of town. Your description is spot on, especially the last line!

  13. Not at all Terry. I pointed out that freedom of religion only applies to christians, and no one else according to them.

  14. John, I believe he was saying so much for religious freedom in that Christians think they should be able to stop Muslims from practicing their religion, think man. I don’t think he is taking the side of the Christian anti religious freedom for all but them, he is , rather, being sarcastic.

  15. I got what he was saying, and agree. My comment was a snark at the hypocrite christians who whine religious freedom whenever someone dares to question them, or hold them accountable, or tries to enforce the 1st amendment on them.

  16. I thought it to mean what you said Terry. Religious freedom in general, in other words, even if you are Muslim, atheist, etc., you are free to be whatever you believe in.

    This has set a very dangerous precedent.

  17. I do not think that Duke University is correct, but if I had a say in whether they should allow the Muslim students to use the building – that would not happen, only because I would NOT enjoy that ‘call to prayer’ – it grates on my ears – that is the only reason. I think if the Christian groups who used the building also had a noisy ‘call’ I would dislike that too – that to me is an ‘in your face’ noisy disruption of MY privacy and peace and quiet. So, call me nasty or a bigot – no I am not – I just hate noise at any time, including crazed football crowds ! Sorry ! Go ahead and do your prayers wherever you like as long as it doesn’t interfere with others – same answer to all groups !

  18. My jaw just dropped when I listened to Bryan Fischer. And then there was that grifter Franklin Graham; a man living off the reflected “glory” of his father’s name.
    Another Kardashian. What’s wrong with them? What is this Dungeons and Dragons? Grow up and out of your fantasy world. And while you’re at it. Don’t breed.

  19. I’m for freedom of religion as in ‘people can believe what they want.’
    I am also in favor of freedom from religion as in ‘I don’t want to be forced to listen prayers broadcast over a loudspeaker or yelled from a tower, I don’t care WHAT religion it is.’

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