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
Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a social liberal with leanings toward centrist politics has degrees in history and philosophy. His interests include, besides history and philosophy, human rights issues, freedom of choice, religion, and the precarious dichotomy of freedom of speech and intolerance. He brings a slightly different perspective to his writing, being that he is neither a follower of an Abrahamic faith nor an atheist but a polytheist, a modern-day Heathen who follows the customs and traditions of his Norse ancestors. He maintains his own blog, A Heathen’s Day, which deals with Heathen and Pagan matters, and Mos Maiorum Foundation www.mosmaiorum.org, dedicated to ethnic religion. He has also contributed to NewsJunkiePost, GodsOwnParty and Pagan+Politics.