Which is worse? To have approved the Muslim call-to-prayer in the first place or to  reverse the decision after pressure?

In a week of media frenzy, Duke University officials made this initial statement on Monday 1/12/15:

“This opportunity [to allow the Muslim call-to-prayer] 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. Read more.

Duke Memorial Chapel

The decision by Duke University officials called for the Muslim call-to-prayer, or “adhan,” to be given from the Duke Memorial Chapel bell tower every Friday, much like the call-to-prayer ushers from the pinnacle of a minaret at a mosque five times a day.1 In an editorial from the Raleigh News and Observer, Duke University’s decision was described as a stand for religious diversity and pluralism:

Duke has taken a different approach, however. It supports religious groups in their particularities and practices. With separate centers for Christian, Jewish and Muslim life and with dedicated prayer rooms for Catholics, Hindus and Buddhists, Duke responds to religious diversity not by reducing all traditions to one common denominator but by attempting to let each religious group on campus express itself in its own unique way. Read more.

The editorial goes on to quote a Muslim chaplain employed by the University:

“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.”

University officials stated that Muslim prayer had been held in the basement of the Memorial Chapel since 2009. In fact, Duke University has long-held policies that encourage religious diversity on its campus, allowing religious groups from Hindu, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Muslim and other religious backgrounds to participate assuming compliance with Duke’s Student Organization Training program. The decision by University officials to allow the call-to-prayer to be made from the Bell Tower of Memorial Chapel was a first, however. In one University explanation, the call-to-prayer was compared to bell-chimes on a Sunday morning inviting everyone to church. If a church is allowed to chime the bells, why arent Muslims allowed to do their “chime,” i.e., their call-to-prayer?

Among the Christian leaders to take a public stand against Duke’s decision was the Reverend Franklin Graham who posted this statement on his Facebook page, 1/14/15:

Duke University announced today that they will have a Muslim call to prayer from their chapel bell tower every Friday. 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.

Two days later, Duke reversed its decision. Members of the Muslim community will now gather for the call-to-prayer chant on the quadrangle outside the Chapel. Read more. Graham’s Facebook post all but went viril. When the media got wind of Graham’s remarks, comments heaped on both sides of the aisle. Huffington Post’s Relgiious section posted this article by Qasim Rashid:

Why is Franklin Graham so Anti-Jesus? (1/16/15)

Franklin Graham is no stranger to anti-Islam bigotry. He’s previously called Islam “an evil and wicked religion” and vehemently objected to Muslims offering Jummah at the National Cathedral. Duke University, meanwhile, is no stranger to pluralism and tolerance. A Christian university, Duke is known for its history of academic excellence, religious diversity, and I hear they have an above average basketball team too.

So what happens when a raging Islamophobe without a shred of knowledge about Islam collides with a world-leading academic institution known for its pluralism and diversity? Read more.

In later reports, Duke University officials announced that the decision was based upon credible security concerns.2

How is it possible that Duke University is “committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students” and then allow the Muslim call-to-prayer to be recited from the bell tower of Duke Memorial Chapel? The only students who would not be offended are Muslims and those who do not know what the Muslim call-to-prayer is.

Jean-Léon Gérôme. A Muezzin Calling from the Top of a Minaret (1879). Courtesy Wikipedia

Unlike bell chimes from a church bell-tower, the Muslim call-to-prayer has content, that is, it contains a message that the reciter bears witness to. The adhan is called out from the Mosque five times a day, summoning Muslims for mandatory worship. It is meant to bring to the mind of every Muslim and non-Muslim the importance of Islamic beliefs.3

Here is the English translation of the Arabic content that makes up every adhan called out by every muezzin (the person appointed to lead and recite the call-to-prayer): (the actual english translation and sound can be found on this youtube link)

  • Allahu Akbar (Allah is Greatest) (recited 4x)
  • Ashhadu an la ilaha illa Allah (I bear witness that there is no god worthy of worship except the One God) (recited 2x)
  • Ashadu anna Muhammadan Rasool Allah (I bear witness that Muhammad is the messenger of God) (recited 2x)

With every call-to-prayer, the muezzin recites (sings) the testimony that every Muslim bears witness to every time they pray or worship Allah. This testimony is referred to as the shahada, the Islamic creed or statement of faith, that declares belief in the oneness of Allah and Muhammad as Allah’s prophet. The statement cannot omit Muhammad as the messenger nor can it omit the oneness of Allah. To the non-Arabic speaking, the content is indistinguishable as the ear is attracted to the singing itself. To the Arabic speaking or the Muslim, the adhan summarizes the very core of what it means to be a Muslim. By this witness, all gods are unworthy to be worshipped but Allah, and all “prophets” are secondary to Muhammad, for Muhammad is the last of the prophets and by his being last, he trumps all others before him. One Muslim website describes, in part, the importance of the testimony:

There is also some testimony, ‘I witness that there is no deity but Allah’, and ‘I witness that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is the messenger of Allah’. By these two testimonies we submit ourselves to the one and only god Allah, and memorize that He has sent Muhammad (peace be upon him) for the guidance of the entire world and transported [by] him the true religion.

There is another question that must be asked regarding the decision made by Duke University officials. Does the Muslim call-to-prayer verbally abuse those for whom the Chapel is memorialized? I did some research on Duke University Memorial Chapel. James Buchanan Duke was born near Durham, NC, in 1856, on the family tobacco farm. James Duke eventually built one of the world’s most profitable cigarette manufacturers in the world. To support their tobacco plants,  the Duke family needed electric power. They were principals in the opening of the power company that now bears their name, Duke Power Company, which became the major supplier of electric power to the state of NC. From the profits of these two enterprises, the Duke Endowment Fund was formed, one of the largest endowment funds in the world, with over a billion in income distributions since its funding. Terms of the endowment trust require that annual income be distributed in the Carolinas among hospitals, orphanages, the Methodist Church, three North Carolina colleges, and retirement income for Methodist ministers from NC. The Duke family were life-long Methodists and among the church’s most generous benefactors. Evidence of their committment to Methodism was the generosity bestowed to Trinity College, a “Methodist related institution.” In 1892, Trinity College was relocated to Durham (from Randolph County, NC) and some twenty-five years later, Trinity College was renamed, Duke University, because of the financial and leadership support provided by the Duke family and the Duke Endowment Fund. James Buchanan Duke, the most significant financial contributor, his father, and his brother are all interred in Duke Memorial Chapel. The construction of the Chapel was completed in 1930, and it bears the Duke family name as a memorial t0 James Buchanan Duke and the entire Duke family.

As I personally consider a Muslim call to worship from the steps of any Christian church, my own heart cringes. I cannot imagine how it would impact the congregants of my own church to drive into the church parking lot and be greeted by the sound of the muezzin blaring the adhan from our church steeple. It would be tantamount to verbal abuse of the highest kind, in fact, blasphemous to the very Lord our church claims its lineage from; and, apparently sanctioned by the very leadership called to shepherd the church from which the adhan was recited from would be nothing short of spiritual neglect. In my mind, the officials of Duke University have committed the highest form of neglect of the student body for which they are employed to educate, inform, and prepare as responsible, critically thinking citizens in the modern-day world. They either did not inform themselves of the content of the adhan, or if they did, chose to ignore its meaning and offensiveness to all non-Muslims on its campus (700 of the 15,000 students are Muslims). It is as if their pluralistic thinking and politically correct mindset has so blinded them that they are unable to see clearly for anyone other than Muslims. It is not as if Muslims did not have a place to worship. They had that before and they have it after the decision. The adhan stabs every heart of every religious non-Muslim, particularly Christians, as they walk past Duke Memorial Chapel and hear the sound that Allah is the only god, the greatest god, and that Muhammad is his prophet, second to none.

But there is another the adhan not only abuses but blasphemes, and that is Christ, Himself. In the article above quoted by Qasim Rashid in Huffington Post, Rashid makes the following statement about what Franklin Graham should have done to honor Christ:

If Graham claims to follow Christ, why is he not rendering unto Duke what is Duke’s, and rendering unto God what is God’s? Why must he promote threats of financial boycotts to Duke University–an act that ultimately harms students more than anyone?  If Graham says he preaches the Gospel, why doesn’t he follow Jesus’s example, who helped someone who was not of the House of Israel–even though he declared, “I am not sent but to the House of Israel?” Here was Graham’s opportunity to help those not of the Christian faith–and thus follow Christ’s example. Instead, Graham’s cowardice tramples upon Christ’s compassionate teachings.

What does it mean to render unto “Duke what is Duke’s, and render unto God what is God’s?” I propose that to render unto “Duke what is Duke’s” is precisely what Franklin Graham has done. Duke University took a stance that was blasphemous to Christ. Why should Christ’s supporters not respond by withholding donations? To do so would allow Duke to “reap what it has sown,” a principle rooted not only in Scripture, but also in our own society. Duke has simply “been given over” to what it has chosen. It has chosen to offend Christians rather than offend its pluralistic, tolerant crowd-pleasers, even if it means offending one of the hands that feeds it, and established it, Christians (Duke Endowment Fund among many others).

Rashid also opines that Franklin Graham should have “served as a pacifying voice, as Jesus certainly would have,” rather than a “voice of division and fear.”

I might remind us of Jesus’ response to the blasphemy committed by religious leaders when money-changers used the Temple courtyard to sell sacrificial offerings to worshippers at above market prices, and then exchanged their Roman coinage for Temple coinage at above-market exchange rates, all the while lining their pockets and those of the priests with the profit. Jesus literally overturned their tables after he had first made a whip out of chords and beat them with it. (John 2:14-16 NASB). Jesus’ words to those blaspheming the House of the Lord are relevant to the Duke University officials who likewise blasphemed the House of the Lord (Duke Chapel) as well as the One the House of the Lord is built for: Jesus. Duke University leadership have become modern-day money changers. The profit they sought was political profit; by using the bell-tower of Duke Memorial Chapel in the name of pluralism and tolerance, both virtues of our modern-day society, Duke University sought to profit. Was it not Jesus that stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Me. John 14:6. It is Islam that changes John 14:6 by replacing Jesus’ name with that of Muhammad. That is blasphemy, in fact, the work of the spirit of Antichrist in our society:

1 John 2:22 (NASB) Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 5:10-11 (NASB) The one who believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself; the one who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has given concerning His Son. And the testimony is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.

One final point. What Duke University did in its decision to initially allow the adhan from Duke Chapel’s bell tower was tantamount to what artist Andres Serrano did in his infamous and blasphemous 1987 photograph, Piss Christ, depicting the Crucifix immersed in his own piss. Its just that Duke’s blasphemy was politically correct and Piss Christ was not. It took someone to be the “voice in the wilderness,” to call the modern-day scribes and pharisees to account. Thank God for Franklin Graham who had the courage, conviction and love of His Lord to stand up, and with the microphone God has given Him, reverse the travesty that the mighty Duke Blue Devils were about to commit.

Jesus come quickly.





  1. “Adhan, literally in Arabic, “announcement” is and in the Shari’ah it means the announcement made in specific words at the time of salat. It was introduced in the first year of the Hijrah at Madinah. The cause of its introduction, in the opinion of the Imamis, was that Gabriel came down with the adhan in a message from God to the Prophet (S). The Sunnis say that ‘Abd Allah ibn Zayd saw a dream in which he was taught the adhan by someone. When he related his dream to the Prophet (S), he approved it. See http://www.al-islam.org/shiite-encyclopedia-ahlul-bayt-dilp-team/call-prayer-according-five-islamic-schools-law, accessed January 20, 2015. []
  2. How are “credible security concerns” eliminated by simply moving the call-to-prayer across the yard? Does that sound like a little media-spin we are so accustomed to these days? []
  3. See http://theliteral.com/importance-adhan-islam/, accessed January 20, 2015. []