The Dean of Duke University’s Divinity School has defended the school’s decision to scrap plans for a weekly Muslim call to prayer from Duke Chapel’s bell tower.
The decision, announced earlier this week, was reversed Thursday afternoon after objections by some in the evangelical Christian community. In a letter to members of the Divinity School, Dean Richard B. Hays said he supported the school's about-turn, noting that he considered the decision to allow a call to prayer—which he claimed was made without his knowledge—“ill-advised.”
“Any decision to permit the use of a prominent Christian place of worship as a minaret for Muslim proclamation will, in our time, have immediate global repercussions,” Hays wrote, saying the perspective of Christians of living in Islamic societies should have been taken into account.
He also took time to “lament the flood of angry and even threatening messages” the school has received since the announcement was first made, many of which are in full display on the University’s Facebook page. “Those of us who are Christians do no service to our faith or to God by forming hasty judgments or responding with hatred towards others,” Hays wrote.
Though the school's approximately 700 Muslim students will continue to use the Chapel basement for worship, they will no longer be invited to sound the adhan from the bell tower before Friday afternoon jummah prayers.
The Chapel meant for the move to be taken as a symbol of religious pluralism and unity, but many did not see it that way, including noted Christian leader Rev. Franklin Graham, who said it was an effort to erase Christianity from the school.
Rev. Luke Powery, the Dean of Duke Chapel, dismissed those claims in an interview with NPR’s Here & Now. “We are obviously a Christian community,” Powery said. “There’s still a vibrant Christian presence on campus, even with our various campus ministries. But at the same time, we serve the whole entire Duke University community, which is very diverse, religiously, culturally, racially.”