When Duke University first announced a call to prayer from its chapel’s bell tower, it was intended to bring together Muslims and non-Muslims after recent terrorist attacks in Paris — instead, the move sparked widespread controversy and prompted Duke to cancel the event.
Franklin Graham, a prominent evangelical Christian, wrote a Facebook post demanding that donors withhold donations from Duke until the policy was reversed.
Duke held a similar event in front of the chapel on Friday that drew around 300 people.
Juliane Hammer, a religious studies professor at UNC, said she was optimistic when she first heard of the event.
“I was excited that Duke, in a time of heightened controversy after the Paris attacks, would be bold enough to make a statement in support of a religious minority community that has been under so much pressure to distance itself from the attacks,” she said in an email.
Thabit Pulak, a Muslim and Duke freshman, attended the call to prayer outside the chapel on Friday and said initially he was disappointed with the university’s decision, but he remained hopeful for better understanding among religious groups in the future.
“Given what I have seen on the news, I would say that people outside Duke had a much more negative impact than Duke itself. In fact, Duke administration and Duke students were very supportive,” he said.
Carl Ernst, a UNC religious studies professor, said the chaplains at the school, not the Muslim community, proposed the call to prayer.
“It was actually proposed by the Christian chaplains as a goodwill gesture of inclusion of Muslim students in the use of the Duke Chapel,” Ernst said in an email.