When Duke University announced last week that the Muslim call to prayer would be amplified from the bell tower of the university’s chapel, Richard Hays, the dean of the Duke Divinity School, was surprised. According to a letter obtained by the Post which he sent to the Divinity School community Thursday, he was not consulted about the decision, and he disagreed with it.
There are serious theological tensions between Christianity and Islam, he wrote, including some of the words in the “adhan,” the call to prayer chanted in Arabic.
He also wrote, “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. Any discussion about such a proposal should take into careful account the perspective of millions of Christians living in Islamic societies where their faith is prohibited or persecuted.”
Hays said in an email Monday that he did not have anything further to add but was glad to have his thoughts shared more widely.
The Gothic chapel is a familiar symbol of Duke, a university with historic ties to the United Methodist Church. Duke is non-sectarian today.
Amplifying the call to prayer — a familiar sound in many majority-Muslim countries — was intended to unify the campus and ensure it was a welcoming place for students of all faiths, according to a university official. But just two days after the announcement, after an intense reaction and, some university officials said, violent threats, the university reversed the decision.
Still, on Friday, hundreds of supporters gathered peacefully on the quadrangle in front of the Duke University Chapel to hear the call to prayer — not chanted from the heights of the bell tower, but amplified by a speaker on the chapel steps.
Read the letter from Hays here.