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Duke Reverses Decision To Broadcast Muslim Call To Prayer On Campus

Unspecified threats reportedly led to the change of heart.

Duke University won't be broadcasting a Muslim call to prayer after all. The Durham, North Carolina, school had announced that in an effort to bring unity to its campus beginning today (Jan. 16) it would allow the chant, known as an adhan, to ring out in English and Arabic from the famed 210-foot-tall Duke Chapel bell tower on Fridays at 1 p.m.

"While it might seem an odd juxtaposition to have the adhan chanted in the same tower from which bells toll daily (and twice on Sundays!), it is actually in keeping with the university’s commitment to fostering the spiritual development of all students," associate dean Christy Lohr Sapp wrote in an op-ed on Wednesday of the original plan to broadcast the call in a "moderately" amplified manner.

"The chanting of the adhan communicates to the Muslim community that it is welcome here, that its worship matters, that these prayers enhance the community and that all are invited to stop on a Friday afternoon and pray."

But after running into unspecified resistance, officials announced Thursday that the plan had been scrapped. According to CNN, vice president of public affairs and government relations Michael Schoenfeld said in a statement that Duke's efforts to "unify was not having the intended effect," though the university "remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students."

More than 700 of Duke's 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students identify as Muslim and the Duke Muslim Students Association had planned to have the adman chanted from the tower to signal the beginning of the weekly prayer service, which has taken place in the basement of Duke Chapel for years.

The Atlantic reported that the director of Duke's Islamic Studies Center was told that there were "numerous verified instances of credible threats" against members of the university community after the effort was announced earlier this week.

Reaction to the reversal was strong, on both sides.

One of the strongest voices against the move was that of Franklin Graham, son of legendary evangelist Billy Graham, who had called on Duke donors to withhold support over the plan in an inflammatory Facebook post that invoked rape and beheadings.

Instead, members of Duke's Muslim community will now temporarily gather on the quadrangle outside the Chapel, a spot that often hosts interfaith programs and activities.

"Our Muslim community enriches the university in countless ways," Schoenfeld said. "We welcome the active expression of their faith tradition, and all others, in ways that are meaningful and visible."

The back and forth comes amid rising tensions with Muslim communities in some European countries in the wake of last week's attacks on France's Charlie Hebdo magazine by terrorists allegedly linked to Al Qaeda.