Smithfield: Opinion

Are Muslims tolerant too?

I think Franklin Graham was wrong. A call to prayer from a church bell tower cannot possibly be a bad thing.

True, this particular call to prayer from the bell tower of a Christian chapel would have been for Muslims, but Mr. Graham and other Christians should welcome that. They should realize too that Christians on the Duke University campus would have heard the call and stopped to pray themselves.

Mr. Graham is surely aware that the world today is not the world his God would prefer, so he would surely agree that the world needs more calls to prayer, not fewer.

And it’s not as though Duke’s proposal was a radical change in policy. Muslim students on the Duke campus already hold gatherings in the chapel’s basement. Duke simply proposed to allow Muslims to use another part of the chapel, albeit a high-profile one, to issue their call to prayer.

Mr. Franklin knew that before he called on Duke donors to withhold their money from the university until it reversed course on the call-to-prayer decision. I haven’t heard or read that Mr. Franklin wants Duke to boot Muslim students from the chapel’s basement, so I wonder why the call to prayer moved him to action.

In any event, it did, and if you heard or read about Duke reversing course, you would think that Mr. Graham is a bully and that university leaders are cowards who care more about donations than their commitment to diversity. The perceived victims here are Duke Muslims denied freedom of worship by a university made intolerant by its devotion to money.

It’s likely not that black and white, though you wouldn’t know from the media accounts.

In particular, I remember one TV report in which the reporter asked a Muslim leader what he thought of Duke reversing course on the call to prayer. The leader said, with no shortage of righteous indignation, that Duke was guilty of intolerance.

Perhaps it was. But I so wanted the TV reporter to ask the Muslim leader if he would have been OK with a mosque opening its doors to a Christian baptism or Easter or Christmas service. I mean, if Christianity is supposed to be tolerant, then Islam should be tolerant too, right?

But none of the Duke reporting I saw or read answered that essential question for me. So what I’m left with are unflattering impressions of Franklin Graham and Duke University. What I don’t know is how tolerant Muslims are of people of other faiths. And until I know the answer to that question, I’m not quite sure what to think of the seeming bad guys in this story.