Duke University and the Politics of Inclusion


The last time Duke University made national headlines was when members of its lacrosse team were cleared of all charges regarding an alleged sexual assault said to have occurred on that campus in 2006.

By the time the North Carolina Attorney General got around to dropping all charges against the three men, Duke’s reputation for fairness and even handed dealing with all its students was in tatters.

Its professoriate, many of whose members had signed paid advertisements decrying the lacrosse players’ racism and misogyny, was revealed as thoroughly riddled with prejudice.  The University administration, which had failed to pay even the scantest lip service to the notion that the three students were innocent until proven guilty, was pilloried for having failed to protect the students’ rights and siding, unapologetically, with their discredited accuser.

In all, it was a black day for the University  – a stain on its credibility as an open institution which seeks both truth and to foster harmony between all its students.  One could hardly imagine it getting much worse than this.

But it has.

On Tuesday, January 13, the University announced that a Muslim weekly call to prayer will be heard on campus.  Members of the Muslim Students Association would chant the call, known as the adhan or azan, from the Duke Chapel bell tower each Friday at 1:00 pm.   The university decided upon the new allowance in the spirit of religious pluralism:

” This opportunity represents a larger commitment to religious pluralism that is at the heart of Duke’s mission,” said Christy Lohr Sapp, the chapels’ associate dean for religious life. “It connects the University to national trends in religious accommodation.”

 The response to this decision, issued while the Western world is still reeling from the massacres in Paris by Islamic assassins, was immediate.  Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse was livid. He systematically took to the airwaves and social media to denounce the decision and to urge donors to withhold their support from the University until the policy was reversed.  On Thursday, January 16th, the University, bowing to enormous pressure and outrage, cancelled the policy deciding that the Muslim students, rather than issuing the call to prayer from the bell tower, would instead meet in the quadrangle in front of the chapel.   No word has been given on whether the adhan will still be amplified.

What is most interesting is the logic Lohr Sapp employed to justify the University’s decision:

”  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. From ISIS to Boko Haram to al Qaeda, Muslims in the media are portrayed as angry aggressors driven by values that are anti-education and anti-western.”

Duke University was founded in 1838 by Methodists  and Quakers in the present day town of Trinity. Since the 19th Century it has had many names – Brown School, Union Institute, Normal College and Trinity College before adopting the name Duke in 1924 in honor of Washington Duke who had  begun the University’s endowment fund with a substantial donation.  Its original charter called for “the establishment of a Christian college which would promulgate values consonant with the  Christian belief.”

How different that mission looks today.  If Lohr Sapp is to be believed, the University has an obligation not just to propound Christian values but to aggressively defend and protect Islamic values as well – even when those values might be in conflict with its own.

No doubt the university believes that in allowing the Muslim group to broadcast the adhan – or to gather in the quadrangle outside the chapel as is its wont- it is conforming to the institution’s proud tradition of openness, tolerance and inclusion.

But are they aware that what  happened in France was a direct consequence of the same multicultural policies adopted by universities, governmental institutions, entertainers and the media in that country?

For years it was believed that if France allowed other cultures within it to flourish, the mother culture would be rewarded in return with the flowering of diversity and enriched by the exchange of cross cultural values which would eventually shave off Islam’s rough edges.

How naïve those policies look today.

Muslims in France were happy to take the license Europe lent them to live with their own customs and norms – which included misogyny, wife beating, female circumcision, honor killings and summary execution for those who defamed the name of  the Prophet  – without being prepared to give back anything at all.  They came to despise the very freedoms they had been given to advance their own civilization and then used the eventual separatism that this engendered to plot the means by which Islamic culture and values would one day overwhelm – and eradicate –  secular French culture itself.

This is the tragedy of multicultural France which began with twee liberal sentiments as expressed by Lohr Sapp and ended last week with the bullet riddled corpses of the Charlie Hebdo editorial staff and dead bodies lying on the floor of Hyper Cacher supermarket in East Paris.

Perhaps the administration of Duke University does not believe that by simply allowing students to publicly announce the Muslim call to prayer it is doing anything other than reaching out a hand to a defamed and misunderstood minority.  Unfortunately, as Frenchmen, Englishmen, Swedes, Norwegians and dozens of other Western populations have discovered, the hand so enthusiastically extended is not only bitten in return, but savaged and mutilated.

Duke University has no obligation to shield Islam from the calumnies heaped against it;  nor does it have any responsibility to rebut the negative stereotypes pouring forth out of Europe, Africa and the Middle East as armies in its  name commit atrocities that we in the West regard with revulsion.

That responsibility rests exclusively with Muslims themselves.

They can do this, not by announcing themselves a religion the equal of any other on the campus, but by forthrightly and adamantly distancing themselves from anything to do with the decapitations, sex slavery and violent conquest we witness repeatedly in our media, while at the same time acknowledging that, sad as it is to admit, this behavior derives from the religious precepts  and current practices of their own religion.

They can also use their newly granted platform to demand reform of Islam and demonstrate to their fellow students that the religion they wish to practice so publicly is capable of propounding the same values of openness, tolerance and inclusion as their host civilization.

Seven years ago Duke failed the test of defending its own students against accusations that proved false.  It does not make up for that lapse by now excusing accusations which happen to prove true.

Perhaps, then, no one expects the Muslim students of Duke University, with their new license to practice their religion so openly, to transform overnight into savages rampaging through the campus and eviscerating anyone who refuses to abide by their cultural norms.

But as the unfortunate example of Europe has proved, the call to revolt can often begin with a call to prayer and we would be fools not to heed this warning.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance in Los Angeles and the editor of The Intermediate Zone

 

 

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