By Brendan McCartney
January 26, 2015
Of the thousands of Muslims I’ve befriended, fallen in love with or randomly passed by on the street, approximately zero have tried to kill me. Now, I know what some readers must be thinking: it’s a trick! The numbers must be lying. Everyone knows that Islam is the religion of pure extremism and that the secretive “Muslim Extremists Unite!” listserv circulates around on a daily basis with devious suggestions of how to gain the trust of unsuspecting Americans.
I hope that these statements do not resonate with readers in a “finally someone gets it!” kind of way. But dialogue on and off campus surrounding Duke’s decision and then reversal to allow the Muslim call-to-prayer suggests otherwise. Arguments against the initiative have been as frequently filled with hatred as they have been devoid of rational objectivism. If you still feel uncertain about whether or not the Adhan should have been projected from Duke’s Chapel, then here are the logical issues with the most frequently levelled arguments against the initiative.
"Islam uniquely encourages violent behaviour."
Of course parts of the Qur’an are violent in nature, but then again, so are parts of many religions. Christianity’s Old Testament, for example, depicts God-inspired plagues and executions for individuals who work on the Sabbath. Apart from its vengeful God, interpreted strictly, the Bible commands that Christians engage in violence. One example comes in Deuteronomy 22:23-24, which mandates that Christians stone any woman who has extramarital sex without crying for help, regardless of context. Many Christians today, myself included, get around this by selectively interpreting certain parts of the Bible. But a Christian cannot with consistency condemn the violent parts of Islam as characteristic of the entire religion while disregarding the Old Testament as an innocent product of an older time.
"Islam is still more violent than other religions—look to the Middle East for proof."
To funnel all the complexities of chaos in parts of the Middle East to religion is to drastically oversimplify. The majority of Muslims, who are peaceful, deserve the agency to define the principle tenets of their religion. Extremism abroad is due to a variety of factors, the most obvious being complete political destabilization, but surfaces at its core from radical ideology, not religious worship.
"If the majority of Muslims are so peaceful, why do I never hear Muslims condemning Islamic extremism?"
To put it bluntly, one needs look further than Fox News to find Muslims calling out extremists of their religion—Muslim critics of extremism abound. Muslim leaders from most major Islamic organizations have condemned the blending of terror and Islam. Leaders from the Council on American-Islamic Relations, for example, have publicly condemned the radical ISIL but have not been invited to the same Fox News shows that feature anchors questioning the existence of peaceful Islamic leadership.
"All Muslim Americans should speak out against Islamic extremism."
Perhaps they should, as we all should, but not because of their religion. A typical Muslim American has no more connections to an ISIL extremist abroad than a potato chip does to the extinction of the dinosaurs. A Muslim American shouldn’t be tied to the Boston Marathon terrorists any more than a Christian American should be tied to the hate speech of the Westboro Baptist Church. Keep in mind the difference between Islamic extremism and Islamic religion. Analogously, though extremist Christians threatened the safety of Duke students when the university originally announced its initiative, I do not feel that they faithfully represent my religion, and therefore neither I nor other Christians should need to apologize for their bigotry.
"But why does a Muslim call-to-prayer need to be broadcasted from a Christian Chapel?"
Limited campus resources prevent all major religions from having their own places of worship. As a result, students of various faiths including Muslims are already allowed space to worship within the Chapel. While isolated worship cannot be perfectly compared to public prayer, an important note to consider is that Islam stands apart from other religions in its requirement of a call-to-prayer. It is probably a safe bet to assume that if broadcasting the Lord’s Prayer were a part of Christianity, it would be done from the Chapel.
"Even still, the decision should be left to Christians, not liberal elitists."
I agree that Christians do reserve the right to decide how a Christian building should be used. But I also believe that my God would advocate acceptance within the context of growing Islamophobia. Christians on campus tend to agree. The initiative to allow the Adhan was started by Christy Sapp, Duke’s Associate Dean for Religious Life at the Chapel, and has received support from Christian student groups throughout campus. The Chapel today stands as both a beacon of Christianity and a symbol of Duke—a progressive university that aims to achieve religious pluralism and acceptance within its student body. While the decision to allow the public broadcasting of the Adhan ultimately should be left to Christians, the deciders should be Christians of this university, not of this nation.
It’s been disappointing to see how easily high-profile tragedies internationally have stirred up the vicious persecution of peaceful Muslims for their religion and heritage. I encourage readers to think critically about the true causes of extremism and to consider how we can ensure that America remains a safe and accepting home to Muslim Americans.
Brendan McCartney is a Trinity junior.