Muslims and Bell-Tower Controversy
Duke University’s decision to rescind its earlier approval to allow the use of campus bell-tower for a weekly Islamic prayer call has drawn widespread attention. Among the chief opponents of this accommodation to campus Muslims is Reverend Franklin Graham. He says, “It is wrong because it’s a different god. Using the bell tower, that signifies worship of Jesus Christ. Using (it) as a minaret is wrong” (quoted in Atlanta Journal Constitution, 1/16/15).
It is ironic, however, that Franklin Graham’s father, Reverend Billy Graham, was more polite and tolerant about Islam and Muslims. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, the elder Evangelical preached, in true Christian spirit, that we “should regard Muslims not as the enemy but as fellow-believers who worshiped the same God” (Washington Post, 9/2/02). Of course, over the centuries, numerous non-Muslim authorities (religious and others) have acknowledged that.
As to the bell-tower, it is a replica of the Islamic prayer-call minaret, brought to Latin-Europe by St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) from his missionary travels to the Islamic lands. While in Egypt , Francis “was deeply impressed by the religious devotion of Muslims, especially by their daily calls for prayer.” And, “the thrice-daily recitation of the Angelus that became current in Europe after this visit was precipitated by the impression made on Francis by the call of the muezzin (just as the quintessential Catholic devotion of the rosary derives from the Muslim prayer beads)” (see Thomas Cahill, “The Peaceful Crusade: Francis of Assisi,” New York Times, 12/25/06).
Incidentally, part of St. Francis’ mission was to convert Egypt’s Sultan al-Malik Kamil (reign: 1218-1238). He didn’t succeed, but he “came away from the peaceful encounter with revolutionary ideas
that called for Christians to live harmoniously with Muslims.” Amen. (See Paul Moses, The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam, and Francis of Assisi’s Mission of Peace, Image Publishers; 2009).
(Emeritus-Prof., University of Idaho)