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