Insulting Religion: Franklin Graham and Omid Safi
by: John Tyrrell
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In recognition of its over 700 Muslim students (out of a student body of 15,000), Duke University decided to permit a weekly Islamic call to prayer from the bell tower of its chapel.
The Islamic prayer service has been held for a number of years in the chapel basement, and this is just one element of the various types of spiritual support the university provides to meet the needs if its students' various faiths.
Franklin Graham - who only has any influence because of his father - responded with his usual fundamentalist Christian bigotry and paranoia while playing the persecuted victim card:
"As Christianity is being excluded from the public square and followers of Islam are raping, butchering, and beheading Christians, Jews, and anyone who doesn’t submit to their Sharia Islamic law, Duke is promoting this in the name of religious pluralism.”
Omid Safi is head of the university's Islamic Studies Center. Did he respond to Graham's insults to Islam and its followers with a call for Graham's death? No! Safi replied with:
"Every day from that same Duke chapel, church bells ring, and twice on Sunday. The cross is on the emblem of Duke University. The entire quad, and the entire campus of Duke University is laid out as a cross. And the Christian chapel is the very symbol of Duke University. So the kind of fanatical proclamation that Christianity is being erased from Duke’s campus is frankly a poor indication of the intelligence of that argument."
He simply exposed the emptiness of Graham's position. He fought words with words.
In another response, Mohammad Banawan of the the Muslim American Society of Charlotte, identified Graham's remarks as an attempt to incite hatred, and saying it is wrong to criticize an entire group over the actions of a minority.
I can respect Omid Safi and Mohammad Banawan for their measured responses - respect which Franklin Graham will never get.
They both understand the appropriate way to respond when your religion is insulted. And it is far better than turning your opponent into a martyr.
Unfortunately, bigotry and ignorance won the day on this one as Graham stirred up enough followers with his dishonest claim of Christianity being oppressed to pressure the university into backing down yesterday on permitting the call to prayer.
Part of that pressure was "credible threats of violence" directed against Duke University staff. Credible threats of violence! That's rich isn't it, threats of violence coming from those stirred up by Graham's words blaming Muslims for violence.
The University failed on this - it should have stood its ground on being open to religions other than just Christianity. It should have stood its ground on pluralism.
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