Franklin Graham is no stranger to anti-Islam bigotry.
Duke University, meanwhile, is no stranger to pluralism and tolerance. A Christian university, Duke is known for its history of academic excellence, religious diversity, and I hear they have an above average basketball team too.
So what happens when a raging Islamophobe without a shred of knowledge about Islam collides with a world-leading academic institution known for its pluralism and diversity?
Unfortunately, sometimes bigotry wins.
Duke University recently announced it would allow the Adhaan, i.e. the Muslim call to prayer, to be announced from Duke chapel. Graham issued a Facebook post encouraging Duke alumni to pressure their alma mater into rescinding. The alumni complied, and now Duke has rescinded permission to call the adhaan from Duke chapel. Duke has now stated that the official reason they cancelled the Adhaan was a "credible and serious security threat."
Graham's hypocrisy is glaring. Here he is preventing Muslims from worshiping freely at Duke, while complaining (rightfully might I add) that Christians can't worship freely in several Muslim majority nations. If he wants to show these despotic regimes how they should behave, he's failed. Instead, he's provided extremists more fodder to show how intolerant Christian leaders are. Graham mimics what he claims to hate.
But on a deeper level I'm disappointed Graham is not being very Christ-like.
If Graham is offended, why is he not turning the other cheek? We may never know if his bigotry reasonably attracted extremists to threaten Duke University--which additionally maligns the beautiful name of Christ. We do know, however, that rather than serving as a pacifying voice, as Jesus certainly would have, Graham has become a voice of division and fear.
If Graham claims to follow Christ, why is he not rendering unto Duke what is Duke's, and rendering unto God what is God's? Why must he promote threats of financial boycotts to Duke University--an act that ultimately harms students more than anyone?
If Graham says he preaches the Gospel, why doesn't he follow Jesus's example, who helped someone who was not of the House of Israel--even though he declared, "I am not sent but to the House of Israel?" Here was Graham's opportunity to help those not of the Christian faith--and thus follow Christ's example. Instead, Graham's cowardice tramples upon Christ's compassionate teachings.
And though he vehemently hates Islam, Graham could learn much from Prophet Muhammad. In a famous instance some Christian scholars from a nearby town called Najran came to visit Muhammad. They sat in his mosque and debated religion--preaching the Gospel to him. Muhammad not only welcomed them but happily engaged in dialogue with them. Eventually his Christian guests asked permission to leave to offer their worship services.
Muhammad replied with conviction, that his mosque was a house of worship for all people. History records that the Christians from Najran offered their worship services in Prophet Muhammad's own mosque--unhindered, unrestricted, and unhesitatingly.Some time later, Christian Monks from St. Catherine's Monastery of Sinai wrote to Muhammad, asking what their status would be under his rule? Muhammad responded with an infamous letter that survives to this day,
"This is a message from Mohammed ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them. Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. ... The Muslims are to fight for them. ... Their churches are to be respected. ... No one of the Muslims is to disobey this covenant until the Last Day."
Sadly, extremist clerics in countries like Pakistan have forgotten Prophet Muhammad's beautiful example. Likewise, extremist clerics named Franklin Graham in countries like America have forgotten Jesus Christ's beautiful example.
Muhammad and Jesus have much in common--both taught compassion, pluralism, and service to all humanity. Duke University has historically followed this model. Whether Duke ultimately permits calling the Adhaan or not, I encourage them to heed the Christ-like and Muhammad-like calls of pluralism going forward.
In the meantime, we've discovered that Graham isn't just anti-Muslim, he is also anti-Jesus. Graham may claim he speaks like Jesus, but his actions speak much louder otherwise. Thus, in looking at his words you can call Graham a Christian preacher. But in looking at his acts, you just can't call Graham Christ-like.
He is everything but.