A few weeks back many Americans were understandably perplexed by Duke University’s decision to allow Muslim students to sound the call for Friday prayer (the adan) from the belfry of its famed Chapel tower. After all the Chapel has its roots in Methodism, Duke having been historically linked to the United Methodist Church. Moreover, you would think that the left-wing professoriate that dominates the Duke campus would raise concerns about an old bugaboo, the separation of church and state. Imagine if Catholic students called on Duke to allow Gregorian Chant to be sung from the belfry or Baptist students called upon Duke to allow a weekly sermon of fire and brimstone.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, the evangelist and son of the Rev. Billy Graham—for many Americans a kind of Protestant Pope—reacted with a sense of astonishment that typified the reaction of many Americans. He said, “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.” Thus as Duke students frolicked through their days flinging Frisbees and cutting classes and as their earnest profs rode skateboards to nearly empty classrooms, Fridays would be marked by the Islamic adan ringing from the Chapel belfry for the Muslim few—the majority of Duke’s 700 Muslims are apparently not that religious. This was the state of things until January 15.
Now the uproar is over. Old Duke decided that on that day the historic call to prayer would no longer sound from the Chapel tower above but from the quadrangle below. And the riled-up Christians, Jews, and assorted atheists or agnostics were appeased. “The vehemence of the reaction from a number of quarters created concerns about security,” explained Michael Schoenfeld, the university’s vice president for public affairs. Obviously the Rev. Graham had the Duke administration on edge and the Ku Klux Klan did not even have to be called in.
Yet how did Duke—long a secular institution—arrive at this religious dispensation for its small Muslim population to begin with? The answer resides with the left-wing professoriate and the university’s administrators. The American left-winger adheres to only one value. It is neither individual freedom nor order. It is to disturb the peace. Freedom, for instance free expression or free association, has been banished on campus for years by the adoption of speech codes and other enforced regimentation. Order is inconceivable at an institution where outré behavior is the rule. Who doubts that if a student—especially a Native American—wanted to wear a headdress to class it would be allowed? The only value that is adhered to at Old Duke is disturbing the peace, especially if it is the university profs and administrators who are doing the disturbing.
At question was not allowing Muslims or Christians or Jews to gather for prayer, though if enough of them did I can imagine the university barring them from doing so. It was sounding the adan from a Methodist chapel and offending the maximum number of infidels. I imagine millions of Americans were offended. The university’s authorities must have loved it. They could with one gesture offend Americans on and off campus. All that changed the policy was another of their bugaboos, violence—not from the Muslims but from the Christians, some of whom probably suggested something awful during the controversy.
Never has the left’s hold been tighter on campus. That is the bad news. But the good news is that rarely has the left’s influence across the nation been weaker. It is weaker because today the left is so out of touch with the general populace. As Walter Russell Mead wrote recently in the American Interest, “Never have liberal ideas [read left-wing ideas] been so firmly entrenched within America’s core elite institutions. Never have those institutions been so weak and uninfluential.” So enjoy the spectacle at Duke or whatever university you choose to keep an eye on. The University of Virginia? Recall if you will its recent tales of rape and fraternity hellishness. Collegiate football is not the only source of amusement on the nation’s campuses.