January 19, 2015 by The Editor
Last week, Duke University’s campus Chapel approved a Muslim student association’s request to broadcast the Muslim call to prayer from the Chapel’s bell tower. The call to prayer would have been broadcast to the entire campus, at a university founded as a Methodist institution — a proposition that would seem shocking at any American university, much less one founded within the Christian tradition. The university administration, after significant protest, reversed the Chapel’s decision suggesting that it was ill-advised.
At three minutes, the Muslim call to prayer lasts about three times as long as it takes to recite the Our Father, or Lord’s Prayer; it’s also about three times as long as it takes to recite the Hail Mary. The Shema (the Jewish declaration of faith): Shema Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echad – Hear Oh Israel, the Lord is your God, the Lord is One, takes about 15-20 seconds to recite at most.
The Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Shema are core prayers for Christianity in general, for Catholicism, and for Judaism respectively. They are the first prayers learned by children and they assert central tenants of faith. For myself, the Hail Mary remains a vivid connection to my childhood, evoking images of learning it during catechism at the side of my father’s cousin, of reciting it nightly as a little boy while my mother sat next to me, hearing, amplifying, my little prayers.
These are core prayers for a huge majority of Americans who are part of an organized religion, but they are not recited over PA systems to an entire community or college campus. While there might have been a time or place in the USA when the Our Father was heard in public schools, those days are over. Religious diversity and the separation of church and state necessitated it. As a country we have affirmed the right of religious liberty over and over again. We also have the right to reject religion entirely. Private or not, an institution such as Duke University has a responsibility to affirm our values as a culture. It has a responsibility to make clear that while we as a society respect the presence of a wide diversity of traditions it is unacceptable for one religion to be imposed in such a way as broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer from a campus bell tower.
In addition to highlighting the need to safeguard the public square as a neutral space, this controversy at Duke has brought to the fore the reality (uncomfortable for some) that the United States of America is fundamentally a Judeo-Christian culture. Their discomfort is illuminated in the wake of terror attacks by Islamists and in the shadow of destruction caused by ISIS, Boko Haram, and other Islamic terrorists in the name of their god (which seems to be a god of violence and death above all) as we see a race among multiculturalists to prove their credentials. There is a race to prove to the tiny minority of Muslim students that Duke University is “their” campus too. There is a race to prove, it would seem, that America is in fact not a Judeo-Christian culture, but a culture in continual transformation that must bring within its fold every group that comes to our shores.
America’s ability to absorb and integrate millions of immigrants is a testament to its greatness. But the key strength in America’s openness has been a balance between honoring difference while integrating American values into a new life as an American citizen. That is one reason immigrants from South Korea, South and Central America, India, Lebanon, the Philippines and many other places, have been largely successful: they share not only the desire to seek the American Dream, these groups also share our core values which have allowed, despite some struggles, members of most ethnic and religious groups to live here peacefully, working, and intermarrying with others.
It’s important to be clear: we do not have a Judeo-Christian government. Our justice system is not sectarian. Our military is open to all who take upon themselves the job of defending our liberties (civil and religious) and freedom. But, our country was founded by Christians. One of our official national holidays is Christmas, which is in no way a secular winter holiday. Our sense of fairness and charity is deeply informed by Judeo-Christian teachings. Jewish culture and Judaism, the ‘older brother’ of Christianity, has brought America numerous strengths including a passion for justice and a reinforcement of the necessity of public service. American adherents of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Native American spiritual teachings contribute to a rich foundation of faith that proves how divergent world-views can work in perfect harmony with American values.
At the heart of the struggle against the expansionism of radical Islam that we in the ‘West’ are engaged in, is the right of our own cultures to exist. One of the key talking points used by supporters of Israel has long been “Israel’s right to exist.” I used the phrase not long ago in a blog post entitled ‘Quebec’s Right to Exist’ during the debate over a proposed Charter of Values. Switzerland, in a referendum a few years ago in which the Swiss people voted against allowing minarets to alter their physical landscape, was also asserting its right to exist as a unique culture.
Each of these situations reflected the struggle of non-Muslim places to determine what their lands should look like and what their own values should be in the face of Muslim immigration or conflict with Muslim nations. And in each case, those who are fighting for Quebec’s values, or the Jewish state, or Swiss culture, have been called by various parties, often followers of the same multiculturalist agenda, racists, fascists, and in the case of Quebec, anti-Semites for doing so.
The ease with which many politicians, leaders of NGOs, and academic activists defame their opponents should give us all pause. There are far too many hypocrites among us who demand rights and visibility for one group while undermining religious or cultural expression by others. Again, reality: there is a widespread belief among multiculturalists that immigration is a human right, and that host nations (in the West) must change to respect the value systems of new immigrants. It is a deeply flawed conclusion: the confusion of welcoming the stranger on the one hand and allowing them to change the lock to your front door on the other.
We are facing a totalitarian, Islamic ideology that seeks to impose itself on the rest of the world, and is doing so through terrorism, aided and abetted by the failed ideology of multiculturalism that continues to haunt university campuses and other institutions. Western cultures, liberal cultures, have a right to exist. It goes without saying that we liberal nations must defend our freedoms and must recognize who, and what, constitutes an enemy to our way of life. And we must be unafraid in saying who they are and what they represent. We did it with Nazism, we did it with Communism throughout Europe. We must do it again with radical Islam, a religious fanaticism that threatens us all.