As members of the Durham, NC chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, we were extremely dismayed by recent acts of Islamophobia in our community. Duke University made the decision — caving to Christian extremist threats to withdraw alumni funding — to cancel the Muslim call to prayer (Adhan) scheduled to be called from Duke’s bell tower a week ago. We’ve also learned that Imam Khalid Griggs (co-founder of the local Muslims for Social Justice organization) is facing similar Islamophobic attacks by a donor urging Wake Forest University to withhold funding in order to terminate Imam Khalid Griggs’ position as Muslim chaplain (Imam) there. We understand these extremist pressures in the context of a wave of Islamophobic ideological and financial threats targeting our nation’s institutes of higher learning. Because we believe strongly that people of conscience must speak out to challenge bigotry in all its forms, we are writing publicly in support of the Muslim students, faculty, and staff in the Duke community, the Wake Forest University community, and in all communities in North Carolina facing these threats.
We want to express our disappointment in Duke’s choice to capitulate to right-wing extremist fear-mongering rather than protecting and promoting their students’ freedom to worship; rather than furthering the cause of understanding; rather than cementing their commitment to respect for all cultures.
We appreciate that the Duke Chapel bell tower is regularly used for Christian observances and is from time to time used for Jewish observances, and are pained that the same courtesies are not being extended to Duke’s Muslim community. Such a double standard reinforces our perception that moves to overturn or further delay use of the bell tower for a Muslim call to prayer stem from prejudice. As Jewish Voice for Peace members, we believe it is our responsibility to denounce this decision — made out of pressure from extremist bigotry — and publicly declare that Islamopohobia has no place in our houses of worship, our schools, our workplaces, our homes, or anywhere else in our community.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stated, “our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” We refuse to be those who are complicit through their silence.
And as Professor Omid Safi recently wrote, “How we respond as a community is up to us. Let us repel evil with something lovelier, as the Qur’an says.” We stand with our Muslim brothers and sisters at Duke, at Wake Forest University, and anywhere where Islamophobia needs to be uprooted, denounced, and condemned as hate speech. We commit to take a stand against anti-Muslim and anti-Arab racism in our synagogues, organizations, and our work for social justice. And we hope that soon, those who spout fear will be drowned out instead by those who espouse humanity, pluralism, and compassion.