Duke alum & university president has harsh words for his alma mater

by Joni B. Hannigan, Editorial Staff |
Anthony Allen (right), president of Hannibal LaGrange University, a Baptist affiliated school in Missouri, and Steve Spurrier, head coach of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Spurrier accepted the position of head coach of the Duke University Blue Devils when Allen played for Duke. | Photo courtesy Anthony Allen

HANNIBAL, Mo. (Christian Examiner) -- A Duke alum, who is a university president in Missouri, is encouraged by the school's apparent change of heart about broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer each Friday from Duke University's chapel tower. But he laments the school's apparent lack of understanding about the heart of the controversy.

"I'm happy for some measure of victory," Anthony Allen told Christian Examiner. "I hope they learned that we can't deny the conflict between two worldviews -- and not all truth can be truth."

Dr. Anthony Allen is inaugurated as the 17th president of Hannibal LaGrange University Oct. 26, 2012. The 157-year-old school invited hundreds of dignitaries to the event, including Dr. David Dockery (behind Allen). Dockery is the former president of Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, the oldest institution affiliated with Southern Baptists, founded in 1823. | Photo courtesy Anthony Allen

Earlier in the day, Allen, a defensive tackle for Duke's football team from 1986-1990, and now president of Hannibal LaGrange University -- a private college affiliated with the Missouri Baptist Convention -- harshly criticized what he called a "naive" move.

Beginning Friday, January 16, the Duke Muslim's Association was set to begin chanting the prayer call from the Duke Chapel bell tower, signaling the beginning of the weekly prayer service. The three-minute "adhan," according to a school publication, was to be "moderately amplified."

Allen, president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the school from 1987-2000, said in an interview before Duke's about-face that his former school's desire to become inclusive had led them to "lose their total mind."

"They bow at every altar that comes before them and have taken on a view that truth is pretty much relative," Allen said.

Particularly disturbing and disappointing, Allen said, is the school's departure from its historic roots -- given what he has learned about Islam.

"Anybody who has read the Koran knows it is a religion of hate and violence and this is quite disturbing," he said. "I'm deeply disappointed at this display of ignorance. This is a serious intellectual mistake -- to display Islam as a peaceful religion.

"I think they've checked their brain at the door," Allen said.

Allen added that all people have a right to worship as they wish, but that there is a sense of "hypocritical inequality" in America with schools and other institutions that have banned "Christian" prayer, but apparently embrace accommodations for others, particularly Islam.

Anthony Allen, president of Hannibal LaGrange University, a Baptist-affiliated school in Missouri, played defensive tacked for the Duke University Blue Devils 1986-1990. He was number 89. | Photo courtesy Anthony Allen

"It shows how naive people are about the teaching and tenets of Islam – read the Koran," he re-stated.

At Hannibal LaGrange, with nearly 1,200 students from 28 countries and 26 states, Allen says the school invites students from all faith traditions. "Our position is that we are a Christian institution and we teach in accordance to the Word of God."

At Duke, Allen said there is a "clash of worldviews" the university needs to recognize in their pursuit for "religious tolerance" -- which to them, he said, seems to mean "all religions lead to one God."

"Allah is not the same God as Jehovah God," Allen said.

With about 700 Muslims among its nearly 15,000 students (4.7 percent), the Methodist-affiliated university in 2009 created the Center for Muslim Life and hired it's first full-time Muslim chaplain.

"Just as the bells announce Chapel worship in the building on Sunday," the Duke University Chapel webpage read early Thursday, "the Adhan announces Muslim prayers on Fridays."

Later in the day, an announcement was made that the prayer call will take place in a quad outside the chapel, rather than from the chapel tower.

"Duke remains committed to fostering an inclusive, tolerant and welcoming campus for all of its students," Michael Schoenfeld, Duke's vice president for public affairs and government relations, said in a statement. "However, it was clear that what was conceived as an effort to unify was not having the intended effect."

After Duke's change of plans, Allen mused that he remembers having some professors at Duke that he called "true liberals."

"The truth didn't matter to them. It was live and let live," Allen said. But he said that they at least tolerated conservatives. "I really get upset when people have no room for evangelicals."


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