Eboo Patel and Mary Ellen Giess in The Chronicle of Higher Education:
This time it’s the Muslims at Wichita State University who are in the news. Consigned to praying in stairwells and hallways, they were delighted last month when a Christian minister on the campus proposed making changes in the chapel in a way that would accommodate diverse worship practices. The plan called for replacing the pews with stackable chairs, a step that enraged some alumni and community members. Part of the anger was directed toward the Christian leaders who led the plan. “You call yourself a Christian?” one critic thundered. But the Muslim students experienced the brunt of the backlash, accused of advocating for the Islamic transformation of America. The Wichita State events call to mind a similar incident at Duke University in January. After campus officials provided permission for Muslims to sound the adhan, or call to prayer, from the bell tower of the chapel, Franklin Graham, a prominent Christian evangelist, wrote: “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.” That inspired a groundswell of protest against Duke, with specific fury directed at its Muslim students. For us, these incidents highlight some disturbing facts.
It is no secret that non-Muslim Americans have generally negative attitudes toward Muslims. A 2014 report by the Pew Research Center, for example, shows that 41 percent of Americans rank Muslims in the lowest third on a scale of “warmth” toward diverse religious traditions. But it may surprise officials in higher education that perceptions in campus environments, generally thought to be more welcoming of diverse identities, bear striking similarities to the national data. The Campus Religious and Spiritual Climate Survey, designed by two professors of higher education, Alyssa Bryant Rockenbach and Matt Mayhew, found that only 46 percent of students surveyed believe that Muslims are accepted in their campus communities.
It has not escaped notice that many of the more aggressive individuals in targeting Muslims are evangelical Christians.