One man’s religious freedom is another’s persecution. Exhibit A is Bond Chapel at the University of Chicago where administrators permanently removed pews from the 88-year campus structure to make it more Islamic-prayer friendly.
A report at Campus Reform, via Chicago NPR affiliate WBEZ, notes that the seats are now on display at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art.
That news will come as cold comfort to former (read: Christian) worshippers of the chapel, who have been informed that their prayers will no longer be answered there, albeit in the name of “religious tolerance.”
A description accompanying the museum installation explains:
The pews were recently removed from the chapel in order to offer Muslim students a place to pray, a symbolic gesture of religious tolerance.
Campus Reform quotes UC spokeswoman Susie Allen, who confirmed by email:
The benches were removed… to make Bond Chapel a more appropriate comfortable space for its many uses: ceremonial, spiritual, and artistic.
Allen further maintains that the primary purpose for the change, which was part of a broader renovation, was to “accommodate the installation of a Boroque-style organ.” That should fit in nicely with the Insha’Allah, Jumuah prayer, to be held every Friday at Bond for the university’s Muslim population. No mention of whether minarets will be constructed to call the faithful to prayer.
Although Chicago students are not as religious as the rest of the country — an article at University of Chicago Magazine reports that 42.6% of incoming freshman in a 2004 survey said they followed no religion — some 23% claimed they were Protestant, 19% Roman Catholic, and 7.4% Jewish. In contrast, only 2.1% said they followed Islam. Based on those numbers, it is difficult to argue that the elimination of the pews was done on the basis across-the-board fairness.
It is entirely possible that the percentage of Muslim students has risen dramatically since then. An email to Zahed Haseeb, President of the Muslim Student Association, awaits an answer.
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