More than 100 faculty and staff members, students, and members of the Muslim community from Duke and the Triangle gathered in early April for the official opening of a Muslim Life center at Duke.
For Duke's Muslim chaplain, Abdullah Antepli, the new center—a clapboard house on Swift Avenue between East and West campuses, near the Freeman Center for Jewish Life—represents "one of the most happy, joyous moments of my life,…a dream come true."
Both President Richard H. Brodhead and Duke Chapel Dean Sam Wells said the presence of a strong Muslim community on campus was essential for Duke's global vision. "We are ambitious, and we want to be the best we can be," Wells said. "We can't be the best without each other." Officials estimate the size of Duke's Muslim student population at 530.
Fatemah Ahmad, a senior and co-president of the Muslim Students Association (MSA), expressed gratitude for the university's support of the campus Muslim community. "The easiest way to show you what we mean to do with this space is for you to come in and participate—hang out, drink tea, read books, or study," she said. "The light is always on, and a pot of tea is always brewing."
The MSA's programs this semester have included screenings of films on the life of Muhammad and the significance of Mecca, along with talks on such themes as American Islam, challenges in Jewish-Muslim relations, and Islamic finance in the context of the global economic crisis.
According to an editorial in The Chronicle, "As important as recruiting international students and sending students abroad is the university's effort to make its home campus more culturally diverse and vibrant. The Muslim Life center is an exciting step in this direction."