Campus Chaplain Defends Muslim Prayer Room At Christian University

by Jennifer Kabbany - Associate Editor on December 4, 2013

FORT WORTH – The chaplain at a Christian university in Texas on Tuesday defended the university’s decision to set aside a room on campus for Muslim students to pray, saying it was the Biblical thing do to.

The Rev. Dr. Robert Kenji Flowers, chaplain at Texas Wesleyan University and also an adjunct world religion professor there, said in an interview with The College Fix that recent controversy over the room – which is a little over 1-years-old - came as a surprise to him. Debate over the room flared after a campus news report about the room was published last month.

“Like most schools that are called Christian institutions, historically we were aligned with a particular faith tradition, but through the years that affiliation has diminished,” he said. “It’s a misnomer in some ways to even say it’s a Christian university.”

As for the controversy surrounding its Muslim prayer room – which some have suggested illustrates the Islamification of America, the kowtowing of Christians to Muslims, and serves as an insult to the Christian traditions of the university - Flowers dismissed those claims as “far-right paranoia and misinformation.”

“Even to make that kind of assumption to me is misguided and it doesn’t represent my version of Christianity or that of a lot of people I know,” said Flowers, an ordained United Methodist minister and pluralist.

“If we are Christian, should we not show love and hospitality to all people,” he said. “Even in the Old Testament, there is a commandment to show hospitality to strangers. That word stranger is interchangeable with foreign and alien. Even the Book of Leviticus says the foreigner in your land, you should treat them as a citizen, and treat them as you want to be treated.”

Texas Wesleyan University, founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1890, opened the prayer room in 2012 in the campus fitness center. The room was set aside at the behest of the school’s Saudi Students Club. Flowers said there has been an influx of students from Saudi Arabia in recent years at the school.

“The reasons for this (prayer room) are twofold,” Flowers told The Rambler student newspaper in the Nov. 19 article that started the debate. “One, to show hospitality to our foreign students and, two, our campus needs to be open and tolerant of other faith traditions whether it is Islam, Hindu, Jewish, or otherwise.”

Students who use the prayer room wash their hands and feet in the gym’s bathrooms to comply with their cleansing rituals before prayer, but there is talk of late as to whether a different – possibly more reverent – area should be carved out for Muslim students, the paper reports.

Flowers said the university is in an urban setting – roughly 80 percent of its 3,000 or so students commute, so the prayer room is a gesture of courtesy. One the pillars of Islam is to pray toward Mecca five times throughout the day.

Flowers said about 200 Texas Wesleyan University students are Muslim, and use of the prayer room fluctuates. There is a window in the small room that faces east, toward Mecca.

The university’s website, regarding tolerance of other faiths, states: “In keeping with Methodist tradition, the university welcomes individuals of all faiths and is thoroughly inclusive in its practices.”

But not everyone supports the prayer room, the Christian News Network reports, citing in part an opinion in Freedom Outpost.

“Texas Wesleyan has dangerously aligned itself with Islam, not unlike most colleges across the United States. However, the Methodist affiliated private university, which doesn’t mean the school is Christian by any stretch of the imagination, is caving to sharia,” reporter Janna Brock wrote on Freedom Outpost. “All in the name of ‘interfaith’ worship, which is surely the most outrageous claim. Islam does not co-exist.”

The Christian News Network also pointed out a few online comments under the student newspaper article, including one which stated: “I am disgusted by this submission to Islam. What’s next, a room for Rastafarians? How about Voodoo? Santa Ria? Devil worshippers? You are supposed to be a Methodist university. What is wrong with this school?”

Another online commenter wrote: “I am appalled by this Methodist university. My great grandfather Gifford was a Methodist circuit rider minister. He is probably rolling in his grave.”

Flowers said he is “puzzled” by such comments.

“Hospitality is one of the things we should do for all students, particularly foreign students who are our guests,” he said. “It’s just the way we approach different faith traditions, whether it’s Islam or any other faith tradition.”

IMAGE: FirasMT/Flickr

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  • Phillip Rogers

    Charles Wesley would not approve of the worship or prayer to a false god.

    • Hermeticius

      I don’t think God approves either. In my Bible, the children of Israel constantly go through difficulties after they set up worship sites for false gods. Allah would be a false god.

      • badgerknox

        if you know your religions, then you know the God of the Jews, Christians and Muslims is the same God.

        • Toxic delirium

          I know my religions VERY well, and I can assure you that the god of Islam is NOT the same as the God of Christianity and Judaism.

        • Mitch

          The god of islam is not our God. You know nothing about islam or Christianity.

    • guest

      Why isn’t this chaplain instead deending Christians?

  • Chris Follout

    God never commanded his people to set aside a prayer room for worshipers of foreign gods. His people were commanded to tear down and destroy idols, and kill the worshipers of other gods. This guy is a chaplain at a Christian university? The end is coming.

  • Katherine McChesney

    Methodism pushing a false religion, with a false prophet and a false god. They are so politically correct that they squeak. One of their churches in my neighborhood is affiliated with a local Communist group.
    The Old Testament is clear about this. Strangers could live among Jews if they didn’t worship false gods. They were kicked out if they bowed to idols.
    Interesting, that when push comes to shove, these Muslim students would kill the Methodists for being ‘Christian’.

  • Jesse Schoeder

    God damit!

  • RCCA

    Meanwhile doesn’t the chaplain know that in Saudi Arabia a person can be jailed for teaching about Christ because Islam teaches that Christianity is a false religion? That in Saudi Arabia Christians can only worship in secret?

    “… a Christian Lebanese man accused of helping a Saudi women convert to Christianity. The Saudi Gazette reported that he was sentenced to six years in prison and 300 lashes, and the daughter sentenced to six years and 300 lashes, although she reportedly fled to Sweden.

    The World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission reported in February this year that 53 Ethiopian Christians, 46 of whom were women, had been arrested by Saudi authorities. They were rounded up while attending a worship service in the home of an Ethiopian believer in Dammam and charged with trying to convert Muslims to Christianity.” http://www.christiantoday.com/article/us.should.condemn.saudi.arabia.religious.abuses/33702.htm

    Wouldn’t it be nice if Christians stood up for themselves and their religion instead of kowtowing to Islam and acting like ignorant fools? I think so.

  • oatka

    “Useful idiots” come in all shapes, sizes, and beliefs.

    And the koranic thing to do is to murder Christians. Nice of
    them to be so obliging.

  • pigglywiggly

    Appeasers of Hitler enabled him to cause WW2. 60 million people died. Appeasers of Islam are doing the same thing. No amount of evidence dissuades them from guiding all of us into another Armageddon.
    -2011 FBI Report on Terrorism
    http://www.nctc.gov/docs/2011_NCTC_Annua… Of 12,533 terrorist deaths 77 were committed by Neo-Nazi, fascist or white supremacists; Muslims committed 8,886.

    -wikipedia has a list of 144 terrorist organizations officially designated as terrorist
    by various Nations. 124 of them are motivated by religion; 93 of those are Muslim.

    -7/25/13 http://www.hoover.org/publications/defin…
    “Few people realize that we are today living through the largest persecution of Christians in history, worse even than the famous attacks under ancient Roman emperors like Diocletian and Nero.” Of the top 50 countries persecuting Christians 42 have either a Muslim majority or large Muslim populations.”

    -http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists 27 of the FBI’s 29 most wanted terrorists are Muslim.

    -10/28/13 http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/10/28/terrorist-attacks-and-deaths-hit-record-high-report-shows/comment-page-15/
    In 2012 the number of terrorist attacks increased 69%; fatalities increased
    89%; most terrorism was committed in Muslim-majority countries.

    -Bing/Google search “civil wars in the world” and then research each one. Over
    75% of them involve Muslims. They fight against all cultures and religion,
    worldwide.

  • Duude

    “If we are Christian, should we not show love and hospitality to all people,”

    If you are Christian you will care about the soul of the lost which includes muslims. If you’re just a ‘cultural’ Christian, aka an empty suit, you won’t want to get involved while also spouting there are multiple paths to heaven.

    • Guest

      Exactly how likely are these muslims that are demanding special accomodations for their religion to become Christian?

  • dlcamp

    The Rev. Dr. Robert Kenji Flowers, chaplain at Texas Wesleyan University:
    “It’s a misnomer in some ways to even say it’s a Christian university.”

    Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth, thou art taken with the words of thy mouth. (Proverbs 6:2)

    • rich__b

      Probably the only truthful words out of that “chaplain”.

  • kickinitincrik

    Being hospitable to someone does not mean handing them the key to your house. You’ll probably find yourself locked out.

  • dixie68

    From what I have seen, the Methodist denomination has long been separated from its Christian roots. My Methodist grandmother is probably spinning in her grave, except that she has gone to live with the Lord and only her bones are in the grave.

  • rich__b

    I graduated from a Christian college that admitted non-Christians as students. I find no problem with admitting non-Christians (that otherwise qualify academically). In fact its a good witness to those who don’t know Christ and that the school was open to the wider community and not a closed off place. A good friend arrived there as a non-Christian and left as Christian. The school has a good reputation academically, inside and outside the Christian community and is attractive to many to be the place to go to college.

    However the school is a Christian college, not a secular school and made no accommodation to be more “secular” in the classroom (staff is required to be Christian). The college does not require chapel attendance by any student, so that would never be an issue. We had maybe about 4-6% identify as Muslim, though most were commuter students who didn’t live on campus and weren’t college aged.

    It seemed to work out ok. Maybe it would have been more problematic if more were college aged and wanted to live in the dorms (most were middle aged people looking for a business degree).

    However, it should be clear to those attending a school like mine, that there are to be no special accommodations to non Christian religions. There is no prayer room for Muslims, Hindus, or whatever, no student groups, and the dining room serves regular food. Its a Christian school, and that’s what it was meant to be. Whether or not it stays that way remains to be seen.

    Its not like any Islamic school would accommodate any non-Muslim.

  • Mitch

    This so called chaplain is a fool and does not understand Gods word.

  • GuestPoster

    So Rev. Dr. Robert Kenji Flowers, when do you start serving halal meals in the cafeteria because that’s going to be the next request. And while we’re at it when does segregation of men and women in classes start and will you be supplying the women complimentary burkhas or hajibs or are you going to be charging a fee for them.

    Because now that you’ve opened the door to this Islamic nonsense it just isn’t going to end with a prayer room

    I guarantee it.

    GP

  • Dr. Virgil Roberts

    WHAT AN OUTRIGHT MOCKERY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST!!!
    Are there any leaders in the Body of Christ that can exercise sound
    spiritual judgment on spiritual issues that pertain to the message of the
    Kingdom of God based on the Word of God!!!

  • Ace Boogie

    I guarantee you that officials at muslim universities all around the world are falling all over themselves to recruit Christian students so that they can worship in the Christian prayer rooms that have been set aside on their campuses. End of sarcasm. What a dunce.