University divided on prayer

It is not uncommon to hear someone at FAMU speak or pray using terms such as “Amen,” “in Jesus’ name we pray” or “let all God’s children say…”

But what about those who are not Christian?

Students and faculty agree FAMU puts more emphasis on Christianity than any other religion, no matter how offensive it may be to some.

During the Martin Luther King Jr. Convocation on Jan. 13, Michael Abrams, a Jewish journalism professor, walked out when prayer was conducted. Abrams said he has been to many FAMU functions where prayer was given. But that day, his patience was gone.

“I’m happy to see that FAMU has many religious people,” Abrams said.

“Church plays a large role in many people’s lives. But at a University gathering, it’s inappropriate to have a prayer in Christ’s name.”

Although Abrams was “offended” by the Christian prayers, he said he still respects people’s rights to believe in and follow Christianity.

However, Abrams said it is unfair for people to “impose their beliefs on others.”

“I think that a good non-denominational prayer (to a superior power) might be good,” he said.

Rafeeq Asad, 24, said certain people at FAMU tend to incorporate Christianity into the functions or events they preside over.

“There is favoritism because the majority of the campus … is Christian,” said Asad, a Muslim architecture graduate student from Miami.

“It may not be intentional, but other religions are ignored. You get Christian holidays off … but you don’t get other holidays.”

When Asad attended FAMU for his undergraduate studies, the people in his major found a way to for everyone to pray however they saw fit.

“I got my undergraduate degree in (the School of Business and Industry),” Asad said.

“We just had a moment of silence…to incorporate whatever you believe.”

Students like Soheyla Mahdavian, 20, said FAMU pays more attention to Christianity because the majority of the people who attend and work for FAMU are Christian.

“I feel that the majority of the school is Christian,” said Mahdavian, a junior pharmacy student from Monticello.

Li-Ping Zhang, an associate professor from China, acknowledged that America is a Christian country so she is not surprised or offended whenever she is asked to bow her head for prayer at a FAMU event.

“This is a Christian country; you know that when you get here,” said Zhang, who declares no religion.

“I am an American citizen. I don’t expect Chinese culture.”

But when it comes to religion, Zhang said everyone’s beliefs should be respected.

“This is an academic institution, not religious,” Zhang said.

“We shouldn’t put politics in religion. Everyone should be respected.”

Abrams said he believes FAMU should have a conference or a seminar to promote religious tolerance. He said the conference should include people from every denomination.

“It’s time the University grew up,” Abrams said, “and recognized the small amount of diversity that it has.”

Contact Brandon D. Oliver at