Thursday, February 16, 2012

Student Quits Choir Over Song Praising Allah

If schools are to be microcosms of their communities, and are to reflect community standards, then this student is probably right to quit in protest (since he's not living in Dearborn, MI):
A Colorado high school student says he quit the school choir after an Islamic song containing the lyric "there is no truth except Allah" made it into the repertoire.

James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, put his objection to singing "Zikr," a song written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials. When the school stood by choir director Marcia Wieland's selection, Harper said, he quit.

"I don’t want to come across as a bigot or a racist, but I really don’t feel it is appropriate for students in a public high school to be singing an Islamic worship song,” Harper told KREX-TV. "This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet ... I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth."
Nothing the kid says is wrong. On the other hand, though:
At an upcoming concert, the choir is scheduled to sing an Irish folk song and an Christian song titled "Prayer of the Children," in addition to the song by Rahman.

"The teacher consulted with students and asked each of them to review an online performance of the selection with their parents before making the decision to perform the piece," Kirtland said, and members who object to the religious content of musical selections aren't required to sing them.
Membership in the choir is voluntary.

Update, 2/18/12: Does he really deserve death threats over this?


Rhymes With Right said...

Hube from Colossus of Rhodey and I have a pair of posts about this case coming at things from very different angles. You make the third teacher I've seen write on it -- and show how three different teachers from three different regions can reach three different takes on such things.

Darren said...

Awesome! I celebrate diversity :)

Jean said...

I really like A. R. Rahman's music. Quite a lot of it is religious in tone; he's a Sufi IIRC. And he's a great musician.

But I'm not all that comfortable with featuring religious selections in a public school choir performance. Maybe I should be--but I'm not. I like listening to other religions' music, but singing it myself is a bit different.

I'm not sure that you could put together a choir where everyone could be comfortable singing music from everyone's traditions (or lack thereof). Even if you could, might that not mean that no one was taking any of it very seriously? If you treat religion like, I don't know, a buffet table or something, you're not treating it as the serious thing that it is.

Dean Baird said...

"Faith based" death threats are always wrong, as far as I'm concerned.

Atheist Teen Jessica Ahlquist Bombarded with Death, Rape Threats over Cranston High School West Prayer Banner Lawsuit

I'm guessing the choir student's state representative did not refer to him as an evil little thing, so Ahlquist has him beat on at least one metric.