High School Choir sings Islamic prayer

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GloriaInTX's picture
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High School Choir sings Islamic prayer

Should an Islamic song stating "There is no truth except Allah" and "Allah is the only eternal and immortal." be sung in a public school concert? Would the district be standing behind the teacher if it was a Christian song and someone complained?

Religious Music in High School Choir Forces Student to Quit Singing
Islamic Prayer Song Being Sung by GJHS Choir

by Matt Kroschel

Grand Junction - A Grand Junction High School student wants a song picked for the after-school men's choir group pulled, because he says the Islamic piece is not appropriate for a public school choir. The song is called "Zikr," and its composer says is not intended for a worship ceremony.

For senior James Harper, a Christian who is active in his local church, the wording and meaning of the song is such that he feels it should not be performed by students in a public school setting.

?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 NewsChannel 5.

Harper sent an email to District 51 officials expressing his concerns with the song. He also contacted the KREX newsroom.

District officials said while they understand not everyone will agree with or appreciate songs due to the religious nature of the pieces, they completely stand behind both the music teacher and the song.

?This is about bringing diversity to the students and showing them other things that are out there,? spokesman Jeff Kirtland said. ?The teacher was open with the parents and students do not have to participate in this voluntary club choir.?

The upbeat, rhythmic song combines dancing with drums. School officials said the teacher, knowing that there may be some questions about the song, asked her students to watch a You Tube video of the song and passed out the English translation to students.

GJHS choir instructor Marcia Wieland?s professional work as a conductor and teacher spans a wide variety of ages, including experiences with high school, collegiate, and adult choirs. Ms. Wieland holds a Bachelor of Music in choral music education from Oakland University.

http://www.krextv.com/news/around-the-region/Islamic-Prayer-Song-Being-Sung-By-Grand-Junction-High-School-Choir-139329693.html

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/02/15/colorado-student-reportedly-quits-choir-over-islamic-song/?test=latestnews#ixzz1mUAH5qHq

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I thought that you were a big proponent of prayer in school, weren't you? Maybe I'm confusing you with someone else.

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I think these days it's becoming very politically incorrect to use religious materials at schools. I think the same thing would have happened if it were a Christian hymn or a Jewish song. Religious songs are prayers set to music for some, for others it's just music. I think most of the rulings when these types of complaints end up in court is to stop the practice (silent meditation, prayers before sporting events, etc). Even if students are allowed to opt out, it didn't matter, because it was seen as the school sponsoring a religious activity. I suppose you could use the same logic in this case.

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"Potter75" wrote:

I thought that you were a big proponent of prayer in school, weren't you? Maybe I'm confusing you with someone else.

Christians have already been told they are not allowed to pray. In fact a New Jersey school has just been told by the courts that they have to remove a prayer banner which was much more vague than this song as it said “Our Heavenly Father” and ended in “Amen.” So it didn't even specifically say God.

http://www.christianpost.com/news/ri-school-to-remove-prayer-banner-after-atheist-teen-wins-lawsuit-67067/

So why is an Islamic prayer ok? Seems like a pretty big double standard.

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DO you want Christians to be able to pray in the schools? (Or sing religious songs at Christmas or easter?) Because I thought that you did. So to me, the double standard seems to be that you want freedom of "prayer" in school, but only your kind of prayer.

I'm cool with all of it, as long as kids or families can opt out. Other cultures and religions are fascinating and historically imperative. I'm also fine with banning all of it. Worrying about a blip here or a blip there is annoying and painful and unnecessarily difficult, IMO.

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Muslims don't pretend to own the word "Allah". The word has evolved from culture to culture, religion to religion. It even has roots in (gasp) Christianity and Judaism, among many others. So let's make sure we're debating the same thing: The teaching of religion in general in public school, or just the teaching of Islamic prayer. Because if you're okay with the teachings of Christianity in public school and not the use of the word "Allah" (which in most religions basically means the one, omnipotent being - God), then I would argue that THAT is the double standard.

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I am okay with it as long as other religions are being sung about also.

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"Potter75" wrote:

DO you want Christians to be able to pray in the schools? (Or sing religious songs at Christmas or easter?) Because I thought that you did. So to me, the double standard seems to be that you want freedom of "prayer" in school, but only your kind of prayer.

I'm cool with all of it, as long as kids or families can opt out. Other cultures and religions are fascinating and historically imperative. I'm also fine with banning all of it. Worrying about a blip here or a blip there is annoying and painful and unnecessarily difficult, IMO.

I'm fine with anyone saying a prayer at school, Christian or Islamic. If someone says a prayer I would listen politely no matter what their religion is and be respectful. If the class valedictorian got up to say her speech in front of the school and chose to say an Islamic prayer I would have no problem with it. But there is a difference between someone saying a prayer because they want to and telling someone that they either have to say the prayer or get out of the choir. I would say the same if it was a Christian song they were singing and there was an Islamic student who objected to the song. I think if that were the case the school wouldn't be so quick to back up the teacher and instead would be telling her not to include the song. If Christians are not allowed to pray or have a prayer banner posted that no one is forced to read, than the standard should at least be applied equally.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I'm fine with anyone saying a prayer at school, Christian or Islamic. If someone says a prayer I would listen politely no matter what their religion is and be respectful. If the class valedictorian got up to say her speech in front of the school and chose to say an Islamic prayer I would have no problem with it. But there is a difference between someone saying a prayer because they want to and telling someone that they either have to say the prayer or get out of the choir. I would say the same if it was a Christian song they were singing and there was an Islamic student who objected to the song. I think if that were the case the school wouldn't be so quick to back up the teacher and instead would be telling her not to include the song. If Christians are not allowed to pray or have a prayer banner posted that no one is forced to read, than the standard should at least be applied equally.

I am pretty non-religious, and I agree with the bolded. It sounds to me that the only way to 'opt out' of singing this song is to quit the choir, which doesnt seem very fair to me.

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I'm sorry, but choirs sing religious songs all the time in school. Donna Nobis, every Christmas choir song ever written, etc. They sing Negro Spirituals and Italian Catholic hyms. Songs sung in choir are not for the sake of prayer but for learning and celebratign music. if you are in the choir you sing many songs, religious and other wise. So to even make this an issue is stupid. When they make the entire school sing it, then y'all can complain and throw a hissy fit. And nowhere int he article does it state they are not allowed to sing Christian songs andI wouldbet they sing a fair share of Christian choral pieces.

I was in show choir, chorus, and glee club almost my entire childhood. I went to a fine arts school for musical ensemble. We sang songs from every religion, culture, country, and genre. I'm Jewish and I had to sing "jesus Loves Me" and "Elijah Rock" and Monteverdi and Eines Duech Requium (yes I know I blew the spelling). That's what you do in chior. And I agree, if you have an issue with singing songs from different cultures, then don't join choir. And if you only want to sing songs from your religion, join your church choir.

BTW, it gets so predictably tiring when the religious right get their panties in a twist at the word Islam. This is 2012 not 1950. BTW, to the moron in the article, if you have to start your sentence with "I don't want to come across as a bigot or a racist.." then you probably are one.

ETA: Oooops, thinking back I didn;t sing Jesus Loves Me, I had to sing Ave Maria. which just about every show choir in every school learns as some point. And might I remind you of those lyrics?

"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
pray for us sinners,
now and in the hour of our death. Amen."

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I dont know, I distinctly remember the JW's in choir being able to sit out any religious christmas song when I was in school, and that was way before the movement to remove all religion from the schools. They would simply sit down on the risers, or leave the stage for the song, to re-enter when it was done. I just dont see why that cant be done if someone has a religious objection to the song.

And I would say that many of the songs you mentioned, are 'prayers'. Whether they are taught as such or not does not change the wording of the song, so I can see how someone could perceive them as such and not want to sing them.

For me this has nothing to do with it being an Islamic song, but with it being seen as a religious prayer song of any religion. I just dont think it is fair to force a child to leave the whole choir because of an objection to one or two songs. Just as I dont think that one childs objection should force the entire choir to give up the song.

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"GloriaInTX" wrote:

I'm fine with anyone saying a prayer at school, Christian or Islamic. .

Okay, then I don't get the issue. If I don't want to do anything, they have the option to opt out of it. Not like it is going to ruin their singing career or whatnot. Kids feel strongly about being bigoted about other peoples religion? Don't sing. Sit that one song out. Ditto Christian songs. You are comparing unrelated things with this prayer banner thing.

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"Potter75" wrote:

Okay, then I don't get the issue. If I don't want to do anything, I have the option to opt out of it. Kids feel strongly about being cruel about other peoples religion? Don't sing. Sit that one song out. Ditto Christian songs. You are comparing unrelated things with this prayer banner thing.

My understanding of this is that the 'opt out' is to quit the choir completely, not to sit out the song, which just seems unreasonable to me.

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This is the town I live in.
**not Debating**

Reaction is really intense AGAINST said student, particularly the other high school students that attend with him. The general consensus, save for a few very devout Christians, is that he is doing this for attention and nothing more.

According to closer friends, he DID approach the teacher, Principal and then the District about the issue BEFORE going to the news.

If I get any more good juicy information that might not pop up on national news, I will pass it on. Smile

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"ftmom" wrote:

My understanding of this is that the 'opt out' is to quit the choir completely, not to sit out the song, which just seems unreasonable to me.

I would like more info on this. I can't imagine a child in a PUBLIC school facing this choice. Not saying I don't believe you, just that I want more info. Obvs that would be a problem.

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The county where I teach has a policy in place about religious music in schools. Of course, I can't find the link at home and I can't get onto pg.org at work anymore. But, the gist of it is that there is a place for sacred music for a variety of reasons. One is that the origins of much of what is considered "standard" music is within a sacred context - Bach, Handel, etc, all were church musicians. Their work has inherent value and is considered a prime example of composition for their era. It is exemplary. Also, many works are taught/sung for the musical value of them, to teach a particular skill or musical concept.

I do quite a bit of music with religious bent because it's an important part of our culture (African-American spirituals, lullabies, the Shaker song "Simple Gifts"). I just don't think it can be avoided altogether. When I program my concerts, particularly the Winter one, I choose my songs very carefully. I try to have representative songs for the various holidays that are celebrated, as well as some related to light, peace, love, joy, snow. I try to choose songs that sort of explain the historical traditions, rather than actually being about celebrating the holiday. (Does that make sense?) I always discuss the reasoning behind a song, like that a Requiem is/was part of a funeral service, and I try to express to the students that we try to value everyone's traditions, which is why we sing the songs that we do. We may not celebrate a particular holiday, but it's worthwhile to sing a song because we want to represent everyone when we can.

I must admit that I don't like this Islamic song (if the translation in the article is correct). I would never program something that said, "God rocks and is better than everyone else." It just wouldn't be appropriate to ask the students to sing that because that's proselytizing. I can see how the director might be more focused on the musicality of it and the catchy tune and cool instrumentation, but I seriously can't imagine putting a song like that on a program.

I can't imagine, though, why this kid would have to drop the choir altogether. We make exceptions all the time for students who don't celebrate holidays or won't sing about a particular holiday or don't do patriotic songs. They just move off the risers for a particular song or two and then they come back on. It's not difficult. I wonder if he's making it a bigger deal than it has to be.

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Ok, I take back everything I have said. From the quoted article, I thought the only other option was to quit the choir, but I just read the second linked article and it claims that the students have the right to sit out any song that they disagree with the religious content of. Oh, and the same competition that they are singing this song in, they are singing a Christian song 'prayer of the children'.

So I am going to stop defending this kid. I think he is blowing things way out of proportion and is being racist. Why is this song a problem, but not the Christian one?

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Because he is a little bigot Smile

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"ftmom" wrote:

I dont know, I distinctly remember the JW's in choir being able to sit out any religious christmas song when I was in school, and that was way before the movement to remove all religion from the schools. They would simply sit down on the risers, or leave the stage for the song, to re-enter when it was done. I just dont see why that cant be done if someone has a religious objection to the song.

And I would say that many of the songs you mentioned, are 'prayers'. Whether they are taught as such or not does not change the wording of the song, so I can see how someone could perceive them as such and not want to sing them.

For me this has nothing to do with it being an Islamic song, but with it being seen as a religious prayer song of any religion. I just dont think it is fair to force a child to leave the whole choir because of an objection to one or two songs. Just as I dont think that one childs objection should force the entire choir to give up the song.

This exactly.
eta-read the rest of the thread; yes the kid is overreacting. No, he is not a bigot. Not wanting to sing a song from another religion does not fit the definition of bigot in any way, shape or form. I wouldn't expect anyone who wasn't Christian to sing Silent Night or any other Christian song, just like I wouldn't expect someone who believes that singing another religions song's or saying another religions prayers is wrong. At that age I'm sure it would be embarrassing to leave the stage during competition for the song that didn't match your religion and he's overreacting. Just like that organization that wants complete freedom from religion does on a daily basis. Where the heck are they now? Shouldn't they be on this like white on rice?

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Posts like this make me thankful that my children do not go to public school. I think you would either have to include all religions, or not include religion at all. That is very hard to do as religion can be the single most important thing in your life and you can't just cut it out of you 8 hours a day. Songs that are Christian based are sung in choirs all of the time and it is only reasonable that other religions would want that as well.

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Either all religions need to be included or none at all. Students should be able to sit out parts they have personal objections to.

Music (well, the arts in general) would be pretty hard to teach without discussing or utilizing religion. Like, others have said, many of the most famous pieces are religiously based.

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"AlyssaEimers" wrote:

Posts like this make me thankful that my children do not go to public school. I think you would either have to include all religions, or not include religion at all. That is very hard to do as religion can be the single most important thing in your life and you can't just cut it out of you 8 hours a day. Songs that are Christian based are sung in choirs all of the time and it is only reasonable that other religions would want that as well.

Yes, which is why my kids go to a Christian school.

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As an atheist singing in a Catholic school choir, I found myself singing a lot of things I'd rather not. Sitting out wasn't an option, and I enjoyed the choir enough to put up with it. I looked at them as "songs" rather than as the lyrical prayers they were intended to be. What I was singing wasn't who I was or what I believed in, it was just entertainment. I enjoyed being part of the choir and I enjoyed entertaining people, so I sang the songs I was asked to sing. And for some reason, it feels better to me when religious songs are in another language, I love, "Adeste Fideles" a lot more than I like "Oh Come All Ye Faithful." And a good rendition of "Ave Maria" always brings me to tears even though I can't stand what the lyrics actually mean.

In a public school choir, I would expect songs that have cultural meaning. Like Lana & B525 (sorry, I have siggies turned off!) I don't think a song being religious should necessarily put it out of reach as long as there is something else meaningful to it.

And finally, Allah is the same God that Jews and Christians worship; I can't see how a Christian should be offended to sing about God. And he doesn't *have* to, he can sit out, according to the article. I think this kid just got tired of practicing every single day after school and found himself a reason to quit that didn't seem like he was being a wuss.

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**not debating**

My news reported he is headed to Denver tonight to appear on Fox And Friends. Should be an interesting interview! Not sure if it airs tomorrow or not? (I don't watch that show) but if I can conjur up a link I will post it here.

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For some, it may not be a big deal to sing another religion's song/prayer. For others, it goes against their core beliefs and I think that should be respected.

I don't think we have the whole story. We have one side saying he was basically told to quit if he wouldn't do it. We have the other side saying he was told he could simply sit out this song. Somebody isn't telling the whole truth. Who it is, I have no idea, so it's hard to form a definitive opinion as to who is right and who is wrong.

However, my stance is this:

If it were me in this situation, I would approach the teacher and explain why I could not perform this song. If the teacher's only option was for me to quit... then I would likely go to the principal. In the end it would boil down to either sitting out the song if they decided to allow it, or I would quit the choir.

IMO, there is no need or benefit to go to the media. From what I understand, it is this ONE student. If it were half the choir, then maybe a little LOCAL media attention could be beneficial... but in this case, while I'm glad he feels secure in his faith and strongly about his beliefs, sometimes just quietly standing your ground and standing up for your convictions goes further than raising a big stink that isn't prudent or profitable and only draws a lot of negative attention to both oneself, one's faith, and (in this case) one's school.

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"Princess&ThePea" wrote:

For some, it may not be a big deal to sing another religion's song/prayer. For others, it goes against their core beliefs and I think that should be respected.

I fully agree. I was in chorus all through Jr. High and high school and sang in many competitions all over the country. There were songs of all different types sung, religious and non religious. I can't say that we ever sang anything that offended me personally. I can say, however, that if we ever did have a piece of music put in front of me where I did not agree with the words, I would have respectfully asked to sit that particular song out. Like others have said, hopefully this child DID have the option to do just that and if he was in fact told that if he did not participate that he wouldn't be allowed to remail in the chorus... well that's something to take to the principle and beyond if necessary.