Student quits choir over Muslim-themed song
Director: For all-volunteer group at Grand Junction High, religious liberty not an issue
A Grand Junction High School student quit the school’s men’s choir recently in response to the choir director selecting a song with Muslim themes.
The song, “Zikr,” which is Urdu for “remembrance” or “invocation,” will be performed during an upcoming vocal competition, according to District 51 spokesman Jeff Kirtland. The song repeatedly uses the term “Allah,” which translates to “God” in English.
Grand Junction High School senior James Harper told KREX-TV he quit the choir because he said he did not think it was appropriate for public school students to sing a Muslim worship song. “Zikr” was written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman, whose past work includes collaborations on the soundtrack of the film “127 Hours” and the score for “Slumdog Millionaire.”
Kirtland read a prepared statement from District 51 that said the men’s choir is a voluntary, after-school activity for which students receive no academic credit. He said the choir will sing a Christian song called “Prayer of the Children” at its next competition, as well as “Zikr” and an Irish folk song.
“Choral music is often devoted to religious themes, and the performance of songs with religious lyrics is common at choral concerts and other events at which the choir performs,” Kirtland said.
The choir is allowed to perform music that mentions specific religions. Kirtland said the choir director chose the music for “its rhythms and other qualities” and “not because of its religious message or lyrics.”
Kirtland said the director asked students to view an online performance of “Zikr” with their parents before the piece was selected as one of the three to be performed at a competition. He said no students will be forced to sing the song.