Preaching intolerance to the choir

To see some folks’ response to last week’s dust-up over a Grand Junction High School student resigning from the school’s men’s choir because the choir is set to sing a a Muslim song, one might think School District 51 is some sort of Western Slope Taliban, intent on converting all school children to Islam.

That’s conspiracy-theory nonsense, of course. Even so, enough people apparently believed something of the sort that the Grand Junction Police Department was investigating the multitude of nasty messages directed at the choir director and District 51 administrators.

Police said Friday none of the messages reviewed as of then rose to the level of a criminal threat. But some people familiar with them said they were definitely intimidating and insulting.

It’s worth noting that District 51 administrators said most of the messages have come from people outside the Grand Valley, many of them from out of state. They are apparently from people who saw a Fox News story on the incident.

What a bunch of hypocritical hooey from people who were no doubt outraged — justifiably so — when Muslim fanatics tried to silence author Salman Rushdie and halt the publication of Danish cartoons that mocked Mohammed. Both efforts are appalling attacks on free expression, using threats or intimidation — and in the Muslim cases mentioned, actual violence — to try to prevent dissemination of material that doesn’t comport with someone’s notion of what is religiously acceptable.

What sets this country apart from Islamic theocracies — what drives Islamic fanatics absolutely crazy — is that we allow free expression of ideas, regardless of one’s religious or ideological background.

Unlike, say, Iran, all material that is written, drawn, filmed or performed doesn’t have to be run through some Islamic acceptability test before it can be released to the public.

The Grand Junction High School men’s choir is a strictly voluntary, extra-curricular activity for which participants receive no academic credit. No one is forced to join or perform music they believe is inappropriate. Nothing about it can be twisted into a District 51 attempt to indoctrinate students in Islam.

Last week, one student chose to exercise his right to quit the choir because he didn’t want to perform a song with Muslim connotations. We don’t know whether he or someone else chose to get word of his decision to Fox News. But again, they had every right to do so, as much as many in this community may disagree with that decision.

It is the many people who responded to the news stories by attacking and implicitly intimidating the choir director and administrators with their vicious messages who stepped over the line.

Those who seek to stop the choir from performing such music in the future are far closer in their thinking and methodology to the fanatical imams of the Muslim world than they are to our founding fathers.


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