Published February 15, 2012
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."
But district spokesman Jeff Kirtland defended the decision to include the song.
"Choral music is often devoted to religious themes. ... This is not a case where the school is endorsing or promoting any particular religion or other non-educational agenda. The song was chosen because its rhythms and other qualities would provide an opportunity to exhibit the musical talent and skills of the group in competition, not because of its religious message or lyrics," Kirtland told FoxNews.com in an email while noting that the choir "is a voluntary, after-school activity."
"Students are not required to participate, and receive no academic credit for doing so," he said.
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.
Rahman, who has sold hundreds of millions of records and is well-known in his homeland, has said the song is not intended for a worship ceremony. He told FoxNews.com in a written statement that the song, composed for the move "Bose, the Forgotten Hero," is about "self-healing and spirituality."
"It is unfortunate that the student in Colorado misinterpreted the intention of the song," Rahman said. "I have long celebrated the commonalities of humanity and try to share and receive things in this way. While I respect his decision for opting out, this incident is an example of why we need further cultural education through music.”
The song is written in Urdu, but one verse translates to "There is no truth except Allah" and "Allah is the only eternal and immortal." Although the choir sang the original version, Wieland distributed translated lyrics.
Grand Junction High School Principal Jon Bilbo referred questions to Kirtland.
FoxNews.com's Joshua Rhett Miller contributed to this story.