COLORADO - A song presented by a Colorado high school choir has stirred controversy after a student quitted the school, objecting to a lyric in the song that says "there is no truth except Allah," Fox News reported on Thursday, February 16.
"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, district spokesman Jeff Kirtland told FoxNews.com in an email.
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 defended the decision to include the song selected by choir director Marcia Wieland saying 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.
The song is written by Indian composer A.R. Rahman in Urdu, but one verse translates to "There is no truth except Allah" and "Allah is the only eternal and immortal."
The problem started when James Harper, a senior at Grand Junction High School in Grand Junction, objected to the song in an email to Mesa County School District 51 officials.
"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 said.
When the school stood by choir director's selection, Harper said he quit.
"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."
Kirtland confirmed that religious themes are familiar in the school choir.
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.
Kirtland added that members who object to the religious content of musical selections aren't required to sing them.
"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," he said.
The controversy was upsetting to Rahman, the song composer who has sold hundreds of millions of records.
He confirmed that the song is not intended for a worship ceremony, adding it is about "self-healing and spirituality."
"It is unfortunate that the student in Colorado misinterpreted the intention of the song," Rahman told Fox News.
"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.
US Muslims, estimated at between six to eight million, have been sensing a growing hostility following a hearing presented by Republican representative Peter King on what he described as radicalization of US Muslims.
A recent report by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the University of California and Berkeley's Center for Race and Gender found that Islamophobia in the US is on the rise.
A US survey had also revealed that the majority of Americans know very little about Muslims and their faith.
A recent Gallup poll had found that 43 percent of Americans Nationwide admitted to feeling at least a little prejudice against Muslims.