Friday, February 17, 2012

Colorado student quits high school choir over Islamic song praising 'Allah'

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 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 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.


FL: Tampa parents rip school for letting controversial Muslim group speak to students

Parents in Tampa are the latest to protest school officials inviting a controversial Muslim civil liberties advocacy group to speak to students.

Dozens of people showed up at a Hillsborough County school board meeting Tuesday night to complain that a member of Council on American-Islamic Relations, or CAIR, spoke to history students at Steinbrenner High School last fall. They cited the group's past connection to a terror financing case involving the terrorist group Hamas. The group, which purports to promote diversity and tolerance of the religion, has met a similar reception in Texas and Georgia in recent years.

“We do not have a problem with Islamic groups speaking with students, but we do have an issue with a group that has ties to terrorism speaking,” Randall McDaniels, head of the Jacksonville Chapter of ACT for America, one of the groups actively seeking to stop CAIR members from speaking to students in public schools, told

CAIR spokesman Corey Saylor dismissed the criticism as "fear-mongering.” Hassan Shibly, the Florida CAIR member who spoke to the students, said the parents are misguided.

“This hatred and animosity only shows the importance of reaching out to the community,” he said, “It’s insulting to the school and the students to think that one person can influence their beliefs. It’s misleading."

The group, the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties advocacy organization, also has come under criticism for, among other reasons, being named by the Justice Department as an unindicted co-conspirator in a major terror financing case involving the Holy Land Foundation.

Michael Rubin, a resident scholar with the American Enterprise Institute who focuses on the Middle East and terrorism, said concerns about CAIR are not unfounded.

"They have been co-conspirators in a terrorism finance trial and seek to stymie debate rather than safeguard it," Rubin said. "Almost every day, jihadists on religious Internet forums belie CAIR’s claim that religion has nothing to do with terrorism. Ultimately, there is a battle for interpretation going on inside the world of Islam, and rather than seek to win that debate for the moderates and proponents of tolerance, CAIR acts as the jihadists’ offensive linesmen.”

Parents in the Houston-area town of Friendswood objected to a presentation CAIR made to junior high students in 2008, sparking a furor that led to the principal's resignation. In 2010, parents in Gwenett County, Ga., forced the school system to disinvite CAIR from holding classroom presentations.


Scottish children's tsar adds support to schoolboy's battle to wear a skirt to school

I don't think this is doing the kid any favours. He will just be mocked

Boys should be able to wear skirts to school because uniforms 'should not discriminate', a children's adviser has claimed. Tam Baillie, the Scottish parliament’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, has backed 13-year-old Luca Scarabello, who is fighting for a ban on ‘gender-specific uniforms’.

Mr Baillie said that Luca, a pupil at St Mungo’s High School in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, who lodged a petition with the Scottish Government in November, had ‘raised important rights issues’. The public petitions committee (PPC) is considering Luca's proposals.

In his response to the PPC, Mr Baillie claimed that forcing uniforms on children could cause ‘serious distress’ for those with gender variants. Mr Baillie said ‘We should be rejecting discriminatory practice and allowing our children and young people to express themselves. 'I would agree that gender specific uniforms or dress codes can cause serious distress in gender-variant pupils. 'School uniforms and dress codes should not be discriminate, directly or indirectly against any of these protected groups.

'Schools should be reviewing their uniform code policies to ensure they do not have the effect of unlawfully discriminating against pupils with a protected characteristic.'

The young peoples' commissioner believes that forcing children to stick to strict uniform policies could contravene the UN convention on the Rights of the Child and the Equality Act 2010. The latter law places a duty on public bodies to prevent discrimination on the grounds of gender-reassignment or sexual orientation.

However he accepted that having a uniform acts as a "leveller" between children of differing financial backgrounds and helped reduce stigma and bullying. He added 'This is clearly an issue which divides people and there are strong views on both sides.

'I believe we should be celebrating difference, rejecting discriminatory practice and allowing our children and young people to express themselves freely in a way that is both inclusive and respectful and helps them to develop a strong sense of who they are. 'I would suggest that a balance be struck between school dress codes on the one hand and the need for relaxation of requirements, where this is appropriate, on the other.'

Mr Baillie made the comments as he lent his backing to teenager Luca Scarabello who is campaigning for boys to be allowed to wear the traditionally female clothing in class.

The youngster from Camelon, Stirlingshire believes that if girls can wear trousers boys should be able to wear skirts.

The campaign is being backed by the Scottish Transgender Alliance and LGBT Scotland, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. In his petition, the schoolboy said ‘Gender specific uniforms ... cause problems for gender variant pupils and create a stigma. It is outdated nonsense.’

MSPs have been discussing the proposal to scrap 'gender specific' uniforms. However Mr Baillie thinks a blanket ban is not the way forward, with a more flexible approach being the preferred option, and he called for a debate on the teenager's proposals that traditional uniforms be replaced with more comfortable and cheaper alternatives.

But the proposals have been rubbished by family campaigners. Norman Wells, of the Family Education Trust, said 'Schools should be free to make their own decisions about uniform policies in consultation with parents, without the constraints of political correctness. 'Gender is determined by objective biological facts and not by a person's feelings, no matter how strong they may be. 'Rather than encouraging children to become what they are not, we need to help them recognise and accept what they are.

'To that end, maintaining a distinction between what boys and girls are required to wear can be positive and helpful for pupils struggling with gender identity issues. 'This is yet another case of the language of children's rights being used in an attempt to add weight to what is nothing more than a personal minority view. 'To enforce it on everyone by force of law is undemocratic.'

It is not the first time the issue has hit the headlines. In January, a Cambridgeshire couple revealed they kept the gender of their son, Sasha, a secret for five years until he started school. Parents Beck Laxton and Kieran Cooper referred to him as ‘the infant’ and allowed him to cross-dress. They said they did not want to ‘stereotype’ him.


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