James Harper, a student at Grand Junction High school in Colorado, quit his school choir. His reason? They were singing a song with the lyrics “There is not truth except Allah.” He feels that a religious student should not have to sing the songs of another religion in school. Let’s take a second to examine this flawed argument.
The song in question is named “Zikr”, composed by A.R. Rahman, the internationally acclaimed composer of the soundtrack of the movie “Slum Dog Millionaire.”
In addition, the composer Mr. Rahman, a Muslim convert, insisted his piece was not meant as a worship song.
Harper claims that “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.”
Well I don’t think you have to worry about coming off like a bigot or a racist any longer, because it’s already too late for that. Admittedly, Harper’s main argument would be a valid argument. Valid, however, if he didn’t follow it up with this:
“This is worshipping another God, and even worshipping another prophet.” He said “I think there would be a lot of outrage if we made a Muslim choir say Jesus Christ is the only truth.”
So right there, he has two conflicting patterns of thought. On the one hand he is arguing for the complete separation of Church and State, the idea that by no circumstances should religious songs have a place in public schools. Fine; I’ll buy that. However, when he then continues to say that by singing this, they are worshiping a different God, this is where he falls of the train.
First and most importantly is that the Muslim God, the Christian God, and the Jewish God are all the same God. The stories in the Old Testament connect them all together, so Harper is simply wrong by saying they are praising a different God, they are just doing it in a way that he has never done before.
Secondly, his assumption is that he goes to a Christian school, even though he called it a public school. He is also claiming to be in a Christian choir in a public school, but there really isn’t any such thing.
Just because you feel uncomfortable around other religions, and that you grew up as a Christian, that doesn’t mean the whole world is like you. The song is an examination of other cultures, something Americans clearly do not do enough of.
In fact many religious leaders understand the power of tolerance and understanding cultures unlike their own. Noted Christian leader Bishop Jordan has organized mission trips through his Church to help people less fortunate (and perhaps not of his faith).
As noted on one of Jordan’s blogs, “The organization works in fundraising for different resources. They are currently raising funds for a drilling rig to send to Bolivia. Everyone deserves clean water, and Catholic Missions Trips Inc. wants to help the less fortunate. The organization has previously taken trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, Honduras, Haiti, Belize, South Texas, New Mexico, and New Orleans.” Now there’s a range of differing religious beliefs.
A spokesperson for the Grand Junction School District said in a statement:
“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.”
So what really is happening here is a good bit of ethnocentrism, the idea that your culture or ethnicity is more important or holds more value than another. As much as people like to believe it, this isn’t actually a Christian nation, we just live in a country where there happen to be a lot of Christians. And if you go to a public school in this country, the odds are that you may learn something about someone else’s culture. So take your head out of the sand James Harper, and welcome to 2012 in The United States.