Controversy erupted over one of the songs students performed during a Minnesota public high school’s Thursday night holiday concert, “Eid un Sa’Eid – Zain Bhikha.” This Ramadan-inspired song included the phrase “Allahu Akbar,” Arabic for “God is Great,” Minnesota CBS affiliate WCCO 4 reported.
Christian and Jewish songs were reportedly performed by the Blaine High School chorale as was the Arabic song commemorating Ramadan, the Muslim holiday, which took place in June. It was slated to be sung during the audience participation portion of the concert, according to the Anoka-Hennepin School District in Blaine, Minnesota.
On Facebook, the parent of a ninth-grade Blaine choir student posted the lyrics to the Ramadan song the choir practiced, according to WCCO 4. Among the English language phrases in the song were “Thank you Allah for this blessed day,” “Muslims are singing praises to Allah,” “Remembering Allah,” and “All Praise for you Allah.”
The comments on this parent’s post over the Ramadan song reflected upset, according to WCCO 4. One person reportedly posted, “No child should be forced to sing a song about the Muslims and the religion of hatred.” A parent, who did not want to be identified, told the Minnesota TV news outlet that considering the recent events in Paris and San Bernardino, singing a song about Allah would be “insensitive.”
This may not be the first time the school has performed its winter holiday concert including “Allahu Akbar.” Under WCCO 4 comments on the Facebook posted news story, one woman wrote:
We attended a holiday chorale concert last year at Blaine High School, where they had seasonal songs from each of the main religions in between performances that the audience was invited to stand and sing together. All of a sudden I found us singing the words “Allahu Akbar” and I wondered about that and looked around and no one I saw looked alarmed. I’ve thought a lot about that since…one thing I realized is this is precisely how a student would feel in a class that could conceivably sing or pray a Christian song/prayer that was foreign to their religion. This is why we do not have led prayers and such in school…and I get that.
Also under the WCCO 4 comments, another person posed: “Is this for real? Ramadan was in June-July this year and Eid al-Fitr was Saturday, July 18, 2015. Christmas and Hanukkah are actually in December so it makes sense to sing music associated with those holidays. This is bizarre.”
The school district told WCCO 4 they received about a dozen complaints about the Ramadan song. Some, they said, were from parents, others, from people not even affiliated with the school. There appeared to be confusion if students would be graded for their participation in the winter performance at the high school.
On December 16, the parent who reportedly posted the Ramadan song lyrics wrote, “It’s been brought to my attention that nobody will be forced and grade will not be affected.” The district said students, if uncomfortable, would not have to sing the Ramadan song.
In a statement, the district said that they have students from many different backgrounds and cultures, and they promote equal opportunities for all students. “Songs are not performed in a worship setting or to promote religion,” the district said. “but rather in [an] educational setting where students are learning and performing music.”
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.