Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 16, 2012

NMC backs out as supporter of concert

School officials call the prayer ban 'discriminatory'


TRAVERSE CITY — Northwestern Michigan College backed out as an official supporter of the Mel Larimer Festival Choral Concert after learning a local church had insisted that the Muslim Call to Prayers be deleted from a piece involving two NMC choirs and its director of music.

"The college feels that the exclusion of the second part of the composition, 'The Muslim Call to Prayer (Adhaan)' is discriminatory," NMC officials said in a statement prior to the Nov. 11 concert at First Congregational Church in Traverse City.

"NMC has a long history in support of art being performed, heard and viewed in its intended form. Though the college has withdrawn its official support of the concert, members of the Grand Traverse Chorale and NMC Chamber Singers are free to make their own decision about whether or not to perform," the NMC statement said.

NMC simultaneously announced a special Nov. 19 presentation of the concert that would include "The Muslim Call to Prayer (Adhaan)" at Milliken Auditorium. Details will follow.

The Traverse City Area Public Schools heard the news Nov. 12, said Paul Soma, the district's chief financial officer.

"We could have had the performance in the gymnasium and it wouldn't have been an issue, but we were never asked that. We were never given the opportunity. I imagine our response would have been, "Let's talk. How can we make it work?" he said.

TCAPS board member Gary Appel said he was "shocked at the censorship of this musical piece by the church. ... It's simply wrong. I don't think our veterans fought to protect this kind of censorship or religious intolerance."

Appel also said he's concerned that Muslim student and choir member Alya Nadji was put in that situation.

"I'll work with my board colleagues to ensure this never happens again."