Northwestern Michigan College, a community college based in Traverse City, has backed out of its official support for the Mel Larimer Festival Choral Concert, saying the decision by First Congregational Church leaders to ditch the Muslim Call to Prayers from the Nov. 11 concert was “discriminatory.”
Pastor David Walls decided to “censor” the concert three weeks ago over the objections of the church’s choir director.
Walls told the paper that the prayer was rejected because the church did not want to offend their congregation and military veterans they planned to honor that day. The concert, called “The Armed Man, a Mass for Peace,” included choirs from the college, the church and one of the city high schools.
Walls told the paper the prayer was “in Arabic, addressed to Allah, with references to Muhammad for an event that was intended to honor veterans.” The prayer was to be led by an Islamic leader from Grand Rapids.
The decision reportedly offended a Traverse City West Senior High student of Muslim faith who was in the choir. On the flip side, an NMC college trustee, Doug Bishop, told the paper he would have been offended at having to observe the prayer.
The college released a statement this week that was posted on TC Equality’s Facebook page.
The college feels that the exclusion of the second part of the composition, “The Muslim Call to Prayer (Adhaan)” is discriminatory. 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 Though the college has withdrawn its official support of the concert, members of the Grand Traverse Chorale and NMC Chamber Singers are free to make their own decision about whether or not to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 college in no way wants performers to feel they are being prohibited from performing.”
The college originally said it was planning a special presentation of the concert this week, but then walked back on that announcement, saying “consensus among both groups was that they would need more time to mount a production of that size and scope.”
A guest column in the Traverse City Record-Eagle published today raised the question of artistic integrity, said the church’s decision to ban the prayer from a composition dedicated to the victims of Kosovo twisted the meaning away from a “Mass for ‘World’ Peace, as the composer intended, (into) a Mass for Peace ‘Among People Like Us.’”