TRAVERSE CITY — The word seemingly came out of the blue:
Choral director Jeffrey Cobb told his singers and orchestra — roughly 180 local adults and teens drawn from college, a high school, and churches — that a pastor barred an Islamic prayer from the piece they planned to sing.
Their concert was to be performed the next day, on Veterans Day, at First Congregational Church in Traverse City for the annual Mel Larimer Concert Series.
Pastor David Walls and other church officials wanted nothing to do with the Islamic Call to Prayers portion of the performance. They did not want to offend their congregation and military veterans they planned to honor that day, church leaders said.
A shock wave rippled through the choir during their tune-up at the church, and no one took the jolt harder than Alya Nadji, 16, a Muslim and member of the Traverse City West High School Chorale. [...]
Walls, First Congregational’s senior minister, said he and other church leaders rejected the prayer because they did not want to offend audience members.
“We were concerned that there was potential that some of our active military personnel, military families with sons or daughters in Iraq, who have even lost their lives there, would find it much too hard to handle,” he said.
“A prayer in Arabic, addressed to Allah, with references to Muhammad for an event that was intended to honor veterans,” Walls said.
Doug Bishop, vice president of the church council and an NMC board member, agreed with Walls and does not consider the decision a form of intolerance.