The singing of an Islamic song in an Ottawa high school is now raising a number of eyebrows.
It has become clear that what was originally described as a peaceful welcoming song may not in fact be appropriate for Canadian public school students.
Before Christmas, various media outlets reported that students at De La Salle high school in downtown Ottawa performed a rendition of the song "Tala' al-Badru 'Alayna" at a Dec. 3 recital.
While the school had no intention of using it as an anthem to welcome Syrian refugees to the country, it took on that role after it was posted online.
On Dec. 13, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted out the video, writing: "Ottawa high school students sing a traditional Arabic welcome song. Well done De La Salle! #WelcomeToCanada"
Over the holidays, many Canadians shared the story online as a sign of Canada's inclusiveness and tied it to the arrival of refugees. The song is mostly described by media as a positive tale. The Toronto Star explained it "was sung to welcome the Prophet Mohammad upon his arrival in Medina from Mecca."
But various sources explained to Sun Media it's not that simple.
"The fact is this particular song is a very religious song in all its meaning," explained Munir Pervaiz, the president of the Muslim Canadian Congress. "It's only sung in the praise of the holy prophet and for no one else."
Pervaiz, who has known the song since he was a child, says it's inappropriate to apply the song to refugees from Syria, as they're not all Muslims. "They are just trying to put religion into areas of society where it doesn't belong at all."
Middle Eastern scholar Daniel Pipes explained in an e-mail that "most Muslims would understand this nasheed as something ancient, religious and quite innocuous. But Islamists understand it as a victory song. So, most immigrants would feel heart warmed by hearing it on arrival in Canada but some would understand it as the subjugation of the kafirs who are singing it."
Jonathan Halevi, a researcher for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, says the song is in fact about Muhammad waging war against Christians. In an online article, Halevi notes that prominent Islamic scholars have "ruled that the lyrics of the poem clearly indicate that it was composed on the occasion of the return of Muhammad victorious from the Battle of Tabouk against the Christian Romans and their Arab allies."
Intelligence expert David Harris notes "Muslims and non-Muslims worldwide wrestle daily with Islamist terrorism, so it's astonishing that Canadian public school officials could blow scarce tax money to create a children's choir piece said to evoke images of jihadist victory over infidels."
Harris adds that "The only thing weirder, is the way some Canadians embrace the apparently Islamist-themed music as a welcoming song for Syrian migrants who might include non-Muslims escaping Islamist violence."
Regardless of the exact historical truth of this song and the battle inspiring it, the fact these ambiguities exist suggests it's a bad idea to have public school children reciting it.
"My advice," concludes Pipes, "would be for everyone to stay clear from anything that the Islamists can use to their advantage."