msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 9/20/2011 11:13:13 AM ET 2011-09-20T15:13:13

A western Pennsylvania school district has decided not to stage a Tony Award-winning musical about a Muslim street poet after some residents complained about the play on the heels of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Richland School District had planned to stage "Kismet" in February but Superintendent Thomas Fleming now says it was scrapped to avoid controversy, The Tribune-Democrat of Johnstown, Pa., reported.

"After reviewing the script, the decision was made to move on rather than risk controversy," Fleming said. "We're in the business of trying to do what’s best for the kids — not to do anything detrimental if we can avoid it."

Fleming said that sensitivity is understandable in part because one of the hijacked planes crashed in nearby Shanksville.

Nearly all of the comments posted on the newspaper's website after the report was published were against the decision.

"You know what's detrimental to our kids? Avoiding education about other cultures," posted one reader.

"Denying this heritage just because of some jihadists actions is just adding fuel to their complaints about western cultures," posted another.

Music director Scott Miller said the play has no inappropriate content but that he and other members of the performing arts committee decided to switch to "Oklahoma!" after hearing complaints.

The district last performed "Kismet" in 1983.

"Kismet" won the Tony for best musical in 1954.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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