WASHINGTON -- It was bound to happen -- and it seems fitting that a cleric named Tiny would think of it.
Roman Catholic Bishop Tiny Muskens of the Netherlands has decided that the way to ease Muslim-Everybody Else tensions is to start using "Allah" instead of "God." Noting that God does not care what we call him, Muskens thought, why not yield a little to Muslim ways?
Or would that be submit, the literal meaning of "Islam"?
"Allah is a very beautiful word for God," Muskens said on Dutch television a few days ago. "Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah?"
Muskens pointed out that in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country where he spent eight years, priests use the word "Allah" in Catholic Mass.
For the sake of peace, prosperity and clarity in the shire, let the record reflect that Muslims did not ask for this, though some in the Netherlands embraced the idea as a conciliatory gesture and in the U.S., some Muslims greeted the suggestion with enthusiasm.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, told FoxNews.com that calling God "Allah" wouldn't require a theological leap for Christians. "It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God," Hooper said. It's not hard to understand why Muskens would tilt toward compromise. The Netherlands, which is now home to 1 million Muslims, hasn't been quite the peace 'n' love axis of the multicultural world, despite clouds of Silver Blue cannabis wafting from the city's famously mellow coffee houses.
Between the 2004 murder of Theo van Gogh, guilty of making a documentary film critical of Islam, death threats against fellow documentarian Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and the recent Muslim attack of the head of a Dutch group for "ex-Muslims," one could begin to think of invoking Allah as a savvy survival technique.
Besides, as Muskens pointed out, Allah is a lovely sounding word. Thus, in the spirit of Christian charity and Western tolerance, I've been trying it out with mixed results.
The Doxology of my Protestant childhood is problematic with the two-syllable Allah instead of the monosyllabic God, but not impossible: Praise Allah, from whom all blessings flow. Praise him, all creatures here below. Not perfect, but workable.
America's familiar childhood blessing is downright euphonious: Allah is great, Allah is good, let us thank him for our food. But the Apostle's Creed is a mess: I believe in Allah the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only son ... . Oops.
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