Oh, Allah, Won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

Posted: Aug 17, 2007 12:01 AM
Oh, Allah, Won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz?

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.

Contrary to Hooper's one-God claim, Christians and Muslims don't really worship the same God. Although both religions are monotheistic -- and if there's just one God, there's just one God -- Christians believe Jesus was the Son of God and Muslims think otherwise.

That's not a small doctrinal difference. In fact, at the risk of exhausting the obvious, Christianity doesn't exist without, um, Christ. Of course we could rewrite the Apostle's Creed to include Muhammad: "I believe in Allah the Father Almighty ... and in Muhammad, his favorite prophet ... "

The possibilities are infinite, really. Alternatively, we could pretend to be sane and suggest that everybody go to his or her own house of worship, pray to his or her own version of the Creator, and otherwise get a grip.

Changing Western language, symbols and making other accommodations to ease relations between old Europe and new isn't only a conciliatory gesture or even mere appeasement. It is submission by any other name.

Language may be a manmade limitation, as Janaan Hashim said, speaking for the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago, which endorses Muskens' idea. But language is not meaningless. The words we use to define and express ourselves are the fundaments of cultural and social identity. John Stuart Mill put it this way: "Language is the light of the mind."

Muskens, who retires in a few weeks, conceded that his idea likely wouldn't catch on right away. We might need another 100 years or so, but he predicted that, eventually, Allah will be the word.

Given that European Muslims are procreating at three times the rate of non-Muslims -- and given the "logarithmic rate" of growth of jihadist ideology in the U.S., according to a new report by the New York Police Department's Intelligence Division -- it may be sooner than that.

Peace be upon us.