Catholic churches in the Netherlands should use the name Allah for God to ease tensions between Muslims and Christians, says a Dutch bishop.Oh how wonderful, gush the relativists! Let's just hug and hold hands and sing Kumbaya! (I suppose it would be "Kumbaya Allah" instead of "Kumbaya O Lord?"). Heathen! Traitor! Sell-out! cry the haters-of-Islam! How dare he!
Tiny Muskens, the bishop of Breda, told the Dutch TV program "Network" Monday night he believes God doesn't mind what he is called, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported.
The Almighty is above such "discussion and bickering," he insisted.
Muskens points to Indonesia, where he served 30 years ago, as an example for Dutch churches. Christians in the Middle East also use the term Allah for God.
"Someone like me has prayed to Allah yang maha kuasa (Almighty God) for eight years in Indonesia and other priests for 20 or 30 years," Muskens said. "In the heart of the Eucharist, God is called Allah over there, so why can't we start doing that together?"
Muskens thinks it could take another 100 years, but eventually the name Allah will be used by Dutch churches, promoting rapprochement between the two religions, he said, according to Radio Netherlands.
Well, now that the caricatures are out of the way, let's examine the good Bishop's proposal a bit (assuming, which is always a big assumption, that he was represented fairly in the story)? "Allah" is just the Arabic name for "God." If we use "Allah" instead of "God" (which is, incidentally, also the word in Dutch), we're more welcoming. We can build bridges, help healing between the communities. Middle-eastern Christians, after all, use Allah."
I don't know. I'm not that sanguine. Maybe in the context of a joint inter-faith prayer meeting, with the intention of conducting dialogue, learning about each other's traditions and beliefs. Perhaps, then, one could use some of these prayers of Middle-Eastern Christians. Perhaps one could also request that our Muslim friends use the English or Dutch word in their Arabic prayers. We meet as equals, after all, on the field of dialogue. In fact, I tend to be fond of reminding Western Christians of these prayers of Eastern Christians -- for, often, the Western understanding is that Allah is simply the Islamic (as opposed to Arabic) word for God. And while some might claim that the word "Allah" is inextricably tied to Islam, I suspect that Melkite or Maronite Christians would disagree -- at least forms of that word are used by Middle-Eastern (and it would seem Indonesian) Christians as well. (For a truly breathtaking example of fear and loeathing of Islam and Muslims, just read the comments on Robert Spencer's JihadWatch and Dhimmiwatch pages. Now, I actually find Spencer to be intriguing -- his books tend to focus on arguments and avoid ad-hominem attacks. The same cannot be said at all about the commentariat at his blogs.) I also suspect that Christians from the Middle-East might be a bit more circumspect and cautious about relations with Islam.
But unqualified use of Allah in the Mass in Dutch on a routine basis? (Or English?) ("May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of Allah and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be always with you."?) Certainly, if any Muslims are present (generally, I'd say, quite unlikely in Europe), they might be pleasantly surprised, and might wonder what is going on. I suspect though, all that this would do, is further the sense among Christians that what one says about God really doesn't matter, and promote religious relativism and indifferentism, already so widespread in the Church. For, the Christian understanding of God as Trinity is quite different from the strict taw'hid, one-ness of God, of Islam. Islam, after all, charges Christianity with muddying the pure waters of monotheism, and even charges Christianity with polytheism. One would hope that the good Bishop doesn't think that this is just "bickering" and that it does matter a lot, to us, who are trying to be faithful to our traditions, and who care about truth.
And if one accepts the Eurabia thesis (it's compelling, but I'm not entirely convinced), then the Bishop's words might be prophetic. Future Christians might be using Allah afer all. But not in the sense the good Bishop intended.
[Update Ruth Geldhill's picked this story up. Interesting comments over there.]