Thursday, April 10, 2008


Is my knee-jerk reaction to this:

In Arabic, Muslims, Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians all pray to Allah. In English, however, Christians and Jews pray to God, and Allah is the Muslim deity. No one would think of using the word "Allah" to talk about any other religion. The two words, "God" and "Allah," do not mean the same thing in English. They should.

I'll admit "god" is a word spread too thin. And there ought to be a separate word for the God worshipped by the monotheistic religions, on the one hand, and a generic word used to designate the denizens of the Greek pantheon, say, or the Hindu temples, or even great figures in sports.

But to choose that particular word, untranslated, at this moment in history ...


The beauty of language is that it is always ultimately democratic; it is built up from the very roots of a people's existence. Attempts to impose it, "1984"-style, always are as short-lived as the regimes that impose them.

Polite people may choose to use "God" to describe the object of worship and submission in the Islamic religion -- and the author of the above piece allows this as one possible solution. But those who read the scriptures of both faiths and do not find a continuity or identity between the voices speaking in them should not be dragooned into linguistic lock-step for the sake of global political correctness.