www.usislam.org By Dr. Adel Elsaie
Thursday, August 16, 2007
A proposal by a Roman Catholic bishop in the Netherlands that people of all faiths refer to God as "Allah" is not sitting well with the Catholic community.
Tiny Muskens, an outgoing bishop who is retiring in a few weeks from the southern diocese of Breda, said God doesn't care what he is called.
"Allah is a very beautiful word for God. Shouldn't we all say that from now on we will name God Allah? ... What does God care what we call him? It is our problem," Muskens told Dutch television.
"I'm sure his intentions are good but his theology needs a little fine-tuning," said Father Jonathan Morris, a Roman Catholic priest based in Rome. Morris, a news analyst for FOX News Channel, also called the idea impractical.
"Words and names mean things," Morris said. "Referring to God as Allah means something."
Ibrahim Hooper, a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Washington, D.C.-based Islamic civil liberties and advocacy group, backs the idea as a way to help interfaith understanding.
"It reinforces the fact that Muslims, Christians and Jews all worship the same God," Hooper told FOXNews.com. "I don't think the name is as important as the belief in God and following God's moral principles. I think that's true for all faiths."
Christians who are Arabic speakers speak of Allah when they speak of God, Hooper added.
"There's not a theological leap to make on the part of Christians," Hooper said.
The Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago supports the idea.
“I think it will open up doors,” said Janaan Hashim, a spokeswoman for the group representing more than 400,000 Muslim Americans in the Chicago area. “Language is a man-made limitation. I think what God cares about is how we fulfill our purpose in life.”
The nation’s largest Catholic civil rights group says Catholics won't get behind the proposal.
“Bishop Martinus “Tiny” Muskens can pray to “Allah” all he wants, but only addlepated Catholics will follow his lead,” Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, said in a statement. “It is not a good sign when members of the Catholic hierarchy indulge in a fawning exchange with Muslims, or those of any other religion.”
Muskens spent eight years in Indonesia, where he said priests used the word "Allah" during Mass.
Muskens also has drawn attention for other ideas such as encouraging the hungry to steal bread and offering condoms to combat HIV and AIDS.
FOXNews.com's Melissa Drosjack and The Associated Press contributed to this report.