In The Name of God: The Infinitely Merciful and Compassionate Beloved Lord
I watched with dismay a video of the hundreds of protesters that gathered outside a conference of Muslims entitled, “Stand With the Prophet Against Terror and Hate” in Texas this past weekend. Whenever fellow Americans gather to “protest” the presence of Muslims – who are also Americans like them – it is quite hurtful. Yet, what I found fascinating – all the while truly sad – was that there was a counter-protest of Muslims just across the street. And I wonder about the great things that could have happened if the protesters had simply walked across the street and talked to their fellow Americans who are Muslim.
One of the many signs carried by protesters read: “No Allah in America.” I found that quite odd because, Allah – which is to say, “God” – is everywhere, including America. Now, I assume this person holding the sign is a Christian. I wonder at his amazement if he learned that, in the many churches in America which cater to Arab faithful, God is called “Allah.” I wonder at his amazement when he learns that Jesus Christ himself called God by the name “Allah”:
Beyond this fact, however, is that “Allah” is also the name that Jesus Christ called God. “Allah” is the Arabic equivalent of “Elohim,” which is Hebrew for God. The “im” is a plural appendage of respect, and so the wordis “Eloh,” which is very similar to “Allah.” In addition, the Aramaic word for God is “Alaha,” and Aramaic was the language which Jesus himself spoke. Moreover, the word “Allah” is found in the English version of the Bible which we read today. In Matthew 27:46 we read: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ – which means, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'” The word “Eloi” is the Aramaic form of the Arabic “Allah.”
He could have learned this if he just walked across the street and talked with his fellow Americans who were Muslim. Many of the protesters would have likely been quite surprised at how similar they are to American Muslims; how American Muslims believe in and worship the very same God as they; how American Muslims honor and revere the very same Prophets as they, including Jesus Christ; how American Muslims have the same aspirations and dreams as they; how American Muslims love and believe in this amazing place called America, just like they do.
They would have learned all this if they simply crossed the street and joined their fellow Americans in dialogue. Although it could not be seen, there was a huge wall between the protest and the counter-protest. But that wall would have come crashing down if the “patriots” protesting against Islam would have crossed the street.
I know this to be true because of a personal experience I recently had. I was at a gathering of one of my neighbors when another guest walked up to my wife and me and asked, “You guys are Muslim, right?” Nervously, we both answered, “Yes.” He then proceeded to ask us what was the matter with “the Muslims.” He wasn’t particularly mean-spirited, but he was sincerely wondering based on the snippets he sees all over the media.
Frankly, given the horrific press Islam and Muslims get on a regular basis, I don’t necessarily blame him for the question. But, what I appreciated was that he came up to us and asked the question, all the while qualifying it by saying, “I see that you guys are here and having a good time.” And after my wife and I calmly explained to him that what he sees is not the reality, he hugged the both of us, in true sincerity.
That is the sort of dialogue that needs to happen more and more, all across our country. When we learn about one another, we will realize that we are much more similar than we are different. And the forces of hate and discord that seek to keep us divided will fail miserably.