The new language should be used "in all venues where we normally talk about Judeo-Christian values, starting with the media, academia, statements by politicians and comments made in churches, synagogues and other places," said Agha Saeed, founder and chairman of the American Muslim Alliance, a political group headquartered in Fremont, Calif.
Other national Muslim groups supporting a change include the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the Muslim American Society and the American Muslim Council.
The budding movement is largely unformed, and religion watchers question whether it will succeed. Still, the call for new terms shows that words carry huge symbolic importance for Muslims trying to find their role in America after Sept. 11 and the Iraq war.
"These are not just let's-make-you-feel-good words," Saeed said. "These are words that define how we're related to each other."
Others take offense, arguing that to alter the phrase "Judeo-Christian" is political correctness and revisionist history at its worst.
"A lot of the ideas that underpin civil liberties come from Judeo-Christian theology," said the Rev. Ted Haggard of Colorado Springs, Colo., president of the National Association of Evangelicals. "What the Islamic community needs to make are positive contributions to culture and society so we can include them."
Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Washington-based Ethics and Public Policy Center, said a "Judeo-Christian understanding of things like freedom of conscience and liberty" are embodied in the Constitution. "No offense intended," he said, "but Muslims weren't a part of that, even though they're part of the discussion now."
The conflict illustrates the power of words, especially those touching on religion, national history and identity.
In a 2002 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life and the Pew Research Center for People and the Press, two-thirds of respondents said they consider the United States a "Christian nation" and 58 percent said the strength of American society is based on the religious faith of its people. But only 14 percent said it is essential that a person believe in "basic Judeo-Christian values" in order to be a good American.
According to a 1984 scholarly article by religion writer Mark Silk, "Judeo-Christian" wasn't used to refer to a common American outlook of values and beliefs until World War II, when the supposedly Christian Nazis and their death camps made future references to "our Christian civilization" sound ominously exclusive.
"`Judeo-Christian,' which in 1952 looked like an incredibly inclusive term, doesn't look very inclusive now," said Silk, now director of the Greenberg Center for the Study of Religion in Public Life at Trinity College, in Hartford. Conn., in an interview. "So we probably need a new term."
But, Silk acknowledged, "I think Judeo-Christian-Islamic is going to be hard for the public to accept at this moment when you've just had people attacking the United States in the name of Islam."
While "Judeo-Christian" may not be used with the frequency heard in the 1950s, it's still a part of the vernacular, uttered recently by public officials ranging from Republican Attorney General John Ashcroft to Sen. Ted Kennedy, the Massachusetts Democrat.
The movement to drop or change the phrase has some non-Muslim support, including the head of the National Council of Churches. The Rev. Bob Edgar, general secretary of the council, which represents 36 Christian denominations, said he prefers "Abrahamic" to "Judeo-Christian-Islamic" because it "rolls off the tongue a little easier."
"The more inclusive we can be, the more committed we are to the founding fathers and mothers who struggled with the issue of respect for each other's religious faiths," Edgar said.
There are other arguments for change, among them these:
Alkhateeb, a consultant for textbook companies and school systems across the country, doesn't like "Judeo-Christian-Islamic" because it excludes other minority religions. But she finds "Judeo-Christian" as outdated as calling pluralism and multiculturalism "just having blacks and whites together."
Every time she meets public officials, whether Secretary of State Colin Powell or a small-town legislator, she asks them to include Muslim names and places in their speeches.
"It's exactly in those little things that people gain recognition as human beings or lose it," said Alkhateeb, who is also the founder of the North American Council for Muslim Women. "The Jewish movement in this country made people allergic to mention even a single word that could possibly be construed as anti-Jewish, and people don't even think about such words, much less speak them, now.
"How did that happen? One inch at a time, exactly as Muslims are trying to change the language now."
Osama Siblani, an influential voice among American Muslims and publisher of the Arab-American News in Dearborn, Mich., takes an even broader view.
"I believe we should call this the United States of America, made up of Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others," said Siblani. "This stuff about language has to stop. We are all just Americans."