Oh the Things They Say About Islam

Republican political theology is clear with regards Islam, which in all respects it treats as the new Communism: Allah is a demon god (McCain’s “spiritual guide” in 2008, Rod Parsley preferred the term “demon spirit”; Islam is a pagan religion. Obama is an “Islamophile” and as Gary Bauer claimed in 2010, and no doubt many Republicans believe, “Obama’s left-wing progressivism varies with Islamism on many issues. But their adherents find common cause in a common enemy: the Judeo-Christian worldview at the heart of Western democracy.” One fundamentalist blog offers (from June 7 of this year) the following gem, based on a variety of very common claims made on the right:

The off-base Emerging Church is encouraging pastors to embrace an ecumenical concept of combining Christianity and Islam, actually partnering with Islam, to launch a new religion called…Chrislam—which would combine the two. So far, they have managed to gather 130 Christian leaders who collectively state that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. No they do not!  Allah was the Arabic name for a higher power, or a god. Mohammed ‘s god was Allilah, the moon god which conveniently became the generic name for a god, Allah. This is why a crescent moon and star is on the flag of Islam and mosques. Let this be clear.

There are so many things wrong with this paragraph it is difficult to know where to begin. But we must try because it embodies core Republican beliefs about the world’s second largest religion. We will start with the “Emerging Church” which the Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry identifies thusly: “The Emerging Church is a movement that claims to be Christian.” This pretty much tells you into what territory we are headed. The crux of CARM’s disapproval (and the blogger’s) is the idea that religion can in any sense move forward. If you are not looking back, embracing old stereotypes and paradigms and adopting old hatreds as your own, you are not and cannot be a Christian.

And Chrislam? There is such a thing as Chrislam – according to Wikipedia it has about 1,600 adherents. It was founded in Nigeria in the 1970s, uses both the Qur’an and Bible and has nothing at all to do with the work of the Emerging  Church.

The idea that moderating Christian attitudes toward other religions in some way damages Christianity is a lamentable one. Doing so in no way creates an entity known as “Chrislam.” It is in fact a refreshing course-change after nearly 2,000 years of Christian holy war against every alternative to itself. Most folks call this progressive attitude “interfaith” dialogue. It is a form of communication that is distinct from the syncretism the blogger worries so much about. Promoting understanding, cooperation and goodwill between religions as opposed to say, holy war, does not necessitate abandonment of one’s beliefs. Tolerance is by definition accepting something that you don’t approve of. You don’t have to like another religion, or agree with it, let alone adopt any of its tenets, to tolerate it. Toleration, contrary to the attitude of religious fundamentalists, is a good thing.

Another problem is that Allah and God and YHWH are indeed the same God. Allah as a word has nothing to do with a moon god, though it was used by pre-Islamic Arabians for a creator deity. Allah means simply “the God.” It is, in fact, the only word for “God” that exists in Arabic. As the Qur’an says in Surat al-‘Ankabut (29):46: “Our God and your God is one.”

The blogger’s claims about the crescent are equally absurd. Neither Mohammed nor any of his successors used the symbols of the crescent and when it was finally used it was for secular, not religious, purposes. Its current use is entirely modern in origin and as one expert says, “an interesting eple of projection and acceptance, from a dominant culture to others…that is, the dissemination of the manners and customs of Christendom” (as an equivalent of the cross).[1] As for being a moon symbol, the arc is incorrect. There were pre-Islamic states in Arabia which, like other ancient cultures did use a moon crescent, but Islam did not. Furthermore, the Roman city of Constantinople had as its city’s symbol the moon crescent. When the Ottoman’s captured the city, they adopted it as their own, along with the name of the Roman Empire it had conquered, Rum for its European holdings, and for Rome’s old holdings in Asia Minor, Rumelia (Lesser Rome).

And the claim that Allah’s god is “the moon god” is amusing when one considers the origins of YHWH/God, whose name invokes, as the Old Testament itself makes clear, northwest Arabia; Judges 5.5 and Psalms 68.8, as Robin Lane Fox points out, “refer to him in words which probably mean the ‘One of Sinai’.[2] In other words, (irony of ironies) YHWH isn’t even a Jewish god but an Arabian god. It is similar to the claim made at Wikislam.net with regard Islam’s Pagan origins:

Islam is a monotheistic bastardization of the pre-Islamic polytheistic religion followed by the inhabitants of 7th century Arabia. Its pagan heritage is clearly evident.

Both Judaism and Christianity are bastardizations of Pagan religions – Judaism of Canaanite religion and Christianity of Greco-Roman religion AND Canaanite religion via the so-called Old Testament. Their pagan heritages are clearly evident. Why attack Islam for polytheistic origins when your own are so much in evidence?

The opposition of Republican political theology to Islam amounts to no more than hocus pocus. Besides a good deal of projection there is a large element of “don’t look at what we’re doing! They’re the bad guys” even though the Mosaic Law Republican’s wish to impose is really no different than the Sharia Law they so vehemently oppose. One way or another, America ends up looking like Afghanistan and Washington D.C. turns into Kabul, with morality police on every street corner. In the end, Republican political theology can no more make a non-religion-based claim against Islam than it can against Marriage Equality or Women’s Reproductive Rights. Sure as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, you won’t see one based on science (and if they have their way, you won’t see any science at all).

[1] Bernard Lewis and Buntzie Ellis Churchill, Islam: the Religion and the People (Wharton School Publishing, 2009), 46-47.

[2] Robin Lane Fox The Unauthorized Version: Truth and Fiction in the Bible (NY: Vintage Books, 1991), 53. And as Fox points out, “We do not know where Mount Sinai was.” Though many sites have been suggested, the popular assignment is the Jebel Musa (“mountains of Moses”) but this is only a guess and the evidence in its favor dates from the early fourth century, during the life of Helena, mother of the emperor Constantine, when two monks saw the burning bush itself, thus identifying the missing mountain. But even the Jebel Musa makes YHWH a foreign – Arabian – god. And of course, the name Sinai may well have come from Sin, a lunar deity. In his recent special The Exodus Decoded, James Cameron suggests Hashem el-Tarif but this is an Egyptian military site and forbidden to archaeologists.

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