Allah

This is not a trick question: Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

This is not a trick question: Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

THE QUESTION:

Do Christians and Muslims worship the same God?

THE RELIGION GUY’S ANSWER:

This topic hit the news February 4 when Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayebb of Egypt’s influential Al-Azhar University issued a joint declaration “in the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity.” Did Francis, who was making history’s first papal visit to the Arabian Peninsula, thereby mean to say that the Christian God is the Muslim God?

Yes, he did, if properly understood, and this was no innovation on his part.

In 1965, Pope Paul VI and the world’s Catholic bishops at the Second Vatican Council approved Nostra Aetate, the declaration on relations with non-Christian religions. The decree’s denunciation of calumny against Jews gets most of the attention, but it also proclaimed this:

“The church also regards with esteem the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in himself, merciful and all-powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,” although “they do not acknowledge Jesus as God” and regard him as only a prophet. The subsequent Catechism of the Catholic Church likewise defines the belief that “together with us [Muslims] adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

Such interfaith concord is disputed by some conservative Protestants in the U.S. For example, the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry believes the Catholic Church has “a faulty understanding of the God of Islam,” and Muslims “are not capable of adoring the true God.” Hank Hanegraaff of the “Bible Answer Man” broadcast — now a convert to Eastern Orthodoxy — has asserted that “the Allah of Islam” is “definitely not the God of the Bible.” [Note that “Allah” is simply the Arabic word meaning “God.”]

Back in the century after Islam first arose, such thinking was expressed in “The Fount of Knowledge” by John of Damascus, a revered theologian for Eastern Orthodoxy. John spelled out reasons why Islam’s belief about God is a “heresy” and Muhammad is “a false prophet.”

Islam’s fundamental profession of faith declares that “there is no god but God; Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

How are we to understand this one true God?

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Vikings, Islam, fabrics and a dose of magical thinking in The New York Times

Vikings, Islam, fabrics and a dose of magical thinking in The New York Times

Being the New York Times means never having to say you’re sorry.

The Grey Lady was, along with other media outlets, taken in by claims made by a Swedish university professor about Islam and Vikings. The story played into the post-Charlottesville progressive narrative denigrating the alt-Right. White supremacists had championed the Vikings as the progenitors of a superior Nordic race -- but new archaeological evidence showed some Vikings had converted to Islam and brought the faith to Scandinavia.

The problem with the story was that it was not true.

The New York TimesGuardianIndependent and other outlets uncritically ran with it, but the Independent, unlike the Times, followed with a second article walking back the story.

The first day stories followed the pattern set in the Independent’s “Researchers find name of Allah woven into ancient Viking burial fabrics.” It cited a study released by a Swedish professor that claimed in its lede: 

Allah's name has been found embroidered into ancient Viking burial clothes, a discovery researchers in Sweden have described as "staggering".

It doubles down on this “staggering” news to note:

The silk patterns were originally thought to be ordinary Viking Age decoration but, upon re-examination by archaeologist Annika Larsson of Uppsala University, it was revealed that they were a geometric Kufic script. They were found on woven bands as well as items of clothing, in two separate grave sites, suggesting that Viking funeral customs had been influenced by Islam.

In support of her claims, Larsson stated that the silks she examined contained “ancient Arabic script, Kufic characters, invoking both Allah and Ali.” There were, however, some questions still to be answered, she conceded.

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What got that Wheaton professor suspended — her headscarf or her views on Islam?

What got that Wheaton professor suspended — her headscarf or her views on Islam?

As news broke concerning the suspension of a Wheaton College professor who voiced solidarity with Muslim women, I cranked out a quick post yesterday.

With a couple of minor quibbles, I praised the early work by the Chicago Tribune and its star religion writer, Manya Brachhear Pashman.

But a few readers took issue with the Tribune's original lede, which I had quoted in my post:

A tenured Wheaton College professor who, as part of her Christian Advent devotion, donned a traditional headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims has been placed on administrative leave.

Reader Paul Smith complained:

(T)he issue was not the hijab, but the statement that the professor made that Christians and Muslims worship the same God.

Not to worry: The Tribune story got better — and more precise — as the day went on.

Imagine that: Even in this age of 24/7 information overload, it still takes journalists (who are real humans, not robots) time to report, edit and fine-tune the kind of high-quality reports that show up on the front page the next morning. Even if media critics like myself occasionally jump the gun and analyze a developing story in real time.

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Case of the Wheaton professor who wore a headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims

Case of the Wheaton professor who wore a headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims

"We know the real God," a Christian minister told me when I interviewed him after the San Bernardino massacre. "God is not Allah."

“My job is to take a Muslim and turn him away from Muhammad, who is still dead, and turn him to Jesus Christ, who rose and sits at the right hand of God," another minister told me on that same reporting trip for The Christian Chronicle.

I thought about those comments as I read a developing story from the Chicago area.

Manya Brachear Pashman, the talented Godbeat pro for the Chicago Tribune (and the new president of the Religion Newswriters Association), reported the news this morning.

The top of her story:

A tenured Wheaton College professor who, as part of her Christian Advent devotion, donned a traditional headscarf to show solidarity with Muslims has been placed on administrative leave.
Larycia Hawkins, a political science professor at the private evangelical Christian college in Chicago's west suburbs, announced last week that she would wear the veil to show support for Muslims who have been under greater scrutiny since mass shootings in Paris and San Bernardino, Calif.
"I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book," she posted on Facebook.
But it was that explanation of her gesture that concerned some evangelical Christians, who read her statement as a conflation of Christian and Muslim theology.
"While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God's revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation and the life of prayer," Wheaton College said in a statement.

That's a nice, evenhanded summary that, it seems to me, fairly quotes both sides.

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Oh my God, NBC News needs to print correction about story on U2's return to Paris

Oh my God, NBC News needs to print correction about story on U2's return to Paris

Picky, picky, picky.

Guilty as charged, especially when it comes to the details of life on the religion beat. Anyone who knows about the day-to-day work done by journalists know that when it comes to writing, editing and the Associated Press Stylebook, we think that God is in the details. You could also say that the gods are in the details, if you wish to do so.

Yes, it's that time again. Time for another look at that journalism trend that your picky GetReligionistas have discussed quite a bit (click here for a classic Bobby Ross, Jr., post) in recent years -- the strange tendency for some journalists to ignore AP style when it comes to references to God.

So let's head right over to the journalism bible (lower-case "b") where we find this:

gods and goddesses
Capitalize God in references to the deity of all monotheistic religions. Capitalize all noun references to the deity: God the Father, Holy Ghost, Holy Spirit, Allah, etc. Lowercase personal pronouns: he, him, thee, thou.
Lowercase gods and goddesses in references to the deities of polytheistic religions. Lowercase god, gods and goddesses in references to false gods: He made money his god.

So with that in mind, let's look at a strange passing reference in an NBC News report about the return of U2 to Paris, for concerts that were cancelled amid safety concerns after the recent massacre there.

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God and Allah at an Easter service shooting

A church in Ashtabula, Ohio, was the scene of a shooting on Easter Sunday. Just as services had ended, a man arrived and shot his father in the head, killing him. A reporter sent us a link to an earlier version of an Associated Press story that ran in the Houston Chronicle with a headline that read:

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