Explainer Mailbag: Do Christians Worship Allah?

Explainer Mailbag: Do Christians Worship Allah?

Explainer Mailbag: Do Christians Worship Allah?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Sept. 28 2001 5:26 PM

Explainer Mailbag: Do Christians Worship Allah?

Multiple Slate readers objected to Explainer's characterization of Allah as "the same God worshipped by Jews and Christians." "I don't worship Allah!" or "They don't worship my God!" summarize the complaints (none of which came from Muslims).

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In Explainer's defense, that definition of "Allah" wasn't intended as a warm-and-fuzzy statement of monotheistic equivalence. Rather, it was intended to explain a tenet of Islam. The Koran honors prophets of the past such as Abraham, Moses, and Jesus as God's messengers, and it refers to Jews and Christians as "people of the book." Religious scholar Karen Armstrong argues that the phrase ahl al-kitah would be better translated as "people of an earlier revelation" because to Muslims, the God of the burning bush is the same God who inspired Muhammad to record the Koran. Though it should be noted that Muslims don't believe Jesus is divine. (That would make them Christians, wouldn't it?)

Explainer welcomes readers of all creeds, from atheism to Zoroastrianism, so he doesn't care whether you believe that Jews, Muslims, and Christians worship the same God. But he wants you to know that Muslims believe that they do.

Mason K. claims in the Fray that a recent 5-4 Supreme Court decision strongly suggests that detaining aliens indefinitely would be unconstitutional. Explainer confesses to having felt a pang of fear when reading the holding in the case, Zadvydas vs. Davis. The relevant passage: "A statute permitting indefinite detention would raise serious constitutional questions. Freedom from imprisonment lies at the heart of the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause."

But Explainer's fears washed away as he read further. First, as Fraygrant marylb noted, Justice Stephen Breyer's opinion makes an exception for terrorism. But more important, Zadvydas discusses only the constitutionality of detaining immigrants under current law. There's nothing in the opinion that would stop Congress from writing a new law authorizing the attorney general to lock up certain immigrants indefinitely (which is what John Ashcroft wants). In fact, the case's holding out-and-out declares that Congress has the right to enact such a law, and there's nothing the Supreme Court could do about it: "Despite the constitutional problem here, if this Court were to find a clear congressional intent to grant the Attorney General the power to indefinitely detain an alien ordered removed, the Court would be required to give it effect."

So, Explainer stands by his story. But he welcomes comments and criticisms that keep him honest. One such elaboration, on Explainer's analysis of the etymology of the word Taliban, can be read here.

Finally, Explainer gets lots of questions about various Internet hoaxes and chain letters. And it's true that Explainer enjoys debunking them. But before turning to Explainer, check out purportal.com, your source for all your Internet urban legend needs. The site's slogan: "The Bunk Stops Here."

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