Christians, Islamophobia, and “Who Is Allah?”

by K.W. Leslie, 12 June 2017

Recently an interesting yet annoying argument came up in a discussion group about the difference between devout Muslims, and the nutjobs who call themselves Muslim—then murder people and blow stuff up. Watch certain news channels and you’ll never hear there’s any difference. As a result many Americans think there is no difference. They assume the fakes are actual Muslims and call ’em “radical Islam.”

I’ve pointed out this is like claiming a white supremacist is a “radical Christian.” Scary thing is, there are many pagans who actually respond, “Yeah, that’s precisely what it’s like.” To their minds when you call yourself Christian or Muslim, even if you’re not at all like Jesus or Muhammad taught, it’s still what you are.

Anyway. If you wanna know how various Fundamentalists and certain conservative Evangelicals think about this, I find it really useful to turn to fear-mongering tract-maker Jack T. Chick.

Chick tracts are meant to convert people to Christianity. Mainly his particular narrow brand of Fundamentalist Christianity. Typically they do this by showing people their existing belief systems were invented by Satan, and if you’re in any way connected with those beliefs, God intends to toss you into fiery hell. In between the lines, somehow you’re expected to believe God loves you and wants you to turn to Jesus… before he has to destroy your wicked, evil pagan soul.

What’s far more likely is people are gonna respond to these tracts, “What is wrong with this guy?” and assume all us Christians think the very same things. And hate pagans too, and think they’re all devilish and bad.

No, this guy isn’t pointing to himself to imply he’s Allah. Pretty sure that’s blasphemy. Allah 1 (Reference numbers to this tract refer to images on the website; the cover is 1, the next page is 2, etc.)

As I pointed out in my bit on Chick’s tract “The Attack,” he’s totally willing to invent history and misquote bible to prove his points. He’ll do it again in today’s tract, “Who is Allah?” You can read it in its entirety on Chick’s website, along with a version for white people called “Allah Has No Son.” Both tracts aren’t just inaccurate: They include blatant lies.

I’m gonna quote the Quran in this article. Since I don’t know Arabic I didn’t translate it myself; I went with the Yusuf Ali translation, which is likely the same one Chick used. Unlike the bible, the Quran is one book, with 114 suwar/“chapters.” So I refer to ’em as Quran, chapter and verse. (Chick’s footnotes go like “Sura 5:33,” which just means “chapter 5.33.”)

The white-person tract’s title, “Allah Has No Son,” actually comes from Quranic teachings:

Quran 17.111
Say, “Praise be to God, who begets no son, and has no partner in his dominion:
Nor needs he any to protect him from humiliation: Yea, magnify him for his greatness and glory!”

Muslims are really big on saying that. They want to make it crystal clear that while they believe in Jesus—really, they do!—they don’t believe he’s God’s son. Nor that God has any sons.

As one of God’s adopted sons, I could explain the whole adoption idea… but this piece isn’t about rebutting Islam, but Islamophobes.

“Allah” means God.

You might’ve noticed Yusuf Ali’s translation didn’t say, “Praise be to Allah,” but “Praise be to God.” That’s because Allah is Arabic for God. The words are interchangeable.

Various Christians balk at that idea. To them “Allah” is absolutely not God. Not the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Father of Jesus of Nazareth. They’re used to thinking of Allah as some other god, like Zeus or Baal. To them, “Allah means God” is like saying, “Odin means God” (or, for C.S. Lewis fans, “Tash is Aslan”): No it doesn’t.

But it does. Y’notice how western languages’ words for “God” all sound alike? In Latin (and Portuguese) it’s Deus; Spanish Dios, Greek Theos, Italian Dio, Irish Dia, French Dieu. These similarities are called cognates. It’s the result of all these languages evolving from the same original language.

Middle eastern languages work the same way. In Hebrew we have Eloah, Aramaic Elah, and Arabic Allah. Lowercase, all these words are their languages’ word for “god.” When you talk about the pre-Islam gods of Arabia, you’d use the Arabic word alaliha, which is plural for allah. Muslims aren’t using any special personal name for God, like Christians do when we say יהוה/YHWH, or “Jehovah.” As best I can tell, Muslims have no personal name for God. He’s just “God.”

So when Muslims declare their statement of faith, the Shahada, they’re not really saying (as is commonly translated) “There is no God but Allah.” They’re actually saying La ilaha illa-llah/“There’s no god but God.”

Back to the Christians who insist the LORD and Allah are different gods. I understand where they’re coming from. When I grew up Fundamentalist, whenever we talked about how heretic sects understood or taught God, we’d refer to these distorted versions of the LORD as “the god of Jehovah’s Witnesses,” or “the god of Christian Scientists”—as if they don’t worship the God, but some other god, some idol or demon. Their interpretation of God was so different, we figured we can’t possibly be talking about the same guy.

Thing is, when Paul preached Jesus to the Athenians, he started by pointing to one of the gods they already worshiped. To wit:

Acts 17.22-25 KWL
22 Standing in the middle of the Areopágos, Paul said,
“Athenians, from everything I’ve see, you’re very god- and demon-fearing.
23 For as I passed through the city and looked closely at your shrines,
I found an altar which was inscribed, ‘To God-Not-Known.’
So you worship him!… ignorantly. Well, I’ll proclaim him to you.
24 God is creator of the universe and everything in it.
He’s the master and possessor of heaven and earth.
He doesn’t live in handmade temples, 25 nor do human hands serve him.
Nor does he need anything. He gives life and breath to everything.”

Most religions do have an understanding of the One True God. The problem is they’re wrong. We all are. But Jesus is right, and if we can get ’em to look at God through Jesus’s eyes, the Holy Spirit will correct all their wrong ideas, same as Jesus tried to do with all the Pharisees in whose synagogues he taught. Same as we try with pagans. Same as we can try with Muslims. They gotta stop interpreting God through Muhammad’s eyes, and interpret him through Jesus’s. Right God, but wrong Master.

Got that? Good. On to Chick.

Let’s get scary.

For clarity’s sake I gotta name the people in the tract. We got a Fundamentalist whom I’ll call Garrett, his son whom I’ll call Pedro, and the Muslim they hassle whom I’ll call Karam.

Karam’s wearing a keffiyeh, which implies they’re somewhere in the middle east. Likely in a Muslim-majority country, and likely in one of those countries where Garrett would totally get punched for the stuff he says. If not arrested. There’s no such thing as real freedom of speech in a lot of these countries, y’know. Not even in Israel.

But enough about these countries’ problematic behavior; let’s get to Garrett’s.

Yep, this is how you make friends in middle eastern countries. Allah 2

Any western kid would assume a bunch of guys doing “downward-facing dog” is just a yoga class. And any Christian kid should’ve seen fellow Christians on their faces before God at some point. But if not… well, let’s figure the people of his church have some pride issues. But Pedro’s clueless, so he asks his dad. And instead of giving Pedro a proper, civil answer like, “It’s prayer time and they’re praying,” Garrett says, “They’re praying to their moon god, son.” Nice and loud, so the worshipers can totally hear him mock their religion.

Any Muslim would understandably be offended. How’d you like it if you were in a church service praying to Jesus, and some pagan schmuck standing outside commented nice and loud, “Oh they’re praying to their sun god.” (Because if we’re using the same sort of logic Chick does, Jesus is the Son, which sounds like “sun,” and he rose like the sun does, and is the light of the world, and there y’are. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.)

Understandably Karam bolts from the mosque to confront his harasser. Incorrectly he breaks off prayer time to do so. Karam isn’t that devout, as we’ll see. Even though as part of his prayers, he’d just been praying,

Quran 1.1
In the name of God, most gracious, most merciful.

he basically ditches God’s grace and mercy to go smack a rude Christian upside his head.

Karam’s about to throw down. Allah 3

Karam calls Garrett an infidel. The Arabic word kafir means “unbeliever,” and much like when Christians call someone a heathen, it’s meant to be derogatory. That’s why devout Muslims avoid saying it, ’cause it’s rude. They especially avoid saying it to refer to Jews and Christians. See, Abrahamic religions are considered sister religions, so it’s against Sharia law to call Christians and Jews unbelievers. You can call people that when they actually aren’t of those religions—and just to be on the safe side, many Muslims won’t even use the term then.

We Christians aren’t supposed to be jerks, so it’s totally understandable if Karam has no idea Garrett’s a Christian. So I’ll give him a pass on this one. But as the tract goes on, you’ll notice Karam kinda sucks as a Muslim. Self-control isn’t solely a Christian thing. A practicing Muslim would demand Garrett explain himself. Then correct Garrett’s errors, then permit the man a chance to repent of his ignorant remarks. Not exclaim, “I could KILL you for saying that!” It’s not at all what the Quran teaches.

Quran 5.33-34
33 The punishment of those who wage war against God and his Apostle,
and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is:
Execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land:
That is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the hereafter;
34 except for those who repent before they fall into your power:
In that case, know that God is oft-forgiving, most merciful.

The Quran’s context is a discussion of actual unbelievers: Those who don’t follow God at all. Arguably this could include Jews and Christians who went to war with Muslims, contrary to how Jews and Christians should behave. The Muslims certainly considered the Crusaders to be wholly un-Jewish and non-Christian. When people commit horrendous crimes, stands to reason they’re no followers of peaceful prophets and a loving God. So Muslims figure they’re to be killed, maimed, or banished—unless they of course repent. Karam should know this. But Chick wasn’t interested in presenting Islam accurately. He didn’t care what Muslims believe, and it shows. “Radical Islam” or regular Islam; it’s all Islam to him.

Garrett tries to weasel out of Karam’s wrath by pointing out his wiseass remark wasn’t directed at him. Back when I was more of a wiseass myself, I tried to use that defense whenever I wished to get out of a beating. “You thought I meant you? No no no. It was some other drunken frat boy. I’d never insult you, sir…” Cowardice isn’t really a Christian trait either.

Next few pages, Karam starts monologuing like a Bond villain. The goal here is to scare Christians. A lot.

But just for fun, take all the stuff Karam states about Islam, and imagine a Fundie saying them about Christianity. It’s remarkably similar.

“Fear my big scary religion!” Allah 4

“Islam is the second largest, and fastest growing religion in America!” Nope. Second-largest religion in the States is Judaism, with about 6 million adherents. Islam’s third with about 3 million. Although some demographers speculate Islam may become second-largest in 2040, ’cause Judaism’s been on the decline for decades. Oh, there are still plenty of Jews in the U.S., but they’re either turning secular or Christian.

Let’s be fair: When Chick originally produced this tract, was Islam at that time the second-largest religion in the States? Nope; still Judaism. Islam might’ve even been behind Buddhism at the time.

And nope, it’s not the fastest-growing religious group in the States either. As far as actual numbers of people are concerned, Christians still outpace Muslims by millions. As far as a growing percentage of the total population, the segment that’s expanding fastest is actually nontheism. They went from 10 percent in 1990, to 20 percent in 2016.

Scary extreme close-up. Allah 5

“We expect a Muslim flag to fly over the White House in the near future.” Far more likely a Russian flag will… but let’s not go there today.

Historically Mecca, not England, was Islam’s first target. It’s Muhammed’s homeland, but they didn’t accept his message, so he went into exile, then came back to conquer it in 630. After that came Syria, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Persia, Sindh, Libya, Spain… and then the Franks drove ’em back from Europe in 732. Then the Muslims slowly whittled away at what was left of the Roman Empire (which had shrunk down to its eastern territories, and since it no longer included the city of Rome, historians like to call it the “Byzantine Empire”) until finally defeating it in 1453, and replacing it with the Ottoman Empire. That empire grew till it was defeated in World War I, and partitioned between the Allies and other newly-independent kingdoms. The Turks became independent in 1922, and the rest of the territories got their independence after World War II. Including Israel.

But Chick doesn’t know medieval history (or ancient history, or present-day history), and wasn’t writing about it anyway. He was preying upon Islamophobes’ fears, trying to tie the various 21st-century terror attacks on England and the United States into some sort of Muslim master plan to take over our English-speaking countries.

“No, your religion is false.” Allah 6

The claim the Quran condemns the bible? False:

Quran 3.3-4
3 It is [God] who sent down to thee step by step, in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it;
and he sent down the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus before this, as a guide to mankind,
and he sent down the criterion of judgment between right and wrong.
4 Then those who reject faith in the signs of God will suffer in the severest penalty,
and God is exalted in might, Lord of retribution.

Muslims consider the bible a divine revelation from God, on par with the Quran. True, they don’t give it the same priority as the Quran, ’cause they think Jews altered the Law, and Christians altered the gospels, to make ’em inconsistent with the Quran. The Quran condemns those who “altered” the bible. But it also condemns those who won’t obey the bible’s teachings—like Garrett, who forgot to do as he’d be done by.

On with Karam’s rant.

Pedro’s getting really tired of the tirade. Allah 7

Obviously Muslims don’t believe Jesus is God’s son. Here’s that verse Chick footnotes:

Quran 23.91
No son did God beget, nor is there any god along with him: If there were many gods, behold,
each god would have taken away what he had created, and some would have lorded it over others!
Glory to God! He is free from the sort of things they attribute to him!

The precise quote, “Say not that God” (or Allah) “begot a son” isn’t in any translation I could find. It comes a little closer in 17.111, which I already quoted.

Yes, Muslims believe Jesus was never crucified. This is why, if you’ve ever spoken of Jesus’s death and resurrection to a Muslim, they look at you funny.

Quran 4.157-159
157 That they said in boast, “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the apostle of God”—
but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them,
and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no certain knowledge,
but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.
158 Nay, God raised him up unto himself; and God is exalted in power, wise;
159 And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death;
and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them.

Muslim scholars are actually divided as to whether someone else died in Jesus’s place. Popular tradition has it that Jesus and Judas Iscariot looked alike, and at the last second Jesus and Judas switched places, and Judas got crucified. But though Muslims don’t believe Jesus died, they do agree he’s in his glorified, resurrected body.

It regularly surprises Christians to discover Muslims also believe in Jesus. As y’notice, the Quran requires everybody to believe in Jesus. Muslims consider Jesus the next-greatest prophet ever (obviously they favor Muhammad) and that he’s gonna take over the world in his second coming. Muslims also believe in the virgin birth, that Mary was awesome, that Jesus ascended to heaven, that when he returns he’s sorting out all the differences between Muslims and Christians, and and that anyone who refuses to believe in him is in big trouble on Judgment Day. Read the Quran; Jesus comes up a lot.

But because the Quran tells Jesus’s story just differently enough from the gospels, Muslims have very different ideas and details about how all these things happened, and how they’ll play out. Hence Christians’ and Muslims’ significantly different beliefs. Hence we’re gonna find it difficult to quote bible at Muslims, because they insist the Quran supersedes it. So close, and yet so far.

Anyway, Garrett’s response to Karam? “Allah is NOT God!” Which makes Karam gasp, ’cause apparently he forgot all about Garrett’s previous “moon god” crack.

I already dealt with how Fundies insist Allah isn’t God; now we’ll finally get to who they believe Allah is.

Chick’s revisionist history of “Allah.”

Back in the early 20th century, some idiot started the rumor “Allah” refers to an Arabic moon god. (I’m not entirely sure which idiot. There are a few candidates.) He noticed Muslims use a crescent and star as the symbol for their religion, figured there’s gotta be a link between their God and the moon, connected the dots, and there y’go.

If you tell your average Muslim that God isn’t God, they’ll figure they’re dealing with a loon and wash their hands of you. Somehow Karam didn’t think to do that, and actually sits through the following bogus story about where “Allah” came from.

Once upon a time, there were these Sabeans… Allah 8

Okay. I remind you allah means “god,” and so of course a pagan Arabian god is gonna get called an allah. We should know better than to mix up the generic words for “god” with the God. Chick does not, and was counting on his readers not making that distinction either.

I’m not gonna debate whether the ancient Sabeans worshiped a moon god which had daughters. Probably they did. It’s not actually relevant. It would be if the Sabeans never gave this god a personal name, but simply referred to it by the generic term “God,” figuring it’s the most important god, or only relevant god… you know, like monotheists and pantheists do. But there’s no evidence they did any such thing. And Chick didn’t provide any.

Watch him try though.

When in doubt, stop thinking. Allah 9

Garrett insists Allah was this moon god. That’s why there are crescent moons all over Islam. That’s why Ramadan starts at the crescent moon. Don’t believe me? Ask your mullah. (Which is what Iranians call imams, which implies this whole story is taking place in Iran. Which brings up whole new questions about how on earth Garrett and Pedro got into Iran, and how Garrett thinks he can get away with saying any of this stuff. But that’s getting off track again.)

Why does the month of Ramadan start at the crescent moon? Duh: Muslims use a lunar calendar. New months begin at the new moon. Jews use a lunar calendar too, and their months begin exactly the same way. Following Chick’s reasoning, since Rosh Hashanah begins with the crescent moon, what’s that make the LORD?

This is extremely basic knowledge, and somehow Karam doesn’t have it. Stands to reason: Fundamentalists don’t believe in science, so they’re happy to project such ignorance on others. Karam foolishly responds, “It’s not good to ask such questions,” which is something you’re far more likely to hear from a Fundamentalist when they’re asked about the origins of the bible, the age of the earth, and really anything which might introduce doubt to their minds. Funny how often Fundies like to imply others are closed-minded.

So Muhammad simply picked a god… Allah 10

Garrett claims Muhammad picked his home tribe’s moon god so they’d accept and follow him. Now the actual history.

Muhammad’s tribe, the Quraysh, were the guardians of the Kaaba of Mecca, and its hundreds of idols. They were also the first of the people of Mecca to oppose Muhammad’s message. If he ever had the harebrained idea he could win his tribe over by pandering to one of their favorite gods, it didn’t work at all. He had to conquer his own tribe before he could smash every idol in the Kaaba—including any moon gods they happened to have. So you see, Chick’s story seems entirely unlikely.

Next Garrett brings up a site “excavated at Hazor in Palestine.” Lemme remind you Palestine is also known as Israel, and Hazor is located in the upper Galilee region. Not Arabia. Populated in ancient times by Amorites, Israelis, Syrians, Assyrians, and Samaritans, not Arabs. People who spoke Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, not Arabic. So any connection between any gods archaeologists found there, and the title “Allah,” is entirely made up.

Nevertheless Garrett wants to connect the two… and it just so happens he carries around a photo of the “moon god” in his wallet, just to piss off unsuspecting Muslims.

Oooh. Photographic evidence. Allah 11

From time to time Chick included footnotes in his tracts. This Palestinian “moon god” he refers to, comes from the books The Moon-God Allah in the Archaeology of the Middle East and Islamic Invasion, both by Dr. Robert A. Morey, both published by Jack T. Chick. Which goes to show if you ever wanna make a point, but don’t have any references you can use as proof, publish ’em yourself.

The guy who actually found this statue was Israeli archaeologist (and former IDF Chief of Staff) Dr. Yigael Yadin, as part of his Hazor excavations. He identified it as a Punic moon-goddess named Tanit. He also said, considering how its hands are spread out in prayer or offering, it may not even be Tanit, but a statue of a king or priest worshiping Tanit. ’Cause god-statues don’t tend to take worship postures.

No, the statue doesn’t have a label on it saying, “This is Allah.” But for many folks, seeing is believing, and photos—even when they say nothing—prove everything. So after this photographic coup de grâce, Garrett figures his point is made. Now he can finally talk about God’s angry violent wrath upon Muslims for worshiping a fake god.

Chick-style Judgment Day. Allah 13

Chick just had to include an image of Muhammad burning in hellfire, which is not the sort of thing you wanna show a Muslim when you’re trying to win ’em over. Also not the sort of thing you wanna publish in European newspapers.

The rest of the tract is Chick’s usual spiel about how Jesus died for our sins, and if we believe all the right things about him—i.e. what I call faith righteousness—we won’t go to hell. That’s all he really cares about: Being right, and not going to hell. Christians who only care about pride and afterlife insurance, tend to really suck as Christ-followers, and be horribly fruitless. Twice the sons of hell as the people who converted ’em.

That, and Chick has no idea how to properly quote bible as proof texts. He quotes darned near everything out of context. To him the important thing is having bible verses to quote; not whether the footnotes actually support anything he’s saying.

But his distorted gospel works on Karam, who says a version of the magic words sinner’s prayer and invites Jesus into his heart.

A new convert… whom Islam considers apostate. Allah 20

Which is a good start, but I should point out there are massive consequences when a Muslim does this in a Muslim homeland. Leaving Islam is considered apostasy. In many Muslim-dominant countries it’s against the law, and a capital crime: You get beheaded. Even in secular countries which are predominantly Muslim, like Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt, or Morocco, the state may not behead you, but good luck surviving the wrath of your offended neighbors when the cops aren’t looking.

Hence the righteous thing for Garrett to do, would be to get Karam someplace safe. Like a local underground Christian community. Maybe even get him out of the country. But y’know, the tract never deals with that. Garrett was only there to win people to Jesus, not minister to anyone. Nor even disciple this poor guy. He’s gonna abandon him to stumble around in his now-hostile homeland, friendless and alone.

What a dick.

Karam’s gonna die for Jesus way too soon. Allah 22

Jesus may never leave nor forsake you, He 13.5 but Garrett is outta here before he sees what sort of trainwreck will follow this overzealous dummy when he tries babbling about the “moon god” to the far more knowledgeable Muslims.

Bad fruit and false witness.

Quran 41.36-37
36 And if at any time an incitement to discord is made to thee by the Evil One,
seek refuge in God. He is the one who hears and knows all things.
37 Among his signs are the night and the day, and the sun and the moon.
Adore not the sun and the moon, but adore God, who created them, if it is him ye wish to serve.

So whom does this tract actually work upon?

Certainly not Muslims. They’ll read it, and reject it as stupid. The strawman stereotype of a Muslim won’t fit any Muslim they recognize. He neither sounds nor acts like an actual Muslim. He rejects Allah way too easily.

Nope, the only people who pick up this tract and find it profound are ignorant, fear-filled Christians who’ll believe anything which slams Muslims. And since Chick’s company sells 100 of these tracts for $17 (not counting shipping), he can sell them to these outraged Christians and make some decent coin on the deal. They’ll spread ’em around, then go back and buy more. Sure, these tracts won’t win anyone to Jesus, but the Islamophobes will feel really good about themselves.

Do I make it sound like Chick’s only peddling this tract for the dough? Well, look at his fruit.

  • He plays really fast and loose with facts. Even makes ’em up. So clearly he’s not about truth.
  • He plays on people’s fears of angry Muslims taking over the world. In other tracts he focuses on fears of Satan, devils, magic, Catholicism, various other religions, war, you name it. Fear ain’t the right fruit; it corresponds to a lack of love. 1Jn 4.18
  • He’s not patient enough to encourage Christian growth. He just wants people to rattle off a sinner’s prayer, consider themselves fixed and ready for heaven, and that’s it.
  • The protagonists of his tracts definitely aren’t kind to the people they talk to. In this tract, Garrett definitely isn’t faithful to his new convert.

This being the fruit, what other conclusion can I come to?

So since this tract, and fear-bait just like it, spreads around Christendom widely, from time to time I run into Christians who believe this garbage. It’s kinda obvious they learned the “moon god” stuff either from Chick, or from Fundies who taught Chick’s ideas second- or thirdhand. Didn’t learn it from any actual history books. Definitely didn’t learn it from Muslims. (Not even Black Muslims, whose beliefs are totally beyond the pale for most Muslims. Read The Autobiography of Malcolm X sometime. It gets nuts.)

But since it’s false history, it’s false witness against our Muslim neighbors. Ex 20.16, Dt 5.20 Spreading it around is sin.

You wanna learn what Muslims believe? Ask a Muslim. Read one of their books or websites. Read something by reputable religion scholars. Heck, read Wikipedia. Stay away from the cranks as best you can; remember that just as Christendom has its looneys, so does Islam—which you probably knew. Oh, and if they invite you to join the Islamic State, tell the FBI on ’em.

But whatever you do, don’t trust Chick tracts.