America’s image in North Africa and West Asia is often tarnished by the perception both here and east of the Atlantic of Islamophobia pervading all levels of U.S. society. The degree to which “Islamophobic America” is a reality is up for debate. For every Murfreesboro or Lower Manhattan you have one or more East Brainerds as in Chattanooga. For every birther claming President Obama is a Muslim stands a legion of the less deluded.
John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison were the strongest proponents among the Founding Fathers for including Muslims (along with Catholics, Jews, and unbelievers) as equal citizens. They were joined, believe it or not, by an overwhelming majority of Baptists in the new country, especially leading minister John Leland.
Together those men helped ensure the inclusion of the ban on religious tests for public office in the Constitution. A little over a century earlier, the charter of the colony of Carolina prescribed freedom of religion and full citizenship to “Jews, dissenters, and heathen”, the “dissenters” specifically intended to include Catholics and Muslims.
To alleviate at least some of the tension present in the air between us and our neighbors to the east and to show that we Americans are bigger than our most small-minded citizens, I have a few modest proposals.
First, I move that the current Pledge of Allegiance be altered to: “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Oligarchy for which it stands, one Nation under Allah, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
(“Republic” changed to “Oligarchy” to reflect the study recently released by Princeton and Northwestern Universities determining that as the American political reality since 1981.)
Furthermore, I propose that our official motto be changed to “In Allah we trust”, that all currency and coin of the United States of America display this on its obverse, and that all species of money with the current form of the motto be recalled for destruction.
I also propose that all official oaths at every level of government for elected and appointed office, for military induction, and for court testimony end with “So help me, Allah” instead of the words currently most common.
Yes, I know, many will decry this as the beginning of the Islamicization of America and the adoption of the United States as the western annex of the Caliphate under the idea that a little bit of theocracy is like a little bit of pregnancy. But such a step would completely rob many of America’s enemies of one of their strongest rhetorical weapons.
It would also endear us to the hearts of Muslims throughout the world in North and Sub-Saharan Africa and in West, Central, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as give hope to Muslims who are victims of violent and sometimes deadly persecution in the Central African Republic, Burma, and Thailand. Arab Christians and Arab Jews, who use the name Allah for God at least in their daily speech, will likely welcome it as well, even if the government of Malaysia does not.
For those repulsed by the idea of using the Arabic word “Allah” instead of the more familiar “God”, you should know that the word translated into English as “God” in the books of Daniel, Ezra-Nehemiah, and parts of Ezekiel is “Alaha”, the Aramaic equivalent of “Allah”. In fact, Jesus himself would have used the word Alaha for God in daily life.
Arab-speaking Christians have used the word Allah for God since the third century CE, three-and-a-half centuries before Muhammad, the earliest to do so being the Nabateans of southern Palestine, followed by the Ghassanids and the Tanukhids of northern Arabia-southern Syria and the Lakhmids of southern Mesopotamia.