Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Greetings & Salutations!

"Bism Allah Ar-Rahman Ar-Raheem." "In the Name of Allah the Most Gracious the Most Compassionate." Formal correspondence from Muslims of various levels of devotion often begin with the bismallah. Without looking deeper, it is impossible to know whether the author's words are perfunctory or filled with meaning and belief. If filled with belief, still we know little about how an individual interprets those beliefs. In any case, would we ignore the message that follows the salutation?

To a nondenominational discussion group serving homeschoolers, a message was posted for the benefit of all. It began with the salutation:

Greetings in the name of the LORD! Jesus the Messiah!

Secular content about an offered activity followed.

The message sparked the following response:

Is this open to all or only Christians? The greeting is certainly off putting to those of us who follow other paths. Thank you, (signature).

and another:

I'm sure there are more people on this group that are interested in an answer to so-and-so's question (I am!). It is a legitimate question and relevant to anyone interested in the program. Would you please post an answer to the group?

Amazing...

Questions:
  • Who offends, and who is offended?
  • Who sees something offensive?
  • Who oppresses, and who is oppressed?
Here is some additional information: The posting was by a group member on behalf of another person who wanted to make the activity available. The posting member requested that questions be directed to the originator. The posted message contained a hyperlink to the sponsoring organization's website for additional details. Within two or three clicks, the organization's professionally written vision and diversity statements were available to anyone with genuine interest. Regardless, the above messages came quickly and publicly.

Questions:
  • Who has an agenda?
  • Who causes or sees division?
  • Who discriminates?
In communication, there is always the question of what is transmitted and what is received. Words and symbols are easily misinterpreted. How difficult it is to guarantee that those sides match! Knowing that, how silly is it that we sometimes cannot even move beyond the greetings and salutations to find the heart of the message itself...

2 comments:

Lance said...

Interesting. To further confuse things, my experience as an Orthodox Christian has led me across occasional Arab Christians (yes, there is such a thing, in the land where Christianity started, who would have thought it?!) who actually refer to God as Allah, not as the Muslim god, but as a more generic Arab term to refer to God (a Christian God). My I wonder how fast some American Christians would cry heresy to hear such a thing.

Ordinary Joe said...

"Lah", in Arabic, just means "god." "Allah" is that same word prefaced with the definitive article, "the." Now you have "the god" instead of the indefinite "a god." In the tradition, though, it becomes that same "The God" as in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

You're right: I have seen that exact reaction to an Arab saying "God" in Arabic.

The Tower of Babel story still rings true today. How ironic that it applies even to the people's names for God himself...