I’ve grown up interchanging God and Allah and no Muslim I know has ever pointed out that God-Allah is not the same entity, in fact so ‘normal’ has the interchange become that it has not occurred to me that others might ‘hear’ differently. The other day, however, after making one of my cheekier comments regarding Almighty-God, a friend turned to me with angry eyes.

“How come,” she said, “you always speak of God but never of your Allah in this way?”

I sputtered. Then explained that semantically Allah and God were equivalent.

“Are you,” she did not look any happier, “absolutely sure?”

Well, I’m very happy to draw my friend’s attention to an article by author Rabih Alameddine

The word for God matters quite a bit more than what lands on one’s table for dinner at night. We never say the French pray to Dieu, or Mexicans pray to Dios. Having Allah be different from God implies that Muslims pray to a special deity. It classifies Muslims as the Other. Separating Allah from God, we only see a vengeful, alarming deity, one responsible for those frightful fatwas and ghastly jihads — rarely the compassionate God. The opening line of every chapter in the Koran is “Bi Ism Allah, Al Rahman, Al Rahim“: In the name of God, the Gracious, the Merciful. In the name of Allah. One and the same.

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