Who is Allowed to Use the Word “Allah?”

by Dr. David Gruder

I was just sent a link to a news story that was picked up by the Associated Press on a legal ruling about who is and isn’t allowed to use the word "Allah" in Malaysia.

Here’s the original story (the AP version has been picked up by Fox News & Huffington Post but curiously no other national US news outlets as of my writing this):
http://www.google.com/hostednews/canadianpress/article/ALeqM5iEzV7_fISfspYOLd7ediDH09IyIA

Here’s my comment about this story:

This story indicates to me that what I call the "God War" has ratcheted up yet another notch. Not because of the firebombings but because a government had the audacity to regulate who can and can’t refer to God as Allah.

The "God War" is a war I see being waged by religiocentric fanatics who believe their version of God and theology is the only real one.

I view the "God War" as an expression of widespread fear over the end of egocentric religion. I have watched this fear grow as more people embrace the deeper esoteric wisdom embedded in the principle of freedom of religion.

Here is that deeper wisdom as I have spoken about it for years:

  1. There is indeed a universal spiritual experience.
  2. That experience is by definition beyond language’s ability to directly and fully describe.
  3. Because of this, the best we can do in putting the spiritual experience into words and attempting to describe how people can access such experiences, is through story: allegories, metaphors, and examples.
  4. Different people resonate with different stories (allegories, metaphors and examples).
  5. This is why there have been, are, and will continue to be many theologies. Each attempts to approximate with words an experience that is by definition far beyond language. Each will be resonated with my some and not others. All, at their heart are attempting to call people into the universal spiritual experience.

For me, the esoteric wisdom embedded in the principle of freedom of religion is that it is as unwise to be religiocentric (religiously narcissistic) as it was untrue that God made the earth the center of the universe. The esoteric wisdom that gave rise to freedom of religion is the devotion to helping people access the universal experience without being attached to the pathway through which someone gains this access.To me, facilitating this is the heart of being a Spiritual Director. (I am an ordained Interfaith Spiritual Director in addition to being a clinical and organizational psychologist, and a diplomate in "comprehensive energy psychotherapy.")

Allah, God, G-d, YHWH, Elohim, Jehova, the Great Spirit, Baha’uallah, Bhagwan, Waheguru, Shangdi, etc., all word placeholders representing that which is beyond naming. Who is allowed to use the word "Allah?" Anyone is allowed to use any placeholder they wish for that-which-cannot-be-directly-named. That, to me, is part of freedom of religion.

I’m interested to read your perspectives about the Maylasia story and my commentary about it.

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