Hitchens On Allah
February 08, 2010, 11:45 PM
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Muslims in Malaysia are upset, which means rioting and setting churches on fire, over the fact that Christians speak of God as Allah, the subject of a recent court case in Malaysia.

Christopher Hitchens writes:

When speaking silkily to ignorant Western audiences, Muslim propagandists sometimes like to say reassuringly that we all—Christians, Jews, Muslims—worship the same God. We are all children of Abraham, blah blah blah. We are all "peoples of the book," blah blah again. It is true that the Quran contains much material borrowed from the Pentateuch and the New Testament, but it is also true that it is widely considered to be authentic only when written or declaimed in Arabic. The Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia lingua franca contains many borrowings from Arabic, including the G-word, but this doesn't stop its Christian speakers from being told that they can't follow their own faith in their own tongue. This quite clearly negates the notion that Islam is universal, that it preaches brotherhood, that it is a "religion of peace," blah blah blah. Instead, it shows a very calculated sectarianism, not entirely free of racial and national exclusivity at that, which proves that deep down the Islamists are not monotheists at all but believe that there are several gods, of whom theirs is naturally the best.

It won't surprise you, I hope, to learn that I have been an expert on this for decades and took it in literally with my mother's milk. My earliest years were spent in the island nation of Malta, that wonderful spot of earth between Libya and Sicily, with its capital, Valetta, perhaps the greatest Baroque and Renaissance city in Europe. Malta has a language of its own, which I used to speak in a boyish way. The Maltese tongue was once considered by some philologists to be descended from the speech of the Carthaginians, but by far its closest kinship is with the Arabic spoken in the Maghreb of Libya, Tunisia, and Morocco. It is the only Semitic language rendered in a Latin script, and, along with English, it is an official language of the country. Since Malta's accession as the smallest member state, it is also an official language of the European Union. And in Maltese, the printed word for God is Alla, which means that when spoken by a priest, it sounds exactly the same.[Holy Names | Now some Islamists want to prohibit non-Muslims from referring to God as Allah. By Christopher Hitchens, Slate, February 8, 2010

Actually, it did surprise me for just a minute that Hitchens had spoken Maltese as a child, since I thought of him as having been raised in England near Dartmoor. (Where he went to a  school with compulsory chapel services and became an atheist.) But then I remembered that Hitchens's father was an officer in the British Navy.

Malta is a British Navy base in the way that Guam and Diego Garcia are American bases, so it's natural that Hitchens should have spent some time there as a child.  See Peter Brimelow's 1990 review of   Blood, Class, and Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies for insights into Hitchens's psychology.