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Mohammedan
Posted: 01 June 2007 08:32 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I’ve read Mohammedan for Muslim/Moslem is now offensive like Papist. Is this only because it is archaic? A sort of studied insult?

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Posted: 01 June 2007 11:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Muslims worship God alone. The Arabic word ‘Allah’ is their most reverential name for God. Islam means submission, and a Muslim is one who submits to the Divine Will of God.

According to Muslims, Muhammad is a Prophet and Messenger of Allah. To rest the burden of submission to God on one man’s shoulders is unfair.

[ Edited: 01 June 2007 01:08 PM by Thews McHeftigan ]
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Posted: 01 June 2007 12:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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"Papist” is a word coined by British Protestants hostile to Roman Catholicism.  It was from the first meant to be offensive --- a derogatory reference to a hated minority, who for several centuries were officially persecuted, and discriminated against, in Britain. “Mohammedan”, on the other hand, was never meant to be derogatory or offensive. It may be so construed today by certain people, for reasons of their own; in which case, it is probably advisable to avoid using the term. But (with reference to Thews McHeftigan’s posting) “Zoroastrian” does not mean a worshipper of Zoroaster. “Wesleyan” does not mean a worshipper of any member of the Wesley family.

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Posted: 01 June 2007 01:08 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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A review of my post reveals I said nothing to indicate the name ‘Muhammadism’ would imply the worship of Muhammad. I’m sorry. I’m not trying to be rude or curt. I aim for diplomacy.

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Posted: 01 June 2007 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I think it more that the term is an outsider’s term.  It is always more respectful to defer to members of the religion and use terms that they use.  I suppose that there are other examples.  The term “lamaist” was an outsider / European term for Tibetan Buddhists and carried a connotation of a decadent form of Buddhism.  Like the term Mohammedan, it is now rarely used.  I suppose the term Mormon might be similar, although that has not fallen out of common usage.  I think that in Utah they refer more to “LDS” than Mormon.

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Posted: 01 June 2007 09:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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There was nothing in any way offensive, or even controversial, in your post, Thews, and you don’t owe anyone an apology. For that matter, there was nothing offensive in venomousbede’s post, either --- only an (in my view) inaccurate analogy.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 08:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I meant Mohammedan is considered offensive like Papist, for example, is considered offensive, not that they share comparable derivations. The former is archaic as I said and not intrinsically offensive like Papist.
How about Musselman?
“Jew writer” is offensive but “Jewish writer” is not.
In Grose there is Mohammedan Gruel for coffee which was not offensive at the time.
I was wondering where and when Mohammedan became offensive and if it was through someone using who knew it would taken in that way. It isn’t bad in itself hence studied insult etc.

[ Edited: 02 June 2007 08:54 AM by venomousbede ]
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Posted: 02 June 2007 09:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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The OED has this to say about “Mohammedan”

A. n. An adherent of the religion of the prophet Muhammad; a follower of Islam, a Muslim.
The term is not employed or favoured by Muslims, and its use is now widely seen as depreciatory or offensive. As was noted in Eng. Today (1992) Apr. 39: ‘The term Mohammedan...is considered offensive or pejorative to most Muslims since it makes human beings central in their religion, a position which only Allah may occupy’.

and also, about “Muslim” that

The form Muslim is now generally preferred, as being closer to the Arabic.

About “Musselman"the OED says:

Now arch. and hist.
[< Persian musulman, variant of musalman, or Arabic musulman (the word occurs in both languages but it is not clear in which it originated), ult. < Arabic muslim MUSLIM n. (the formation is uncertain; perh. based on Arabic musalmani ‘convert to Islam’); perh. partly via Ottoman Turkish müsluman (also colloquial Ottoman Turkish in forms müsülman, müsilman; Turkish müslüman).
The ending -man has freq. been reinterpreted as < MAN n.1, giving rise to a plural form Mussulmen, evidenced from the 17th cent. onwards (cf. German Muselmann, plural Muselmänner, as against Muselman, plural Muselmanen); the plural form Mussulmen is often regarded as incorrect by 18th-cent. and later normative grammars.  In sense 2 after German Muselmann: see esp. quot. 1982.]

So seems that Musselman isn’t offensive, avoiding any reference to Mohamet in its etymology and that the objection to “Mohammedan” is one of inaccuracy, rather than its use as a term of abuse.  In the same vein I once angered a Maori by innocently implying she was a Polynesian.  The fact that I hadn’t intended to insult her did not mollify her in the slightest.

Does anyone know how Zoroastrians feel about the name?  I doubt that is what they call themselves.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 10:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Excellent explanations and debate. Thanks.
Carlyle used “Christ’s Vicar on Earth” very sarcastically to describe a particularly bad Pope. Maybe Mohammedan came to be used in a similar way at some point in the hands of a detractor or it may just have been ignorance all along.

Off subject, I find Dubya’s pronunciation of Buddhism as Boodism and (Islamic) Mullah as Moolah a bit odd. I’ve spoken with Buddhists fluent in English and they never say it like Dubya does. Nor does anyone else outside the States as far as I have heard. He needs to liaise with the BBC’s pronunciation unit though they screwed up badly with the stress on Sapporo in Japan during the world soccer cup there. It shows sensitivity to other cultures when you at least make a stab at getting their pronunciations right. Eye-raq for Iraq - when did this start? I’m not singling out the States here though I will never forget Dubya’s press conference with Tony Blair when he read out ‘indictment’ as spelled phonetically!

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Posted: 02 June 2007 11:48 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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If I mistake not, the term “Musselman” was applied by inmates of Nazi concentration camps, to people who had deteriorated physically and mentally so far that they were no longer capable of rational behaviour, and existed zombie-like for a little while before dying.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 11:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Does anyone know how Zoroastrians feel about the name?  I doubt that is what they call themselves.

Apparently it is; Wikipedia says: “The Zoroastrian name of the religion is Mazdayasna, which combines Mazda- with the Avestan language word yasna meaning ‘worship, devotion’. In the English language, an adherent of the faith commonly refers to him- or herself as a ‘Zoroastrian’ or, less commonly, a ‘Zarathustrian’.”

Off subject, I find Dubya’s pronunciation of Buddhism as Boodism and (Islamic) Mullah as Moolah a bit odd. I’ve spoken with Buddhists fluent in English and they never say it like Dubya does. Nor does anyone else outside the States as far as I have heard. He needs to liaise with the BBC’s pronunciation unit though they screwed up badly with the stress on Sapporo in Japan during the world soccer cup there. It shows sensitivity to other cultures when you at least make a stab at getting their pronunciations right. Eye-raq for Iraq - when did this start? I’m not singling out the States here

Yeah, actually you are.  “Boodism” is the normal American pronunciation; I don’t think I’ve ever heard it said otherwise.  If you’ve “spoken with Buddhists fluent in English and they never say it like Dubya does,” I submit that they were U.K. Buddhists and it’s their dialect, not their religion, that’s at issue.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Yes, I noticed that, too, in the OED entry for “Mussulman” ("musselman" only means a gatherer of mussels in the OED) and was rather surprised by it.  I wonder how it arose.

Ah, a return to the OED gives the answer “1982 T. KENEALLY Schindler’s Ark xxxiii. 347 ‘Mussulman’. The term was camp jargon, based on people’s memory of newsreels of famine in Muslim countries, for a prisoner who had crossed the borderline that separated the ravenous living from the good-as-dead.”

I remember “Biafran” being used in a similar way to describe any of my schoolfellows who were on the thin side.

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Posted: 02 June 2007 12:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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languagehat - 02 June 2007 11:56 AM

Does anyone know how Zoroastrians feel about the name?  I doubt that is what they call themselves.

Apparently it is;

Well, I’ll be.....

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Posted: 02 June 2007 05:00 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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In the same vein I once angered a Maori by innocently implying she was a Polynesian.

This surprises me. The Maori speak a Polynesian language and share a common culture with the rest of Polynesia. What’s insulting about the term “Polynesian”?

Mohammedan...is considered offensive or pejorative to most Muslims since it makes human beings central in their religion

In a similar vein, evolutionary biologists often take umbrage at being labeled as “Darwinists,” a term that is favored by creationists (who in turn don’t like being called “creationist"). The biologists’ argument is that evolution is based on empirical evidence, and while Darwin was the first to promulgate the idea of natural selection, they don’t follow his “teachings” as if it were revealed word. Plus it’s inaccurate. Evolutionary theory has come a long way since Darwin, who for example had no clue about genetics. While Darwin’s central ideas are still accepted, a lot of what he said on the margins has been superseded.

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Posted: 03 June 2007 01:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Dave Wilton - 02 June 2007 05:00 PM

In the same vein I once angered a Maori by innocently implying she was a Polynesian.

This surprises me. The Maori speak a Polynesian language and share a common culture with the rest of Polynesia. What’s insulting about the term “Polynesian”?

I didn’t know then and I still don’t know now.  Does anyone know any Maoris they could ask?

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Posted: 03 June 2007 03:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I know a couple of folks on another board that know many Maori.  I’ll ask.

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