Upadate 19/06/07: Fr Finnigan outlines protest plans.
Update 15/06/07: Protests planned. The premier performance of Taverner's Holy Names will be on Tuesday 19th June, 7.30 in the evening, and protests are planned by Catholics whose complaints to Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor have been ignored. Telegraph report here. Unlike the Telegraph news report, which refers to 'the Muslim deity Allah', the Catholic commentator Christopher Howse argues that 'Allah' is simply the Arabic word for 'God', but he also reveals the philosophical thinking behind Taverner's work, which is itself contrary to Catholic teaching:
"Sir John Tavener has, in recent years, taken up the ideas of René Guéon and Frithjof Schuon. Both thinkers argued that there is a perennial philosophy behind the major religions in the esoteric understanding of their teachings. Guéon, as far as I understand it, made esoteric traditions more compatible with the truthfulness of Christian doctrine.
But such esoteric universalism can be deeply suspect to many Muslims, not to mention quite a few Christians."(See his article here.) For Catholics this is the heresy of 'Indifferentism', condemned notably in Gregory XVI's encyclical Mirari Vos.
Update 09/06/07: Correspondance in the Catholic Herald: As well as a letter deploring the proposal from Mrs Daphne MacLeod (Chairman of Pro Ecclesiae et Pontifice), there is an interesting letter from Dr Joseph Seferta: (in part):
'The name "Allah" may be roughly equivalent to our name for "God" and most of the attributes (eg "the Powerful", "the Compassionate", etc.) may be harmless. There are some, however, such as "al Mudill ("the Debaseer") "al-Khafid" ("the Humiliator") and "al-Muntaqim" ("the Avenger") that do not quite resonate with our Christian view of God.
More disturbingly, these names are not simply recited while fingering the beads, but are also used in Islamic prayer and worship.
Moreover, the important name "al-Ahad" ("the One") reflects a Koranic monotheism that is vehermently anti-Christian and anti-Trinitarian. We read, for example, in the Koran (112:1 & 3): "Say: He is Allah, the One... He begeteth not nor was begotten."
...in my view singing the 99 names of Allah in a Catholic cathedral is not only pointless but also marks a dangerous precedent."
Joseph Seferta, a Chaldean originally from Iraq, is a retired teacher of religion and a member of the Commission for Inter-faith Dialogue of the Archdiocese of Birmingham.
See also a post on Damian Thompson's blog on The Telegraph website (Thompson is the Editor in Chief of the Catholic Herald and a columnist for The Telegraph).
For the record 24/05/07: Private Eye reports that Westminter's Catholic Cathedral will be the venue for a new choral work, which sets to music the 99 names of Allah in the Koran. The piece is by John Taverner, and was commissioned by the Prince of Wales. Private Eye comments that what seems intended to be a gesture of good will towards the Muslim community has apparently not involved any Muslims in its organisation. For more commentary see the Hermeneutic of Continuity.
Any comments on the appropriateness of this can be directed to the Cathedral Administrator, Mgr Mark Langham, either here or through his blog.