Farq, not the Colombian para-military FARC, from Arabic, means difference (فرق). Looking through our log files, I noticed that we’d been getting a lot of hits from search engines where people were asking the difference between “muslim” and “moslem.” Presumably they were interested in “Qur’an” and “Koran” as well, but we wouldn’t have met that criteria until just now. 🙂

I tend to use “moslem” with a bit of a sarcastic twist. It is traditionally associated with the Orientalists, both in Said’s sense of the word and in the archaic academic sense. While the connotation might be negative, properly speaking, it is not incorrect, nor is “Koran.” Both words are the phonetic transliteration from Persian, where the short “u” sound is represented by an “o”, and short “i” by an “e.” In addition, the very strong guttural “q” of Arabic is not as pronounced in Persian and it sounds like a “k.” The tendency now is to standardize on Arabic transliteration, regardless of the culture being studied, when the word itself is of Arabic origin. The exception being in interviews, where usually there are some local variants in pronunciation that demand a phonetic spelling.

I think, as we move towards a more standard version of “muslim,” I’d like to keep a little bit of farq alive. The idea of homogeneity scares me. In genetics it’s viewed as bad; in the computer sphere it’s viewed as bad; why would we want a monoculture in religion?

vive la différence!