Column Date 2008-02-17

Driving with the God of your choice

Proton Motors, the largest car maker in Malaysia, is about to revolutionize the automobile business.

It is planning to introduce the world’s first “Islamic Car.” Now what, you may rightly ask, makes a car “Islamic”?

According to Managing Director Syed Zainal Abidin Syed Mohamed Tahir, the new car will feature a special place of honor to put your Koran. As well as a nice storage area for headscarves.

But its big selling point: the "Islamic" model Proton will come with a compass that always points to Mecca.

This is a revolutionary concept in automotive marketing. And I expect that we'll soon see a flood of competing religious cars on the market.

There's sure to be a Jewish car, for instance. It might have your mother's voice on the GPS system, saying things like:

"Honey, I'm going to take a nap now, so if you get hungry, pull over at a nice rest stop and eat something. It couldn't hurt."

Then there's the Catholic car: push a lighted button on the wheel and you're immediately connected to a priest for confession, 24/7. A special slot on the dashboard allows you to swipe your credit card to make a small contribution.

The Hindu car, naturally, comes with a guarantee that the seats are not leather, and that no part of a cow was used in the construction of the vehicle.

The Buddhist car has, as standard equipment, a super-powered steering wheel, answering, once and for all, the question "What is the sound of one hand driving?" Reckless driving is discouraged by a recorded voice telling the driver to slow down or risk being reincarnated as a slug, or an amoeba, or some other lower form of life.

The Confucian car, of course, would have the world's most complicated instruction manual, telling you how to act in any conceivable situation. ("Human beings are by nature good. Smile kindly at the man who just cut you off at 70 mph.")

We don't have the space here to talk about the Taoist car, the Sikh car, the Baha'i car, the Shinto car or even the Scientology car (so secret that only Tom Cruise has ever driven one).

But I must mention one more car:

I'm sure someone will also come out with an atheist car – a car with no speedometer, no odometer and no GPS navigation system to help you find your way.

©2007 Peter Tannen