The New York Times suggested the phrase Allahu Akbar has “somehow” become linked to terrorism and asserted its true meaning is “far more innocent,” in a tweet sent three days after an Islamic State sympathizer shouted the phrase after killing eight people in Manhattan.
“Allahu akbar” has somehow become inextricably intertwined with terrorism. Its real meaning is far more innocent. https://t.co/HO5PIE3p77
— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 2, 2017
The tweet links to a NYTtimes piece published Thursday that explains the variety of contexts in which a devout Muslim might invoke the phrase Allahu Akbar.
The author quickly addresses the fact that Sayfullo Saipov “was said to have cried out ‘Allahu akbar’ before he was shot by a police officer,” and recounts the use of the phrase during the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks, before citing a number of examples in which the phrase is used in a harmless context.
H. A. Hellyer, a scholar of religion and politics at the Atlantic Council, assures readers “It’s quite an innocuous expression,” pointing out that it is sometimes used to express congratulations and to praise God for his intercession in one’s life.
“Let’s say your football team is mounting an attack,” Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian author, told the NYTimes. “You can say ‘Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar,'” explaining that in such a context the phrase can be understood to mean “Go for it, go for it, go for it.”
The phrase is in fact so versatile it can also be used when “You see a really beautiful woman or a good-looking guy, you go, ‘Allahu akbar,'”Soueif added.
The author concedes the meaning of the phrase largely turns on who says it, but concludes the article with a quotation that suggests the negative connotation attached to the phrase is misguided.
“People may read the headlines about the attack and say: ‘Oh, he said, “Allahu akbar,” so that means something,'”Soueif said. “Well, it probably means that he thinks it means something — but that shouldn’t mean anyone who says ‘Allahu akbar’ is suddenly about to do some violent act. Far from it.”
The NYTimes also ran an op-ed Thursday further regaling their readers with examples of non-violent instances in which Allahu Akbar is used.
“I say ‘Allahu akbar’ out loud more than 100 times a day. Yesterday, I uttered it several times during my late-evening Isha prayer,” the op-ed reads. “Earlier, during dinner, I said it with my mouth full after biting into my succulent halal chicken kebab.”
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