It happened recently in the Italian town of Sora. As workers were putting up Christmas lights in the town center, a man ventured by and began screaming, “Allahu akbar.” Everyone present was terrified, contravening the American media dictum that “Allahu akbar” is an entirely benign phrase that shouldn’t worry anyone. How did these Italians get so Islamophobic?
The Italian-language publication FrosinoneToday reported that the onlooker’s shouts of “Allahu akbar” as workers put up Christmas lights and lit them caused “real ‘moments of fear,’” and that “once he was gone, having literally terrorized everyone present with the equally classic exclamation associated with terrorism, the young man continued to rail against the lights.”
Why was everyone terrorized? The phrase “Allahu akbar” is routinely translated in the English-language media as “God is great,” a resoundingly uncontroversial phrase by any standard. In reality, however, that is a mistranslation. “Allahu akbar” actually means “Allah is greater,” a subtle but important difference. Rather than simply being a proclamation of the greatness of the divine, “Allahu akbar” is actually a proclamation of superiority: what is being said is that Allah, the God of Islam, is greater than your god, or your government, or your atheistic belief system, or your society and culture, or anything else that you may love and admire. Whatever it is, Allah is greater.
This proclamation therefore also means that Islam is superior to all other religions and everything else, for while the use of the word “Allah” is not restricted to Muslims alone, those who proclaim “Allahu akbar” generally have in mind the God of the Qur’an, and are proclaiming his superiority over all other Gods. This was made abundantly clear a few years ago in Malaysia when Christians were forbidden to use the word “Allah” to refer to the God of Christianity.
But the Italians in Sora weren’t terrorized by a simple assertion of the superiority of Islam. The phrase has come to be associated with terrorism for one very good reason: terrorists often shout it when they’re in the act. Just a few weeks ago in France, a Muslim previously convicted of terrorism screamed “Allahu akbar” as he attacked a police officer. Also in France recently, a Muslim migrant proclaiming, “Allahu akbar” hit one gendarme with a faucet and bit another. In Belgium, a knife-wielding Muslim who was also screaming, “Allahu akbar” said he was going to kill everyone in a hospital emergency room. In the same country, another Muslim shouting, “Allahu akbar” stabbed one police officer in the neck, killing him, and wounding another. In Germany, a Muslim on a Berlin train screamed “Allahu akbar” and “I will kill all Germans.”
And that’s just in the last few weeks. The same kind of usage goes back years. After 9/11, a four-page document was discovered in the baggage of one of the 9/11 hijackers, Mohamed Atta. It was extensively and devoutly Islamic and outlined specific instructions about jihad against the infidel. Atta considered the shout of “Allahu akbar” to be important: “When the confrontation begins, strike like champions who do not want to go back to this world. Shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers. God said: ‘Strike above the neck, and strike at all of their extremities.’”
Despite all this, the establishment media a few years ago made a full-court press to convince Americans that “Allahu akbar” was a benign phrase that only greasy Islamophobes could possibly be concerned about.
In the New York Daily News, Zainab Chaudry of the Hamas-linked Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) argued that non-Muslims shouldn’t “believe the worst” about “Allahu akbar” because Muslims don’t just scream it while murdering non-Muslims but use it in a variety of contexts. She even advised people not to flee when they heard someone shout the phrase, advice that could have lethal consequences.
On CNN, a prominent imam, Omar Suleiman, also argued that Muslims say “Allahu akbar” in a variety of contexts, many of them positive. And the New York Times actually tweeted that the phrase “Allahu akbar” had “somehow” become “intertwined with terrorism.” Somehow! How could this have possibly happened? Could it have anything to do with the thousands of Muslims who have screamed “Allahu akbar” while in the process of murdering or trying to murder infidels?
Luckily, no one was killed by the “Allahu akbar” shouter in Sora. But contrary to the establishment media’s claims, the people involved were entirely justified in being terrorized.