Allahu Akbar goes viral for all the wrong reasons

Published: May 12, 2016
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Armed police officers during the exercise. PHOTO: SEAN HANSFORD/MEN/PA

It was 8:31 am on Tuesday, I was tuned into BBC Radio 4 and the wet weather had succeeded in dampening my spirits already. When I arrived at my work car-park, however, I was fortunate enough to find my favourite parking slot open! Grinning at my sheer luck, I started parking my car.

It is by default that I remain tuned into BBC Radio 4 whilst driving to and from work; perhaps because I subconsciously imply that BBC is comparatively more amenable to common sense and takes a (mostly) balanced approach to otherwise polarised themes. Yesterday, however, after having parked my car, I reached out for my brolly and satchel when I heard the newsreader report that four people had just been injured and a possible fatality had resulted from a knife attack in Munich, by a man who carried out the stabbing, all the while chanting Allahu Akbar (God is Great).

Dismal once again, I turned off the radio and slugged my way to the office.

We are regularly reminded by wise people that we must always read the “small print” when entering into a contract. The wisdom of that advice became even more manifest later that morning when I observed that the newspapers invariably incorporated the words Allahu Akbar in the headlines of that particular story.

It was only until I read a significant portion of the story in one of the reputable dailies that the picture became slightly clearer. I found out that this person had mental health issues and he was a drug addict. So, the moral of the story is to always read the “small print” or remain misguided and ignorant, and this principle does not just apply to legal documents.

The day had not ended and there was another incident in which Allahu Akbar featured in the headlines of every mainstream newspaper. UK police in Manchester, the second most populous British city in North West of England, conducted a counter terrorist attack drill in which the actor playing the terrorist yelled Allahu Akbar before the attack. This news and its video went viral and almost immediately Allahu Akbar started trending on social media, for all the wrong reasons.

At this instance, the British police clearly got it wrong as they fell prey to the extremists’ trap. Extremists have been hijacking all Islamic traditions, mottos and slogans, misconstruing them to an extent that the entire world sees a totally reverse image.

Although the Greater Manchester assistant chief constable has apologised, it does not change the fact that the proclamation of Allahu Akbar is naïvely at best and maliciously at worst perceived as a trope for the trumpet for a vicious death. I felt it was a distasteful and an utterly unnecessary addition to the terror attack simulation on part of the British police. At that moment, my emotions of anger towards those hate-mongering, bloodthirsty manipulators of truth, so-called Muslim extremists returned with more vigour than in the morning when I had turned off my car radio and embarked on an indolent walk to my office, despondently  thinking to myself “not in my name, again!”

My long walk was not fruitless, though. It gave me time to reflect upon the most beautiful words of Allahu Akbar, which encompass anything but what these extremists portray and the news stories happily add fuel to it. As I reached my desk, I wished for those blinkered lunatics to allow sanity to return to this world because there is so much that the world does not know.

Here is a gist of what I was thinking. Every Muslim prayer starts with Allahu Akbar (God is Great) and ends with Assalamu Alaikum Warahmatullah (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon you). So, one initiates the prayer by proclaiming the Creator’s greatness, majesty, grandeur and glory, and after bowing before the Almighty (swt) and completing the prayer, one returns with only one message to the mortals of this world that,

“May peace and security be with you (all fellow humans)”.

This universal guarantee of peace is not limited to Muslims alone but is also meant to be an assurance for mankind, entirely. This is further illustrated by the fact that no Muslim prayer is complete without the first chapter of the Holy Quran, which starts with the words Alhamdolillah e Rabbil Alameen, meaning “All praise belongs to Allah, Lord of all the worlds”. This refers to Allah who is the Lord of all peoples and for all times and not just for Muslims. So how could a Muslim who declares this, several times a day, not be compassionate towards every fellow human irrespective of his faith?

Surely, Islam cannot be just about divisiveness, hate, discrimination, punishment, wrath, vengeance and murder. Although none of the Islamic teachings and their spirit can truly be hijacked; but unless a rebuttal of such actions comes forth with equal vigour from every capable Muslim, our coming generations will keep playing in the hands of these barbaric thugs; some of whom did not hijack planes on 9/11 but in fact hijacked the beautiful religion of Islam. They did not kill civilians in London on 7/7 but murdered the very spirit of Islam in the eyes of the beholder.

We want pulpits of EVERY mosque in Pakistan and elsewhere in the world to spread the word of peace and blessings on everyone, irrespective of religious beliefs. It is only then that we will be able to show the world, and not just the British police, that Allahu Akbar is the proclamation for ultimate peace and it is indeed not a slogan reserved for a murderer before detonating a bomb or unleashing a knife.

Farooq Mahmood

Farooq Mahmood

The author is a Senior University Lecturer in London, a Chartered Management Accountant and a Chartered Global Management Accountant.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.