It seems that it has become a popular trend in society to use standard phrases of expression used by Muslims against them.
I think it’s safe to say that Islamophobia has reached a peak, with the President of the United States having passed his an executive order regarding the Muslim ban, and France holding on to the belief that women wearing burkinis are a danger to society, and require surveillance by burly, armed policemen.
These political actions prove fear is incited from ignorance, and it’s clear that people who view Islam as a danger, in actuality, know nothing about the religion. This ignorance gradually develops into negative preconceived notions towards Muslims, therefore it doesn’t shock me that a man was arrested for using the Arabic phrase meaning “God is great” in a country with a homogenous population.
Why is it that when a young man uses “Allahu Akbar” to show his excitement, it is seen as a “public nuisance,” and upon giving an explanation of his intent to a tragically uninformed officer of the law, he is manhandled into a jail cell?
Twenty-two year old Orhan, who was born and raised in Switzerland, was fined 210 Swiss Francs for expressing his excitement in Arabic. Upon bumping into a friend, Orhan expressed his surprise, but this proved to be too much for a nearby, off-duty policewoman to take, and ended with Orhan being fined and arrested by armed backup for the laughable charge of “causing a public nuisance.” In an interview, Orhan stated that “Allahu Akbar” is a common phrase used by Muslims to indicate amazement, and when he tried to explain this to the policewoman, she remained stubbornly unwilling to listen. Isn’t it baffling to be punished for doing something so human? As humans, we use language to express our emotions. 7.7 billion people in the world exist on Earth, and the variations of languages are endless. Why is it that when a young man uses “Allahu Akbar” to show his excitement, it is seen as a “public nuisance,” and upon giving an explanation of his intent to a tragically uninformed officer of the law, he is manhandled into a jail cell?
The Swiss police’s reasoning for fining Orhan was “a possibility that people could be scared and terrified.” It is understandable to want to protect society from harm, but we need to separate this automatic fear of Arabic phrases Muslims use in their daily communication. Is it so hard to understand that the acting police officer could have taken a different course of action in order to ensure the safety of civilians, while at the same time not making offensive assumptions?
This unjust punishment boils down to the unjust stereotypes surrounding Muslims. The police officer in question made the assumption that Orhan’s use of “Allahu Akbar” was threatening because of its use in recent terrorist attacks. That doesn’t change the fact that it was an unfair and Islamophobic assumption to make. It once again suggests that there is a link between authentic practitioners of Islam, and violent deviants using convoluted interpretations of Islamic law to cause harm and mayhem. Many Muslims use Arabic phrases in their daily communication, and it doesn’t mean that every time “Allahu Akbar” or “Astagfurallah” is used, it is an indication of an attack. It is high time that people learn to adjust their preconceived notions by actually taking the time and energy out to educate themselves.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time legal action reeking of Islamophobia has been taken in European countries. In Belgium, around 2006, Samira Achbita was fired from her job due to her hijab. When this case was taken to court, the firing was ruled legal by the European Court of Justice because of the company’s desire to stay neutral in regards to politics and religion.
Similarly, Germany had banned teachers from wearing the headscarf in order to abide by Germany’s neutrality law. Yet, oddly enough, no one has ever been penalized for wearing a cross around their neck, or a kippah atop their head. Similarly, Quebec’s premiere-designate claimed that religious symbols were to be banned in the province, whilst dubiously arguing that the crucifix was NOT a religious symbol.
Given these global experiences, it almost feels as though the concept of “neutrality” laws are intrinsically Islamophobic, as it seems they only seem to matter when faced with a Muslim attempting to practice their religion openly. People practice something openly when they have a deep sense of belief and pride in it, and these laws tear down that pride and spirit. Rather than formulating laws and fines based on misinformation and racist narratives, why not take the time to learn from those ensconced within the true culture surrounding Islam? After all, can anyone deny that the world would be better for it?