Panic At Joker Screening After Hearing Allahu Akbar

How Muslims Can Help Remove Misconceptions of ‘Allahu Akbar’

Last Sunday, panic ensued in a Paris cinema when they heard someone shouting “Allahu Akbar” while cinema-goers were watching a screening of the movie, the Joker. Reactions from the public were chaotic, with people were climbing over seats to escape, and ran to the exit doors which were closed. Others fell on the floor and were being trampled over. 


An Ulterior Motive

The man who shouted, “Allahu Akbar” was detained by some of those in the theater. According to the theatre owner, Grand Rex management, the man was a thief and had used this tactic with an accomplice. They would collect phones, purses and other belongings left behind by the public’s panic reactions. 

French police were called in and had apprehended the suspect. However, his accomplice had escaped. The duo had previously used the same scare tactic on a train and successfully stole people’s belongings which were left behind. 

The Real Meaning of Allahu Akbar

Allahu Akbar simply means in Arabic, God is Greatest, or God is Supreme. There is nothing greater or superior than God. 

As Muslims are aware, Allahu Akbar are mentioned in the Azan (the call to prayer) and in the salah (the physical prayer), and in Muslim countries, these can be heard a minimum of 5 times a day, if not more. 

Hence, it is unlikely that the same panic reactions would have occurred had the public in Muslim countries hear cries of takbeer, Allahu Akbar. 

Why Muslims Use Allahu Akbar

Aside from using it in Azan, and in the salah, the term Allahu Akbar are often used to show signs of amazement, or delight, beauty or a good surprise. If you see something that delighted you, like seeing a long-lost friend or a long-lost pet, you’d simply say, “Allahu Akbar” instead of the non-meaningful, “wow”. 

It is also used as a phrase to overcome fear, like when you see a fire, and you’d say “Allahu Akbar”, meaning God is greater than the fire in front of you. 

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In the same instance, “Allahu Akbar” is used by Muslims in their battles against their enemies, from the time of Rasulallah (saw) in the battle of Badr, until today. 

The Modern-Day Western Concepts of Allahu Akbar

Muslim jihadist, either ISIS, or those who have terrorized the Western civilians, often use this phrase too. Today, Western police and the public would jump at hearing such a phrase being used. 

In Switzerland, a Turkish Muslim was stopped by the police when the public heard him clearly saying, “Allahu Akbar”. The Swiss police later called for armed backup. In the end, he was fined for being a public nuisance.  

He later told the press that he had only used the phrase to express his delight at unexpectedly meeting his friend at a train station. He later told the press that, 

We use ‘Allahu Akbar” as a greeting and in almost every second sentence. When the weather is good, for example. We use it when we want to say we think something is positive.”

How Muslims Can Help Remove The Misconception of Allahu Akbar

As Muslims, it is our responsibility to explain and remove any feelings of suspicions or fear from others, as we go about our daily lives. With friends or colleagues, you can use this as a conversation starter. 

  • Did You Know, such as “oh, did you know that we say “Allahu Akbar”  in our prayers, and when we are surprised? Instead of saying Wow, we’d say “Allahu Akbar”.
  • Taking Back Allahu Akbar – Tell them that saying Allahu Akbar does not make a person a terrorist. In Muslim communities, Allahu Akbar is a phrase used in a daily conversation.

And lastly, remember the Turner of Hearts, Allah. It is He who can turn hearts, and so, we should make du’a to help others understand Islam better and without prejudice, inshallah. 

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