Somehow! How could this have possibly happened? Could it possibly have to do with the numerous Muslims who scream “Allahu akbar” while in the process of murdering infidels? Could it have something to do with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, who reminded himself to “shout, ‘Allahu Akbar,’ because this strikes fear in the hearts of the non-believers”?
The association of “Allahu akbar” with jihad violence is not something new. When Muhammad launched his surprise attack on the Jews of the Khaybar oasis in Arabia, he screamed “Allahu akbar”:
We reached Khaibar early in the morning and the inhabitants of Khaibar came out carrying their spades, and when they saw the Prophet (ﷺ) they said, “Muhammad! By Allah! Muhammad and his army!” The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Allahu-Akbar! Khaibar is destroyed, for whenever we approach a (hostile) nation (to fight) then evil will be the morning for those who have been warned.” (Bukhari 64.238.4198)
This New York Times article is correct in saying that Muslims say “Allahu akbar” in a wide variety of contexts. That does not change the fact, however, that jihadis routinely scream it during their attacks, precisely in order to “strike terror in the enemies of Allah” (Qur’an 8:60).
“‘Allahu Akbar’: An Everyday Phrase, Tarnished by Attacks,” by Eric Nagourney, New York Times, November 2, 2017:
When H. A. Hellyer is out walking with his family, strangers sometimes approach him and declare, “Allahu akbar!”
Many Westerners may find it hard to believe these days, but Mr. Hellyer does not recoil in fear.
“I’ll be walking out with my kids,” he said, “and someone will say: ‘Oh, they’re so cute. Allahu akbar.’ And I’ll joke, ‘Thank you — now stop talking to my kids.’”
The Arabic phrase, which means simply “God is great,” has, it sometimes seems, become intertwined with terrorism.
The driver of a truck that mowed down 20 people on a Manhattan bike path on Tuesday was said to have cried out “Allahu akbar” before he was shot by a police officer. The men who carried out the attack on the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo in 2015 shouted it during their onslaught. And the phrase rang through the air as a British soldier was run down near military barracks in 2013 and then hacked to death.
But for Mr. Hellyer and other Muslims, Allahu akbar is so commonplace a saying as to be utterly unworthy of note. “It’s quite an innocuous expression,” he said.
Its origin is explicitly religious. It is said in the call to prayer that is heard five times day, and in the prayers that follow.
But it is heard far from the mosque, too.
“Something good will happen and people will say, ‘Congratulations’ — and they will proclaim God’s greatness as a way of recognizing what they see as the divine blessing,” said Mr. Hellyer, a scholar of religion and politics at the Atlantic Council who lives in London.
Its use can be even less divinely inspired.
“Let’s say your football team is mounting an attack,” said Ahdaf Soueif, an Egyptian author. “You can say, ‘Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar,’ and you’re pushing them along, like, ‘Go for it, go for it, go for it.’”
Even more prosaically, Ms. Soueif said, “You see a really beautiful woman or a good-looking guy, you go, ‘Allahu akbar.’”
But the phrase — to many Muslims’ distress — has also been seized on by jihadists who claim that Islam justifies their attacks on innocent civilians in the name of God….