Skip to content

Weaponizing Language: How the meaning of “allahu akbar” has been distorted

Photo of the crashed truck that was used in the October 31st attack in Manhattan.

Shakir Mustafa, teaching professor of Arabic at Northeastern, says that religious extremists in Middle Eastern countries have coopted the phrase as a rallying cry, falsely referencing the Quran to claim Islamic superiority over all other religions.

Last week, after a man drove a truck into a crowded bike path in Manhattan, killing eight people and injuring 12, he jumped out of the cab and shouted “Allahu akbar.” It was the latest in a string of attacks punctuated with this exclamation.

The Arabic phrase simply means “God is greater,” but it has been wielded by those who carried out the attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in 2015, as well as by those who ran down a British soldier near a military barracks in 2013.

The result, for many, is a phrase—and more broadly, a language—that has nearly become synonymous with visions of religious extremism and violence. Last year, for example, a student was removed from a flight after another passenger overheard him saying “inshallah,” a phrase meaning “God willing.”

Read the full story at news@Northeastern. 

More Stories

Photo of the Capitol Building at night

High stakes for politics, SCOTUS in 2018

Photo of a gun display

Report: Stricter gun laws don’t prevent law-abiding citizens from getting guns

Northeastern logo

Why I love studying Spanish