Video: The misuse of ‘Allahu akbar’ and how the phrase has been co-opted by terrorists

“Allahu akbar” means “God is greater.” After recent terrorist attacks in Paris and Mali, Muslims explain how the phrase has been co-opted by terrorists and misunderstood in the West. They discuss media sensationalism, religious extremism, political


Attackers in Paris and Mali shouted the phrase “Allahu akbar” before firing shots and killing people. “Allahu akbar” translates simply to “God is greater.” Muslims explain how misuse of the phrase has affected their lives in the U.S.

They discuss the media sensationalism, religious extremism, Donald Trump and fascism, and their cultural adjustments because of the backlash.

On what it means ...


“It is perhaps the most defining term in Islam, which reminds those who use this term that they would give up their egos, that they would not use their political, cultural, social, ethnic and geographic interests to promote their own ideas.” — ASLAM ABDULLAH

On its misuse ...

“One phrase itself doesn’t explain the whole heart of Islam. Islam does not tell people to go and kill.” — RAHMAT PHYAKUL

On recent terrorist attacks ...

“And when terrorists use this ‘Allahu akbar,’ they are hijacking this term, they’re hijacking religion, hijacking God.” — ASLAM ABDULLAH

On the role of the media ...

“The media has become a vehicle for religious extremism. Because the lens of extremism is what dominates the definition of religion, especially when it comes to Islam. ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram want nothing more than for us here in the West to believe that Islam has no place in the West, that Islam is alien to the West.” — SALAM AL-MARAYATI

On the backlash against Muslims ...

“My hijab, I have to do the adjustment, also because I don’t want people to attack me. It’s sad but it’s a reality.” — HEDIANA NIES HADI

“We have to achieve political integration so that we are countering the hatred from people like Donald Trump that wants to see more waterboarding, more surveillance, national registration. Those are fascist ideas.” — SALAM AL-MARAYATI

On fear of flying ...

Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar, Allahu akbar. There’s a little prayer that Muslims say when they travel. Now I have to worry that if the person sitting next to me and hears this under my breath that now all of a sudden, we have to turn around the plane and land or everyone’s going to freak out.” — MARC MANLEY

Contact Lisa Biagiotti at or @lisabiagiotti on Twitter.

Contact Irfan Khan at or @latfoto on Twitter.