Allāhu Akbar literally means “Allah is greater”, It is usually translated “God is [the] Greatest,” or “Allah is Great”. It is a common Islamic Arabic expression used in various contexts by Muslims: in formal prayer, as an informal expression of faith, in times of distress, to express celebration or victory, and to express resolute determination or defiance.
In fact – with any of the below
You might argue that faced with a row of women in Bikinis this is not what the average Mullah would shout, but I suggest they would shout it shortly before and after having them whipped or stoned to death…
The problem, as Hitchens most defiantly demonstrated, is that all the evidence shows that God is either a confused and vindictive bastard with a strange sense of what free will involves, or non existent.
What worries me is not that the evidence and logic Hitchens used to dispose of the idea of “God is great” might be in some way insufficient, but that the constant chanting of this phrase, Allāhu Akbar, (as demonstrated on all our media when they cover the Arab spring, mass murder in the Middle east or the Taliban attempting to murder a schoolgirl for the sin of joining the words school and girl…) has a huge and intended effect.
The rituals of any religion are designed to ensure that the mind of the supplicant never steps dangerously into free thought and the use of rational study, but in most religions these rituals are limited to some kind of planned daily observance and possibly a more public weekly version with the addition of “special” days.
The Jewish faith seems to have a good number of special days that must always be spoken in ancient Hebrew and which are designed to make you remember the awful, (and fictional), mistreatment, suffering, or victory, of their mythologised Yahweh-anointed tribe. Hearing chief Rabbi, Jonathan Saccharins, eulogise over a particular holy day is an instant Radio4 switch off when he appears on platitude of the day.
Across the UK of course we have the sound of bells on Sunday, and Saturday for weddings, rather subtly sounding out the dominant position of the established church, but more selling ear plugs than pushing indoctrination via their content.
In Islamic countries though, we are treated to the call to prayer 5 times a day – in many a Moroccan town this constitutes a competing cacophony of badly taped male voices chanting those dreaded words, Allāhu Akbar, in a manner that instantly creates images of the vocalist being tortured via a slow twisting of the testicles.
How fitting that image is…
Fitting in so many ways.
It does so often sound literally like the person is being tortured,
it produces a torturous effect on the ears of those listening – fit only to be piped to the lonely cell of Anders Breivik.
It prompts memory of all those people tortured and killed because they were “from the wrong tribe” or had displayed the wrong belief. Let’s not be coy here, more Muslims have been killed by other Muslims for this crime since 9/11 than have been killed by any secular imperialist forces.
and among all these tortures and killings, celebrations and calls to arms, the ritual repetition of that phrase continues –
The child is dead! Allāhu Akbar
the child survives! Allāhu Akbar
the enemy is killed! Allāhu Akbar
the enemy is killing us all! Allāhu Akbar
the bread has risen! Allāhu Akbar
so has the sun! Allāhu Akbar
my wife is pregnant! Allāhu Akbar
she has had an abortion and I have killed her! Allāhu Akbar
my daughter is normal! Allāhu Akbar
so I have killed her! Allāhu Akbar
but the wearing down of brain cells into this automatic reflex means that the longed for progression of the weirdly religious out of the dark ages is significantly and dangerously inhibited. Optimistic as I am about the human species, I once supposed that we might see the Islamic world progress to a total elimination of the fanatical and fundamentalist by the time my great grandchildren reached pensionable age. I fear now that this ritualised behaviour will condemn us to at least another 400 years of idiocy in the face of (to them) a threatening world of freedom and technological development. What is worse is that this ever growing gap between the normal and the insanely religious may make the gap between western rich and poor look like a gnat’s whisker during that time.