New York City became ground zero for terrorism once again this week after a crazed, radicalized muslim carried out a planned attack, killing 8 people in lower Manhattan. When news broke that the man had been shouting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ in the moments after the rampage, pretty much everyone knew what the motive was.
As an American Christian, it’s been difficult to view that phrase with much reverence. After all, the only time I ever – and I mean ever – hear it is when a group of terrorists are doing something like hoisting their AK-47’s high into the air in celebration of killing innocent civilians.
Jake Tapper is receiving some heat for a comment made this week, when he noted that “The Arabic chant Allahu Akbar, God is great, sometimes said under the most beautiful of circumstances and too often we hear of it being said in moments like this.”
Some conservative outlets reacted in outrage, referring to the reporter as “Fake Tapper” instead of his actual name, Jake.
But no matter how angry people are at radical islamists, and that’s me included, Tapper is not necessarily wrong.
Consider, for example, what happened last year in war-torn Syria.
It was a familiar scene for the Middle East: a bomb had just tore a building to smithereens, leaving chaos, death and destruction all around it. Several Muslims were chanting the familiar jihadist battle cry, ‘Allahu Akbar!’ Allahu Akbar!’ often heard after a mass slaughter or terrorist attack.
The bombing was courtesy of Russian fighter jets, not ISIS. And the group of (presumably) Muslims chanting ‘Allahu Akbar!’ were not celebrating another successful terror attack — they were rescuing a small, two-week old child from the rubble of yet another in the relentless string of air strikes pounding Syria’s civilian population.
They had been digging for 12 hours after learning the tiny baby was trapped but still alive, and so they were exhausted. The video below is raw footage from the dramatic rescue. As soon/as they pull the baby out, emotional cries of ‘Allahu Akbar!’ (God is great).
I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by it all. I realized something as I watched, welling up with emotion – that as they shouted I actually cheered along with them. I thought, if I was there among them maybe I would’ve praised in chorus along with them.
The baby was saved by a group of heroic citizens in Syria who rushed in to the rubble after every air strike hits war torn Syria. They operate in areas where official government groups cannot get to. There are over 2900 members in various cities in towns across Syria.
They’re called “The White Helmets” and Netflix recently ran a powerful documentary featuring their bravery. It’s only 40 minutes, but well worth the watch. You can see the precise moment the ‘miracle baby’ was rescued in this trailer for the doc, at the 1:40 mark. Take a look:
The moment is also shown in this extended clip posted to Youtube:
The baby was just two weeks old, and survived over 12 hours trapped beneath a substantial amount of rubble. Newborn babies eat every two hours, making the rescue even more remarkable.
The White Helmets do not take sides in the conflict, they operate under the mantra of “to save a life is to save humanity” and will rescue anyone they can, regardless of who they are.
So, yes, jihadists use the phrase to intimidate and represent an air of superiority over others – but clearly, as evidenced by this celebration of a baby being saved, it is not the only implementation of the phrase. It just happens to be the one the media catches most often, because of the nature of the news.