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Employment tribunals fail to recognise terrorist abuse of ‘Allāhu Akbar’

29th Apr 2022
Employment tribunals fail to recognise terrorist abuse of ‘Allāhu Akbar’

(Credit: Quinn Dombrowski/WikiCommons)

The phrase ‘Allāhu ʾAkbar’ is of profound significance to Muslims. It is expressed in a multitude of ways as a declaration of faith and to give thanks to the magnificence [takbir] of God.

The phrase, whose literal meaning is ‘God is [the] greatest’, is commonly used in Islamic rituals, informal prayer, following births and deaths, during religious festivals in times of joy, uttered in gratitude, and in distress.

Unfortunately, since the phrase was co-opted by terrorists, it is widely misunderstood by many non-Muslims to falsely signify a call to terror.

That misunderstanding was compounded earlier this month when a harassment claim centering on the abuse of the term by a security company at Heathrow Airport was dismissed by an employment tribunal.

Although the hearing accepted that the misuse of the phrase amounted to unwanted conduct and clearly related to the complainant’s religion, it was found ‘not to be reasonable to take offence’ from suspect packages labelled with the words ‘Allāhu ʾAkbar.’ Even on appeal, the ill-informed decision was judged not to be perverse since, legally, it was a high hurdle to climb.

Despite the ruling, and to its credit, the security company ended its offensive labelling in its security training programme. However, the failure of the tribunals to rule such practices illegal is worrisome.

The ruling essentially validates terrorists’ assertions of religious motivation and legitimises their claim that their heinous acts are sanctioned in Islam. The phrase must not and cannot be construed as shorthand for terrorism and terrorists nor as an excuse not just for companies, but also for politicians and the media to abuse.


Legal Corner: ‘Allahu Akbar’ security test did not amount to harassment of Muslim employee


 

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