God is greatest in Queensland too (UPDATED)

AllahAkbar

25 Aug, 9:32am: An obsession gone really wrong?

10:19pm: But of course:

The Islamic Council of Queensland’s Ali Kadri was critical of the speculation so early on that the alleged attack could be linked to terrorism…

“Just because someone says ‘Allahu akbar’ does not mean that person’s motivations are religious.

“It is a commonly used phrase by 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and unfortunately some criminals misuse that phrase.

“I think we should be cautious by not associating this phrase with terrorism and empowering the terrorists.”

Let’s wait and see whether a criminal or a terrorist associated himself with Islam.

4:44pm: The 21-year old victim has been identified as Mia Ayliffe-Chung, who worked as a waitress at The Bedroom Lounge Bar on the Gold Coast, and only went up north to pick fruit ten days ago, in order to fulfill a 3-month rural work requirement for extending her working tourist visa in Australia.

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On the left: picking fruit in Northern Queensland, on the right: happier days on the Gold Coast (Source: Facebook)

Only three days before her death she wrote of her work requirement stint: “Day 4 done. Just 85 left! Skills achieved; the ability to tell the difference between a rock and a clump of mud and throwing stones really far. The sun is too hot. Stupid Australia.”

Deeply tragic.

4:38pm: The words “Allah Akbar” continue to fascinate me. The phrase is one of controversial and contested etymology and meaning. I engaged in some linguistic sleuthing today and here is what I have found.

“The Short SJW Arabic-English Dictionary” says that the phrase comes from the noun Allah (“religion”) and the qualifier Akbar (“nothing to do with” or “unrelated to”). Another dictionary I consulted states that the phrase should actually be read as “Al lah ak bar”, which translates to “I suffer from a mental illness”. A compendium of Middle Eastern quotations told me that its origins in fact lie in a 9th century southern Iraqi dialect of Arabic, in a once popular phrase that roughly translates as “[we need to] prevent an Islamophobic backlash”. The last learned tome I consulted suggested that the belief that “Allah Akbar” means “God is greatest” has now been out of favour with the majority of reputable scholars as an outdated example of linguistic Orientalism. I love the study of languages.

What prompted me to search the books is the report that at a backpackers’ hostel in Home Hill, south of Townsville, in northern Queensland, a French national has stabbed to death a 21-year-old British female backpacker, critically injured her 30-year-old companion, wounded another man, and also somehow managed to kill a dog, shouting the said phrase during his attack as well as while being arrested by the police.

The latest from Queensland Police Service Deputy Commissioner Steve Gollschewski:

“The investigation is still in its early stages, however, initial inquiries indicate that comments which may be construed as of an extremist nature were made by the alleged offender,” he said.

“It is alleged the suspect used the phrase, ‘Allahu akbar’ during the attack and when arrested by police.

“While this information will be factored in we are not ruling out any motivations at this stage, whether they be political or criminal.”

Mr Gollschewski said mental health would also be examined as a possible factor in the crime.

I absolutely agree we should not prejudge the incident. When I first read the reports of the attack, the “Allah Akbar” part of it had not been confirmed, but it now appears to be the case and is supported by police camera recordings of the arrest. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the “French national” (clearly not a Presbyterian; probably a Huguenot) was motivated by religion or support of terrorism. Maybe the Queensland Police has learned the best practice from the New South Wales police about how to handle these sorts of incidents (“Ms Burn and Mr Scipione said they placed huge weight on community stability during the siege, fearing a backlash from — they implied but did not state — right-wing anti-Muslim groups, with the Deputy Commissioner ­describing this concern as “paramount”.”)

Shouting “Allah Akbar” might well be a sort of a Tourette’s of your average garden-variety crazies and crims who have once been brought up in a Muslim cultural milieu. The French national (“the man had entered Australia lawfully and had not come to the attention of authorities in the months he had been in the country”) might indeed suffer from mental problems or have been under the influence of drugs (I’m assuming not alcohol, as that’s haram). People of Islamic faith or background are no different in that regard to, say, Protestant Anglo-Saxons; they can have similar health problems, share similar personal failings, and commit similar crimes, all on account of common biology and human nature and not necessarily because of (a different) religion. Just because you are “of” a certain religion does not necessarily – and certainly not always – mean you do something “because” of a certain religion.

So time will tell whether this has been another stabby lone wolf somehow inspired by ISIS or just one of many disturbed life’s losers. In the meantime, a young life has been tragically cut short, perhaps another one too, and whether the beautiful tropical north Queensland has been a scene of a crime of passion or a random terror attack, the holiday peace has been shattered by a tragedy. Allah might or might not be Akbar, but all too often in life it feels like God has closed his eyes.

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