Allahu Akbar

Avinash Jagroo - Senegal


December 30, 2017

I hear it all the time. When an elder is expressing their delight that my cold has gone away, when a passerby tells my carpentry supervisor a tale he can't believe, when my host mom is baffled by my inability to remember the easiest Laala words, and so on. It's quite the common expression here in Senegal. It's an expression joy, amazement and gratitude- God is great, Allahu Akbar- and in my experience, it has nothing to do with any terrorism of any sort.  
  Coming from the west I was well aware of the image the media painted of Islam and its principles. It's understandable to an extent. Almost 3000 lives were lost in September eleventh attacks. Since then there have been numerous attacks and an unbearable loss of life because of radical Islamic terrorism all over the west. Our society was hit intensely, and so we responded intensely. Political figures (the beloved Donald Trump in particular) spoke of closing off borders, violence against immigrants shot through the roof, and we even managed to deny refugees of the one thing they're very clearly entitled to, refuge. Fear traveled far and fast. Islamophobia has become a kin to social media in the west. Everyone's in on it, and if you're not, you're kind of weird. 
  If you leave the comfort of your living room however, away from from your t.v that's ready to deliver the latest news of Muslims being architects of the apocalypse, and speak to one of the immigrant kids who comes from an Islamic nation and practices the religion, the kid who's your neighbor, the kid who bags your groceries, you get a fuller picture. You hear about the parts of Quran that preaches peace and understanding. You hear about millions of kids who grew up believing that they ought to be dutiful towards society, show compassion, gain a variety of knowledge, and contribute, not destroy. You also realize that these groups that are killing by the truck load aren't spearing their own either. If you enter an Islamic country, that reality becomes even more vivid. 
  The second I gained the French to carry on a slightly more advanced conversation than a simple " Bonjour , vous allez bien?" I asked my two host brothers on their thoughts on radical Islam. Their English was good enough to make this one thing clear to me, as far as they and every other Muslim they met (there's a lot of those in Senegal) was aware, Islam did not preach violence. Allahu Akbar was a jolly old exclamation, not a war cry. They were baffled by why anyone would be taking God's name as they went on to slaughter people by the thousands. There's a terrorism warning on Dakar issued by the US Embassy at the moment. Very clearly, those who caused the threat (namely Isis as it appears at this time) are very well aware of the fact that Senegal is an Islamic nation, and any attack carried out would be in an effort to kill Muslims.
 I'm no Islamic scholar. I haven't studied every line of the Quran -though I have a lot of dear friends who have,- I'm not Muslim, and I'm not denying that people have killed in the name of Islam, as they very clearly have, but my perspective has very much been widened. I've met the people who are scared of muslims, and the muslims their afraid of however, and I can conclude that the fear is very much irrational, and it's not going to stop radicalism. I mean just stop and think, if in a room of forty businessmen one man eats his boogers, does that mean the entire group likes to eat their boogers, and by extension, all businessmen eat their boogers? That's Islamophobia in a nutshell. 
Allahu Akbar.
  
  

Avinash Jagroo