Some witnesses to last week’s massacre at Fort Hood say that the shooter cried “Allahu Akbar” before he began shooting. These reports send shudders up the spines of Americans everywhere, both Muslim and non-Muslim. The cry has become inextricably linked to acts of horrible violence and is translated in our deep psyche as, “I’m an armed, out-of-control Islamic fundamentalist and you’re all going to die.” The fact that it means “God is great!” seems to have been lost on us all.
Non-Muslims use the cry to point to the dangers of Islam; Muslims grieve over its misuse and associations of evil.
The unexamined misfortune in this story and others like them is that “God is great!” – a statement rich in worship, in humility, in celebration – has become synonymous with horror.
Why have those of us who believe in God let such a beautiful affirmation turn into a monstrosity?
The cry “God is great!!” should precede acts of life. We should be shouting together “God is great!!” before weddings and at the birth of a child; we should cry out “God is great!” before a child’s soccer game and when we climb a mountain and when we go on a Saturday morning bike ride.
God is great – over coffee with a friend. God is great – reconnecting with family members. God is great – when I fall into bed exhausted. God is great – at work on a Monday morning. God is great – when I grade papers and answer the phone and do the dishes and fold laundry and rake the leaves. God is great – at my niece’s school play. God is great – at my child’s graduation.
The greatness of God – Lifegiver, Lover, Exceeding Joy – should be snatched from the lips of those who plan violence and act out of a twisted sense of holiness. Reclaim it.