Freedom of Religion

Man Fined $210 in Switzerland for Saying "Allahu Akbar" to a Friend in Public

A police official said "manner in which the phrase had been spoken was key ... and added police officers would have acted in the same way if someone had run around a local square swearing loudly"; but the man denies he was shouting.

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

From an article two weeks ago in The Local (Switzerland), reporting on an incident from last year that has recently come to light:

The young man, named by Swiss media as Orhan E., said he used the Islamic phrase 'Allahu akbar', which literally means 'God is [the] greatest', to express his amazement after spotting a friend of his near Schaffhausen's goods train depot.

While he was speaking in Turkish to that friend, he was approached by an off-duty police officer. The policewoman then fined him for causing a public nuisance because he had used the phrase Allahu akbar in a "loud and clear" manner….

"At the time, there was a possibility that people could have become afraid or shocked," a media spokesperson for the force, Patrick Caprez, told local daily Schaffhauser Nachrichten. The phrase 'Allahu akbar' has often been used by terrorists before carrying out attacks.

Schaffhausen security chief Romeo Bettini … noted the manner in which the phrase had been spoken was key in the 2018 incident and added police officers would have acted in the same way if someone had run around a local square swearing loudly….

But Orhan E. denied he "shouted" the phrase, as asserted by police in their original report.

Speaking to Swiss news site 20 Minuten, the man said: "We use 'Allahu akbar" as a greeting and in almost every second sentence. When the weather is good, for example. We use it when we want to say we think something is positive." …

"Just because terrorists misuse these two words doesn't mean I have bad intentions when I say them," he said.

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106 responses to “Man Fined $210 in Switzerland for Saying "Allahu Akbar" to a Friend in Public

  1. “Just because terrorists misuse these two words doesn’t mean I have bad intentions when I say them”

    Tell me about it, I’m told I shouldn’t use a perfectly innocent Indian religious symbol because some jerk used it too.

    1. Shame on Hitler for Cultural Appropriation!

      1. And shame on this man for using such an alarming term, not only in public, but loudly enough to pose a manifest threat to safety, social order and security as well.

        In fact, the man’s excuse (“we use it as a greeting”) is almost as bad as saying one was “just doing parody” by sending out an inappropriately deadpan Gmail “confession” in a distinguished academic department chairman’s name. As the security official noted, the manner in which the message is expressed is “key.” Eugene knows a good deal about this, because he knows which “parodies” are appropriately clear and obvious enough to deserve “constitutional” protection, and which cross the line into rank criminality punishable by incarceration, a difference made clear by America’s leading criminal “satire” case, documented at:

        https://raphaelgolbtrial.wordpress.com/

        Since everything depends on the manner of expression, clearly Eugene’s purpose in posting this item must have been to point us toward the direction American law will hopefully develop in the months and years to come.

        1. …[L]oudly enough to pose a manifest threat to safety, social order and security as well

          Why not just type ‘yelling fire in a crowded theater?’

          1. When hasn’t preserving social order not been the rationalization for dictatorial censorship worldwide across the eons?

            1. Since Socrates at least.

              1. I’m sure Eugene can help us understand the difference between “dictatorship” and preserving social order, which prosecutors in our great nation do all the time. It seems to be just like the difference between a “clear” parody, which is entitled to constitutional protection, and one that is not clear by virtue of its inappropriately deadpan and hence libelous nature, which, as Eugene has suggested in the past, is a crime punishable by incarceration, despite any foolish decisions of “human rights” courts in Europe and Africa.

                1. inappropriately deadpan and hence libelous nature

                  Ummm. I’d be interested in that Volokh post.

                  1. As everyone should be. I am of course not quoting his exact words, but pointing to their obvious consequences. At any rate, you can find his post by following the links in the documentation of our nation’s leading criminal “satire” case, which I referred to earlier. But why go looking for an old post, when Eugene is here, knows his own position very well, and can himself clarify why a “clear” or obvious parody would be entitled to “constitutional” protection, but “Gmail confessions” in the name of an academic department chairman are not entitled to such protection since they are not “clearly” parodies? Surely he can also help elucidate the meaning of the “First Amendment,” by explaining how the American criminal juries determine, beyond a reasonable doubt, whether parodies are sufficiently “clear” to pass muster, and how they exclude the possibility that criminal defendants may have intended to engage in “clear” parodies but somehow managed to produce ones that were unclear instead. Eugene’s explanations on all of these subtle matters are very important, because they demonstrate the great intellectual capacity of the American “free speech” specialists, of whom Eugene is the greatest academic representative today.

    2. And I can’t burn wooden, lower-case t’s in other people’s yards while dressed as a ghost because some jerks used to do it.

      [Look at how clever I am with with language and neaning!]

      1. Displaying a swastika is protected:
        National Socialist Party of America v. Village of Skokie, 432 U.S. 43 (1977)

        As is burning a cross:
        Virginia v. Black, 538 U.S. 343 (2003)

        But you can’t do it on other people’s property. You can’t do anything on someone else’s property without their permission, an easement or a warrant.

        1. You must have responded to the wrong thread. No one was talking about displaying swastikas or burning crosses. The discussion was about Indian religious symbols, burning lower-case t’s, and ghost costumes.

          Oh, and something about Eugene wanting to call attention to the laws and practices of another country. Libertarians always trying to police the world.

          1. You may be being clever with the distinction between a cross and a lower-case t, but “swastika” is literally the Sanskrit name of the Indian religious symbol in question here

            1. Both ‘Injah’ indian and aboriginal Americas habitants used that crooked-X sign

          2. Libertarians always trying to police the world.

            The type of libertarians who endorse Ted Cruz, anyway.

            1. Why do you think, Rev, that you’re any kind of a judge of who’s a “real” libertarian and who isn’t?

          3. You can’t burn lower-case ts in someone else’s yard, either.

      2. “And I can’t burn wooden, lower-case t’s in other people’s yards while dressed as a ghost ”

        You can if they’re rich. The t stands for time to leave, of course.

    3. Everyone is confused about this story. The man actually yelled ‘Admiral Ackbar’. Having mistaken his friend for the Mon Calamari rebellion leader.

      1. Mon Calamari? Now I’m hungry.

        1. That’s racist ! Deliciously racist!

      2. I knew it was a trap.

    4. I eating at a diner that I frequent recently, and the people next to me were bitching about the server’s necklace because it had a version of the swastika on it. In this case, it was a family heirloom that was over two hundred years old. She told them that and that it had nothing to do,with Nazis, but they were too stupid to understand. Eeven when I volunteered that the symbol has been around for thousands of years and is part of dozens of cultures throughout history.

      People are stupid.

      1. I know. People are too stupid to understand that despite its origins the swastika is now irretrievably associated with Nazis and genocide and their special pleading is fucking noxious,

        1. Hmmm. Claiming that people shouldn’t display their religious symbols because the symbol is irretrievably associate with Nazis is pretty fucking bigoted.

          1. Trolling people with swastikas is noxious and stupid. Didn’t say you shouldn’t do it; it does sound like a religious observance for you.

            1. You think Hindus are noxious and stupid? Whatever, bigot.

              Lots of people associate turbans with terrorism.

              And you are just like the people who think Sikhs are terrorists. Nice going, racist.

              1. I think non-Hindus ostentatiously displaying swastikas than laboriously and patronisingly explaining that they’re sctually Hindu symbols are noxious and stupid. I doubt most Hindus would have much time for your childish displaying-Nazi-regalia-to-pwn-the-libs culture war crap. Similarly, the deep unseriousness of calling people who dislike swastikas bigots. All the neo-Nazis love you guys.

    5. Pretty common to see the swastika all over Asia, they either didn’t get the memo or don’t care.

      1. The Indian swastikas usually (not always) have dots in them between the arms.

    6. Hitler even ruined it for the US Army.

  2. Stupid Europeans.

  3. Not all that different from our laws. You can yell “fire” at the gun range, but not in a crowded theater. Get it?

    1. No. You can yell fire in a crowded theater. You’re misquoting and misusing an old court case.

    2. You can absolutely yell fire in a crowded theater. Just expect to be in legal trouble if there isn’t one.

      1. The line is, falsely crying fire in a crowded theater, causing a panic.

  4. If I were him I would have his friend Akbar pay my fine.

    Also I wonder if he exclaimed “allahu akbar” when he say how much the ticket was going to cost him.

    1. Fun fact, his friend Akbar is an Admiral.

      1. In the Swiss navy

  5. Ah, Europe. The land of tolerance and understanding, if you’re Christian, atheist, or maybe Jewish. There is nothing but scary things in brown cultures, anyway.

    1. gormodoc: “The land of tolerance and understanding, if you’re Christian, atheist, or maybe Jewish. ”

      Not if you’re Jewish. It’s been in the news lately, though more about France, Great Britain, and Germany than about Switzerland.

      1. And how much of the violence against Jews has been coming from Europeans? My understanding is that the increase in antisemitism in Europe is almost entirely due to the increase in the Muslim population.

        1. Even in NAZI Germany, most of the people weren’t running concentration camps. It was enough that they let the people who wanted to do it.

          You don’t need the whole population out to get you. Just a significant minority, and the rest not caring to stop them.

            1. ICE is rounding up antisemites?

              1. I wouldn’t be surprised if the next caravan isn’t alleged to be full of them.

        2. “My understanding is that the increase in antisemitism in Europe is almost entirely due to the increase in the Muslim population…”

          Well, there’s always been plenty of native antisemitism in Europe.

  6. It’s not altogether surprising if the Swiss don’t base their legal decisions on the American 1st Amendment. Being Swiss rather than American.

    But from the newspaper story, there are a couple of hints that the young man is more likely to be lying than the police. First, the Prof indicates that “Allahu Akbar” is not a usual greeting. Second the young man reports that he used the words in “astonishment” at seeing a friend. On average orally expressed astonishment is not something one associates with a conversational tone. And astonished recognition of a friend is not usually accomplished at close, conversational, range; but at a distance. And third, what he said, or shouted, must have been heard by a third party, or else the police wouldn’t have been in a position to intervene. So the odds on “Allahi Akbar” having been shouted are higher than it having been spoken quietly.

    However, the police’s reference to swearing indicates that the content of the young man’s (probable) shout was relevant. Had he shouted “Half price oranges !” they probably wouldn’t have fined him.

    Or at least not for shouting alarmingly in a public place. The Swiss, being culturally more German than the Germans, might well have fined him for advertising oranges for sale without a license.

    1. Excellent comment. Very good analysis, ending with a really funny (and spot-on) observation.

  7. Why do liberals insist on turning every Western nation into a third world dump full of third world people?

    1. Tried to get your parents to abort you, but it didn’t work.

    2. Well, the first wave of invasion from that region of the world was about 1500 years ago.

  8. It should be illegal to say something like that, unless, of course, he smirked, when he said it.

  9. A fine doesn’t sound so bad, it’s not as bad as the penalty for wearing a MAGA hat here.

    1. But smirks are all too pervasive, whereas statistics show most people only hear “Allahu Akbar” shouted near them about once in a lifetime.

      1. Usually near the end of it.

        1. Do most people die at the hands of Islamic terrorists?

          If so, seems like a bad idea to fine someone for saying it and NOT killing everyone within ear shot.

          And of course it just seems pointless to fine them when they go through with the murder suicide.

          Maybe best just to make words that like legal. Even in Europe.

          Although I personally take more of a Hitchinsian stance on the whole “God is great” thing. But I don’t think it should be illegal to be wrong loudly.

    2. Where do you live that there the government penalizes someone for wearing a MAGA hat?

  10. That Swiss police officer doesn’t know Shiite.

    1. “That Swiss police officer doesn’t know Shiite.”

      Oh, bad, bad, bad. I need to remember it.

  11. Apparently the given name “Jihad” is a fairly common one, and not just among Muslims. There’s a joke about the quandary you find yourself in if your nephew Jihad is lost at the airport.

    1. “Jihad Allahuakbar DeathtoAmerica Johnson, you come here this instant!”

      1. You KNOW it’s serious when they throw in the middle names.

  12. See, this is what happens when you allow your religion to be perverted by a bunch of murderous goons. You want people to stop associating “Allah Akbar” with ‘duck and hope the blast isn’t too close’, then get your fellow Muslims to CUT IT THE F*CK OUT!

    I know there are moderate Muslims who are little threat to anybody. But the minority is steering.

    You don’t yet “Bomb!” in a crowded train station, either.

    1. The ‘moderate’ muslims are the ones handing money to the Jihadists.

      1. That’s funny, it was the US handing them money for ages, speaking of murderous goons perverting regions.

    2. How exactly can an individual moderate Muslim get his fanatical brethren to stop being fanatics? I suppose they could stop being Muslims, but then Islam will get even more fanatical.

      1. Well, they could start by reporting their imam to the FBI if he preaches jihad in the mosque, instead of covering for him.

    3. You do if it’s true.

  13. So, let’s say I have a concealed carry permit. Someone behind me yells ‘Allahu akbar’ in a crowded railway station.

    What do I do?

    1. I suppose it depends on the circumstances, and whether you think (a) the incident will pass peacefully or (b) you can convince a jury you were in reasonable apprehension of imminent serious bodily injury or death.

      1. Excuse me, but I DID lay out the circumstances.

        Someone yells fire in a crowded theater. Should I believe it regardless whether there really is a fire?

        Allahu Akbar is the calling card for Islamic terrorist attacks. I am reacting to this known fact,

        1. Two apparently Muslim young men walk down the street. One whistles at a young woman passing the other way. She winks back. The whistler turns to the other, saying “Allahu akbar.”

          How do you feel about your chances before the jury if you start shooting?

          1. So now you want to change the circumstances? Sorry.

            1. What about my scenario is inconsistent with a crowded railway station?

              1. Oops. In my scenario, scratch “street” and insert “railway platform.” Everything else is consistent with your scenario as to which you said you need not discuss further circumstances.

    2. “What do I do?”

      Nothing.

    3. If you like Swiss prisons you could do something. If the guy that yelled survived your gunshot, they might waive his $210 fine figuring he’d suffered enough, but for the shooter (you), the Swiss have indefinite length sentencing. When and if you got out would probably depend on convincing them you’d changed your mind…

    4. What you do is sell your guns and turn in your permit, because you’re too stupid and dangerous to carry one responsibly. No intermet comment or firearms safety course is going to teach you to turn your fucking head and look if you dont already know that’s important.

      People like you are why there’s an anti-Second Amendment movement. Best thing you can do to help responsible gun owners maintain their rights is to never touch one again.

      1. I was posing a hypothetical. Based on your offensive language and Ad Hominem attack, I would say you are the dangerous one in this thread.

      2. “People like you are why there’s an anti-Second Amendment movement.”

        Not its not. They want to ban guns because they are gun banners.

    5. “So, let’s say I have a concealed carry permit. Someone behind me yells ‘Allahu akbar’ in a crowded railway station.

      What do I do?”

      You see…this is the problem with 2A.

      Sure, people can carry weapons but they have no clue when or how to use them.

      What are the laws that govern weapon usage?

      What are the tactics for weapon usage?

      Law enforcement officers receive initial weapons training on law, usage, storage, maintenance and then must attend periodic training–and even then they mess up sometimes.

      You want to know what to do TWW?

      Leave the weapon at home – you’ll be doing all of us a favor.

      1. “You see…this is the problem with 2A.”

        Irl, with some exceptions it ain’t the CCW holders gunning down the black guys scratching their balls.

        I suspect it would be the same with CCW holders. I doubt TWW has a CCW permit.

        1. I posted a hypothetical. I did not say what my position is or how I would respond to the situation described nor can my position be reasonably inferred from the hypothetical. Whether or not I have a CCW permit is irrelevant. Whether or not I support the Second Amendment is also beside the point.

          I posted the hypothetical in an attempt to elicit serious discussion. I am disappointed (but not surprised) with the over-heated, hyperbolic responses that attack me personally rather than the question posed.

          Ad Hominem attacks are not an argument and say more about the poster than about me.

        2. This is a good point.

          As a rule, CCW holders are the most law-abiding of citizens. They have fewer negligent discharges that law enforcement.

    6. Keep constructive non-conclusive suggestively violent fantasies around your fetish-object?

    7. Why would you do anything? Haven’t you heard a crazy person scream something like “I’ll kill you all!” and not do anything? You should get out more.

    8. I don’t know. Only you can tell us what you would do. But next time I’m in the situation I’ll ask myself, wwTWWd?

      But I suspect you probably wouldn’t commit murder in that situation. Unless you REALLY don’t think God is great, and want a powerful way to drive your point home.

      But as a moderate atheist, I guess it’s now MY responsibility to control the homicidal atheists so I don’t get lumped in with them.

      Great. Like I don’t have enough responsibilities.

  14. Kewl. Nice movie… “FIRE!” Nice neighborhood… someone call SWAT and report a hostage crisis! What stands out is how mystical fanatics have to screech cosmic debris slogans in the middle of someone else’s football field or train station. But if a bunch of hippies gather for a concert… THAT isn’t “the free exercise thereof”

  15. This is astoundingly stupid. Let’s imagine that a putative terrorist were yelling Allah Akbar. Are they going to be dissuaded by a $210 fine?

    1. I think you’re coming at it from the wrong angle. Imagine a different set of circumstances; a young man in a hoodie walks into a bank and shouts “This is a stick-up!”. He doesn’t have a gun, and isn’t robbing the bank, he’s just screwing around. Screwing around in a way that causes innocent people undue anxiety, and probably has some nervous person call the police, thereby wasting public resources. $210 in fines might just dissuade the jolly idiot from doing it again, no?

      1. Just so. Fake bomb threats are another example. You can certainly get jail time for doing that, never mind a fine.

    2. The purpose is to discourage Muslims [at least the more fundamentalist ones] from living there.

      They banned new minarets in 2009, two cantons have banned face coverings.

  16. Sounds like a great deterrent of terrorism.

    1. Yeah, it’s well known that without those magic words terrorists are powerless.

      1. Indeed. Imagine if we were able to outlaw MAGA hats, for example. Sometimes an innocent phrase can be turned into a dangerous incantation that inspires hate and violence, or so I’m told.

        1. That kind of fascist thinks hats are a problem?!

          See, the key is to outlaw the sort of people who would wear such a hat. Those are the real issue!

          1. Now that is thinking like a lawyer!

            1. First Amendment says a bunch about speech; it says nothing about deplorables!

              1. An Originalist understanding reveals that the Constitution was understood to protect everything deplorable. That’s why liberals are so eager to do away with it.

                1. Exactly. The 1st Amendment only protects Deplorable things. Everyone else has to suit up or they’re infringing the Deplorable’s speeching.

          2. I’m going to start wearing a hat the reads, “MAKE ALLAH GREAT AGAIN” just to freak everyone out.

            Or just “MAGA” for the sake of space on the hat.

  17. It should go without saying that just because most terrorists are fundamentalist Muslims doesn’t mean most fundamentalist Muslims are terrorists. And that Muslims deserve rights too.

    But some here seem to need reminding.

    1. “reminding”

      Assumes facts not in evidence.

  18. I’m just waiting for the Merry Christmas terrorist group to make the words “Merry Christmas” illegal to say in an airport. /sarcasm

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