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.