Efforts to fight terrorism should not be hampered by perpetuating sterotypes against Muslims, said the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), after police in England used the phrase “Allahu Akbar” at an anti-terror training exercise.
Monday’s exercise at a shopping mall in Manchester comprised more than 800 volunteers, including a masked man dressed in black who, in video footage, was seen running and shouting the words before setting off an explosion.
Miqdaad Versi, assistant secretary general of the MCB, told Al Jazeera that “by using this word [in the terror training], Muslims around the world are being associated with terrorists”.
“Muslims use this term in prayers and is a perfectly noble term and we must not allow the terrorists to hijack it,” said Versi.
Assistant Chief Constable Garry Shewan from Greater Manchester Police said while the exercise was based on a “suicide attack by an extremist Daesh [ISIL] style organisation”, the use of the word was unacceptable.
“On reflection we acknowledge that it was unacceptable to use this religious phrase immediately before the mock suicide bombing, which so vocally linked this exercise with Islam.
“We recognise and apologise for the offence that this has caused.”
Versi added that “using this term in such exercises is not helpful in any way” before welcoming the police for “recognising the problem and for apologising”.
Reactions raced through social media, mostly on Twitter, where people condemned the act.
“I’m disgusted by Manchester Police using ‘Allah hu Akbar’ in a terrorism training exercise. Once again demonising Muslims and Islam,” said a Twitter user.
Police said there was no specific threat in Manchester and that the exercise was devised in December, a month after the Paris attacks that killed 130 people.
A British Muslim Labour party candidate, Sadiq Khan, was sworn in as London’s new mayor this month after receiving the largest number of votes of any London mayoral candidate ever.
Some of the fault lines surrounding Khan’s election were visible on social media where many users mocked what they saw as xenophobic responses to Khan’s mayorship.