So, yesterday, I blogged from the National Gallery. Today, I am in a pub called The Pavilion End in Cheapside. I’ve been reading my biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor by Artemis Cooper.
The Pavilion belongs to the Fullers Brewery but the size, cleanness, contemporary music droning in the background and soulless character of the place makes me think that it must really be owned by Wetherspoons. At least the barmaid is pretty.
Anyway, back to Leigh Fermor. He served as an SOE agent in Crete during WWII. During his time on that ancient and noble island, a young man who was a member of the Cretan resistance, Siphi Alevizakis, was captured and tortured by the Nazi occupiers. Not long after Siphi’s capture, Fermor and fellow SOE agent, Xan Fielding, met Siphi’s father, Fr John Alevizakis who was also a resistance member. Fermor and Fielding tried to sympathise with Fr Alevizakis over what had happened, and what they knew would happen – Siphi’s execution. The priest, however,
… brushed aside our expressions of sympathy with a phrase that came constantly to his lips: “God is great”.
God is great, of course, is the English translation of Allahu Akbar, which is what sundry Islamist terrorists have been said to shout before committing their acts of terror. The phrase, therefore, or rather, our – the West’s – understanding of what it means, has in a sense become rather corrupted. If you doubt this, imagine hearing someone shout it on the underground or in aeroplane. What would your first reaction be? But here we see it used in a much more positive way, as a declaration of trust, if you like, and of faith. It is a timely reminder of terrorists’ corrupt use of the phrase; just like the Nazis use of the swastika was a corrupt use of an ancient and venerable symbol of peace.