YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – WKBN reached out to experts Wednesday to decipher Arabic written along with pro-terrorism messages on a famous rock on Youngstown State University’s rock Monday.
John Bethuy of Boardman has been studying the images. He is a practicing Muslim and a third year religious studios major. He said the round symbol found on one side of the rock is a copy of a signet once used by the Prophet Muhammad. He said the image would come from a ring they would stamp in ink and sign. It would be a mark of authenticity.
Bethuy, along with Tammy Zill, with the University of Michigan’s Department of American Culture who responded to an email asking for a translation, both agree on the meaning of the following message:
The rock says, “There is no God but God.” And the top message on the rock says, “Muhammad is the prophet of God.” This is the shahadah, how Muslims express/testify that they are Muslim. It is the most common and basic expression of one’s faith, equivalent to Christians saying, “In the name of the father, the son, and the holy spirit. Amen.”
Bethuy said some of the script has not been widely used since the 8th Century.
Bethuy claims the words “we are coming,” which was written in English, may imply a threat. But he also believes the words “YSU supports ISIS” creates doubt in his mind, saying that would be a “strange group” that would mention themselves in the third person.
“That was my first cue that is was probably a prank,” Bethuy said.
Bethuy says ISIS leaders have been known to use images like those on the rock, and that the Koran does not encourage the terrorist group’s tactics.
Zill also helped explain the words, “jihad inshallah abeeds,” which police found spray-painted in a bathroom in Cushwa Hall. She said the message does not grammatically make sense in Arabic, and that whoever wrote them likely does not speak Arabic fluently. Abeed means slave. So it is trying to say that “the holy war will, God willing, enslave.” But it is important to note that it is not accurately written, according to Zill.
The police investigation into the painting is due to threatening statements written on the rock like, “We are coming,” and not the use of Arabic or Muslim statements of faith.
Monday morning, numerous viewers submitted messages to WKBN with photos of the rock, which is located outside the school’s Kilcawley Center and is frequently used to advertise for events on campus.
Groundskeepers quickly painted over the messages with white paint. It was not immediately clear who painted the rock or when they did so.
Students re-painted the rock with an American flag design at 2:30 after organizing an event on Facebook.