GENEVA – Police in Switzerland have handed a Muslim man a £178 fine for saying “Allahu Akbar” in public because passersby could have mistaken him for a terrorist.

The man, identified in Swiss media as Orhan E., went public with his account this week and explained he had used the phrase after spotting a friend while walking through Schaffhausen, northern Switzerland, in May last year.

Orhan told local daily Schaffhauser Nachrichten he thought nothing of the phrase, which he said is used by Muslims “almost every second sentence”.

However, as he conversed with his friend “he was approached by an off-duty police officer” who said his “loud and clear” use of the expression could have caused people to fear an imminent terror attack, The Local reports.

“I didn’t want any problems and I spent two minutes trying to explain why I had said what I did,” Orhan said.

Orhan added he was “manhandled” by officers before being issued with a 150 Swiss francs (£120) fine for causing a public nuisance, plus a 60 franc (£58) processing free.

The town’s security chief, Romeo Bettini, insists Orhan had been targeted because he shouted the phrase – a claim the young man denies.

In 1980, Muslims only accounted for 1 percent of the total population in Switzerland. However, since then the percentage of the Swiss population that is Islamic has continued to grow: it was 5 percent in 2013, and 6.1 percent in 2016.

The lowest percentage of Muslims in a canton is 1.82% (the Italian-speaking Ticino). 88.3% of Muslims in Switzerland are foreigners (56.4% from former Yugoslavia (mostly Bosniaks, and Albanians from Kosovo), 20.2% from Turkey and 6% from Africa (3.4% from North Africa). Some 10,000 of the 400,000 Muslims could be converts.