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Rohit Dhankar

There is a debate in the media whether Zakir Nail should be ‘stopped’. It is not clear what stopped means here: is it banned? Or should not be allowed? Or should be countered through argument? There also seem to be a hashtag #StopZakirNaik. I tried to see on this what people are saying. But found it too much in snippets which require a history of following to make sense of it. Therefore, it was useless for me.

Zakir Naik, for those who do not know, is an Islamic preacher. His supporters (and he himself) also call him a scholar of comparative religions. One of the terrorists killed in Dhaka restaurant attach it seems was a fan of Zakir Naik, and Bangladesh is investigating if he was inspired by him. The debate has started in this context.

To just get a glimpse I looked at a few snippets of news items and also watched Arnab Goswami’s cheekh-chillahat which he calls ‘debate’, a gross insult to the term and human intelligence. In this programme the anchor as well as many other participants wanted to “stop Zakir Nair”; there are also some who are against “stopping” him. Whatever stopping might mean.

Some of the charges that I could find on the internet against Zakir Naik are listed below:

  1. His organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) is registered under FCRA, it takes foreign funds and is involved in religious conversions.
  2. Zakir Naik runs a TV Chanel called Peace TV which does not have licence, and is banned, still cable operators show Piece TV.
  3. He ridicules other religions.
  4. He claims that Islam is the only true religion, all other religions are false.
  5. He supported Osama Bin Laden and still supports terrorism.
  6. Many terrorists are inspired by him.
  7. He justified ISIS terrorists using female captives as sex slaves.
  8. He converts people to Islam and shows that on TV and in videos on his site.

The first two are issues of following the law of the land. If organisations taking foreign funds under FCRA are not allowed to use those funds for conversion and political activity, then IRF should be investigated and the law should take its course, as the saying goes. Similarly if he is still airing programme on Piece TV in spite of it being banned, he should be punished according to the law.

Zakir Niak does ridicule other religions and openly says that Islam if the only true religions, and Allah is the only true God. But so says the Islamic theology, including Quran. The protestations that Islam does not consider itself the only true religion are all wrong, it does. But so does Christianity. It is only Indic religions which don’t make this claim. One does not know how long they will remain open to the idea of एकं सद्विप्राह बहुदा वदन्ति. Zakir Naik is being only true to Islam when he says that there is only one true God, Allah; and only one true religion, Islam.

This is also true that he ridicules other religions. One can take two attitudes to it: one, if his ridicule crosses the boundary of relevant law he should be prosecuted, why ask straight for the ban? If that is what is meant by “stopping”. But a more liberal stand would be that ridiculing religions is a right of all citizens. Many of them, including Islam, have plenty of things fit to ridicule, and oppose.

His support for Islamic terrorism is somewhat circuitous, but it is there. Even his explanation in the media to absolve himself proves that. There is a clip in which he says that he supports Osama Bin Laden as the twin tower was an “inside” job by America and Osama is only terrorising the terrorist. His explanation: “This clipping, yes it is me saying it but it is out of context. I said a terrorist is a person who terrorises someone. I also gave an example that a policeman terrorises a robber. So, for a robber a policeman is a terrorist. In this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the anti-social element.” This is a spacious argument, and also shows the level of Dr. Naik’s logical acumen. America according to him is terrorising Muslims, therefore, Muslims should terrorise America. One hears similar arguments about India. It is simply a more ganwaroo version of the relatively sophisticated argument Indian intellectuals use all the time: that Islamic terrorism is a creation of structural injustice, that it is an expression of Muslim rage against injustices mated out to them. Poor Dr. Naik does not have that sophisticated language and those spacious theories to buttress his claim. This idea cannot be defeated by banning. Nor is it justified to ban such claims, they have to be examined and defeated in a fair public debate.

One does not know how far the claim that many terrorists are inspired by him is true. But as long as he does not directly abet, add and train terrorists it would be unfair to ban his speeches simply because some terrorists were his fans and said that they were inspired by him. A Hindu terrorist may be inspired by Gita (I know no such example of anyone saying this, but it is theoretically possible), and scores of terrorists actually say that they are inspired by the Quran. Would one ban Quran for that? Would one start a campaign to ban Gita if tomorrow someone says that he is inspired by Gits to commit a terrorist act? This is as good a logic as Zakir Naik uses.

He does justify ISIS terrorists making captured women sex slaves. But he justifies it on the basis of Quran. Chapter 23 of Quran begins with describing how the believers should behave and “who shall inherit the Firdaus (Paradise)” 23.11. In this description it says: “And those who guard their chastity (i.e. Private parts, from illegal sexual activity). Excerpt from their wives or (the slaves) that their right hand possesses, –for then they are free from blame”. (Verses 5 and 6). Maulana Azad claims that it is only after marrying the slave women. But then why mention them separately? After marriage they are “wives”? Dr. Naik also claims that the Quran’s treatment of slaves and prisoners of war is much superior to the UN charter.

In India one has the right to preach one’s religion and to convert people to it; as long as no force (and perhaps material enticement) is involved. Unless one proves that he used force or enticement (in case it is illegal, I am not sure) or cheating one cannot ban his conversions, even if they are shown on TV. Yes, in investigation can be started if what he shows on the TV is only a stage-managed drama (it looks like that) or real conversion. If it is found that it is only a drama, then he can be prosecuted for cheating people.

Zakir Nair’s arguments and logic

One example of his logic I have already given above, the policemen being a terrorist for a robber, etc. will just give one more, one can collect hundreds in his videos. Someone asked him that he preaches his religion and converts people to it freely in India, and most of the democracies allow this. But the Muslim majority countries do not allow preaching of other religions in their domains, what does he say on this? His answer is a classic of stupidity. In about 15 minutes circuitous laffajji what he says is this: In a classroom when a teacher teaching mathematics allows only one answer to 2+2, and that is 4. He does not allow it to be “5” or “3” or anything else. Because it is certain and it is the only truth. In a country once Islam is established no other religion can be allowed and the country has now achieved the truth. Allowing anything else will be deviating from the truth. This is exact meaning of that he said but not exact words. This shows the man’s quality of mind and level of understanding. He is not even honest. When the same question was asked after his video lecture in Oxford union all he sad is that yes, some countries do not allow, but it is their matter. He did not have a courage to repeat what he openly says in Bombay in a video lecture being transmitted to Oxford.

He is most famous for quoting from scriptures of religions other than Islam. Mostly to show that Muhamman is mentioned of predicted in Vedad, and other religious books. Actually all his quotes, verse numbers including the order in which he rattles them out come from only one book “Muhammad in World Scriptures”. It is written by an Ahmadia Muslim Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, and was first published in Urdu in 1936. The only credit Dr. Naik can take for these quotes is that of cramming it very well and rattling it very fast. None of the quotes actually support what he is trying to prove, this is only a trick for cheat gullible public.

But in spite of all this the most that can be demanded by the public is an investigation into his illegal actions related to his TV channel, his use of foreign funds and if he has any direct link with the terrorists. Banning his lectures or arresting him (on the charges and evidence that is in public domain, as far as I know) would be an attack on freedom of speech, and against the right to preach one’s religions. Zakir Naik’s views are ill-argued, bigoted, and obnoxious. His ‘scholarship’ is just a pretention. Zakir Naik is a bad news for humanity. But curtailing his freedom of expression would be a worst news for democracy and for humanity. Therefore, such people have to be allowed and youngsters have to be helped in seeing through their ill argued proclamations.