This article has been authored by Sri Saif Ahmad Khan and is being published exclusively on Agniveer.
The personality whom I will be scrutinizing today is a controversial Islamic missionary hailing from India. Dr Zakir Naik is the Founder and President of Islamic Research Foundation which is based in Mumbai, the economic capital of India. He also runs a non-profit television channel called Peace TV. Dr Naik functions as a televangelist and gives scores of lectures every year in different parts of the world regarding Islam. He considers removing all sorts of misconceptions surrounding Islam and Islamic societies as the objective of his work.
He has also authored some books and founded an International Islamic School in Mumbai. Dr Naik is popular among his followers primarily because of his vast knowledge of the Quran and other major world scriptures belonging to different religions. He has memorized various scriptures in several languages and quotes the exact chapter and verse number while delivering his talks. He believes that it is not the opinions of religious leaders which matter but what is mentioned in the divine scriptures.
I would like to mention when and where I came to know about Dr Zakir Naik first. My maternal grandfather is an intellectual par excellence and has a deep penchant for writing and reading. The first time I heard Dr Naik speak on television was at my grandpa’s place. This happened more than half a decade ago and I was too young to construe as to what was being said. Hardly had time elapsed that my grandfather became disillusioned with Dr Naik. Being a libertarian and to some extent a follower of values propagated by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (who criticized polygamy and Hudood), my grandfather stopped listening to Dr Naik presumably because of his orthodox views.
I was reintroduced to Dr Naik by my younger cousin brother some days prior to I joined college. He had great fondness for Dr Naik’s knowledge and debating prowess. Initially, when I began to hear Dr Naik attentively, I was awestruck by his sharp memory and insightful knowledge of not only the scriptures of Islam but also of other faiths like Christianity and Hinduism. But as I began to evaluate Dr Naik thoroughly, I unveiled that aspect of his personality which caters to the fanatic fringe of Muslims.
The first objection which I would like to raise about Dr Naik is regarding his views on 9/11, Taliban and Osama Bin Laden. While delivering a lecture titled “Is terrorism a Muslim Monopoly”, Dr Naik alleged that 9/11 was an inside job and not the brainchild of Muslim miscreants. The evidence which he placed before the house was based on conspiracy theories mooted by documentaries on 9/11. He even suggested that the ones whom we see committing atrocities in the name of Taliban are actually not Talibanis because of the style of their turbans. Dr Naik echoed similar views during a famous episode of “We The People” on NDTV.
Through his lectures Dr Naik may condemn terrorism and extremism but to harbour and disseminate such views about 9/11 and Taliban is certainly not done. Dr Naik refused to acknowledge Osama Bin Laden as a terrorist. He believes that it is wrong to accuse him of terrorism based on the news reports of BBC. In one of his lectures when he was asked whether Osama Bin Laden is doing Jihad then he replied by stating, “If he is terrorizing the biggest terrorist ie America then I am for him.” It’s a matter of great regret that a person who was responsible for the murder of thousands of people including Muslims was lionized by Dr Naik. It’s totally dishonest on the part of Dr Naik to claim that 9/11 was an inside job based on conspiracy theories and turn a blind eye towards video tapes of Osama Bin Laden in which he has taken full responsibility for carrying out 9/11 and praised the inhumane terrorists who were a part of the plot. It’s far more dishonest to defend an organization like Taliban which is involved in bombing schools of innocent children. Unlike Dr Tahir Ul Qadri, who has issued a fatwa against “Suicide Bombing & Terrorism”, Dr Naik considers suicide bombing to be Islamically permissible as a last resort.
Defending terrorists like Osama Bin Laden isn’t the only controversial thing which Dr Naik has done. He has gone on to speak against rights of Non Muslims in Islamist countries. When a Sikh man asked him as to why were Non Muslims not allowed in Mecca and Medina whereas Non Sikhs were allowed to visit the Golden temple, Dr Naik replied by saying that maybe the Golden Temple was not as holy as Mecca and Medina. He further mentioned that Mecca and Medina were like cantonment areas with restricted entry. This kind of a defense of an exclusionary practice based on someone’s faith appears preposterous to me.
Dr Naik has also supported the illiberal laws of countries like Saudi Arabia where Non Muslims are not allowed to propagate their religion nor are they allowed to build their places of worship. Dr Naik reasons that no school would allow a teacher to say that 2+2=3. He says that since we Muslims are sure that Islam is the true religion as the Quran testifies, Non Muslims shouldn’t be allowed to propagate their religion in Islamist countries. This kind of reasoning sounds more unislamic than Islamic as Pagan Meccans prohibited Prophet Muhammad and the earliest Muslims from propagating Islam on account of the fact that their faith was correct and the Muslims were betraying their ancestors by practising a different faith.
Every person holds his faith to be true, therefore, it is extremely irresponsible to pass the kind of comments which Dr Naik has been passing since a long time. Going by that logic, people like Dr Zakir Naik shouldn’t be allowed to preach in Non-Muslim majority countries. Quiz Dr Naik about this and he says that where does the Bible or the Vedas say that Christianity or Hinduism is the true religion. To convince a fundamentalist like him regarding rights of all religious communities is to expect a tiger to start eating grass.
Dr Naik is far from being a reformer. In fact, his lectures strengthen orthodox dogmas and practices like that of polygamy. Dr Naik’s talks also reinforce the myth that women who dress up covering all their body parts don’t get raped. In his writings, Dr Naik has stated that if a lady is given a choice to choose between marrying a man who already has a wife or become public property then “all those who are modest will opt for the first.” His words are evident of deep misogyny and contempt towards females.
Suspicions can be raised even regarding Dr Naik’s penultimate ability of churning out verses from different scriptures. For instance, his contention that Rig Veda Book 1, Hymn 53, Verse 9 contains a prophecy regarding a battle fought by Prophet Muhammad is utterly false and based on gross distortions. A perusal of the hymn quoted by Dr Naik makes it clear that the hymn quoted is glorifying the bravery of the Vedic God Indra and not Prophet Muhammad. Religious leaders can play a very instrumental role in bringing warring communities together but people of the likes of Dr Zakir Naik are a bit difficult to understand. He may continue to bag peace awards and travel across the globe giving lectures to thousands of people but hypocrisy is a vice which easily gets exposed no matter how hard one tries to conceal it.
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Agniveer)
The writer is presently a student of journalism at the University of Delhi and has contributed articles and news pieces to several news websites and blogs including Youth Ki Awaaz: Mouthpiece For The Youth, India Opines , The Viewspaper, NewsYaps, Sportskeeda, The Parallel Post, Centre Right India, GroundReport, LoonWatch, Assyrian International News Agency, Media Khabar, Halabol, Only Kashmir, Free Press Kashmir, Legally India, DU Beat, University Express – An Outline Of Delhi University, Two Circles.net, Muslim Mirror.com, Dehradun Live, Campus Crunch Magazine, India Resists, Votegiri, India Community Digest, New Age Islam , Indian Muslim Observer, IndiPulse.com, Star Live 24, The Forthright and Invade Cafe.