April 20, 2016
(@KLIA on the way back to Phnom Penh)
Zakir Naik: Peace Preacher or Hate Monger
by Dr. Lim Teck Ghee
Dr. Zakir Naik, the controversial Muslim televangalist, is no stranger to Malaysia. He was here first in 2012 to deliver lectures in Johor Baru, Shah Alam, Kuantan and Kuala Lumpur. According to the organizers of the first lecture series, their objective was to promote harmony among people of various religions.
He is now into his second lecture tour series here. Presumably his objective to spread the message of peace, love and brotherhood among the various religions and Islam remains unchanged.
But perhaps his presence is also to emphasise the superiority of Islam over other religions; and as stated in the website of the Islamic Research Foundation of which he is President and founder, “about the truth and excellence of Islamic teachings – based on the glorious Qur’an and authentic Hadith, as well as adhering to reasons, logic and scientific facts”?
His main claim to fame (and contrariety) in Malaysia comes from being recipient of the Ma’al Hijrah Distinguished Personality award by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah in 2013 for his significant service and contribution to the development of Islam. He has also received various other awards and honours – all from Islamic governments or organizations.
That said, his standing with some non-Muslim governments and organizations is less creditable and more controversial. The religious television channel, Peace TV, which acknowledges him as its main ideologue as well as driving force, has been banned by his own government, the Indian government, for its anti-Indian malicious content.
This is a reasonable statement
The station has also been in trouble with various broadcasting authorities for some of its content and Dr. Zakir himself has been banned from entry to the United Kingdom, Canada and Singapore – in the UK, for allegedly “engaging in unacceptable behaviour by making statements that attempt to justify terrorist activity and fostering hatred.”
It could be that Dr. Zakir has been unfairly targeted and victimized for his religious zealotry and popularity with the Muslim community. He has claimed, for example, that he has been quoted out of context for his views on terrorism.
But if he has been misquoted or has recanted for his earlier views on Al Queda and his support of Islamic terrorism, what are his perspectives on Islam and other religions which have enabled him to gain such a huge following among Muslims all over the world, and have him placed so high up on the pedestal?
Peace Preacher or Hate Monger.
Critics who have followed his lectures and preaching – Dr. Zakir, following the example of Christian telemarketers, describes himself as “a dynamic international orator of Islam and comparative religion – have expressed concern over his conservative and extremist views on a wide range of subjects, including apostasy and the propagation of other faiths in Islamic states, both of them major issues in Malaysia.
On the former, he is said to have argued that Muslims who convert from Islam should not necessarily receive death sentences, but that under Islamic rule those who leave Islam and then “propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam” should be put to death. Another source states that according to Dr. Zakir “there is no death penalty for apostates in Islam, until the apostate starts to preach his new religion; then he can be put to death.”
On the latter, Dr. Zakir has noted that while he appreciates that people of other religions allow Muslims to freely propagate Islam in their country, “the dissemination of other religions within an Islamic state must be forbidden because (he believes) other faiths are incorrect, so their propagation is as wrong as it would be for an arithmetic teacher to teach that 2+2=3 or 6 instead of 2+2=4.”
Similarly Dr. Zakir has argued, “regarding building of churches or temples, how can we allow this when their religion is wrong and when their worship-ping is wrong?”
Similarly, The Times of India in a profile piece on Dr. Zakir has argued that “the Wahabi-Salafist brand of Islam, bankrolled by petro-rich Saudi Arabia and propagated by preachers like Naik, does not appreciate the idea of pluralism.”
The article quotes Muslim scholar Wahiduddin Khan: “Dawah, which Naik also claims to be engaged in, is to make people aware of the creation plan of God, not to peddle some provocative, dubious ideas as Naik does.”
He adds: “The wave of Islamophobia in the aftermath of 9/11 and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have only added to the Muslims’ sense of injury. In such a situation, when a debater like Zakir Naik, in eloquent English, takes on preachers of other faiths and defeats them during debates, the Muslims’ chests puff with pride. A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives
A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives it a sense of pride. Never mind if it’s false pride.”
Whether Dr. Zakir should have the right to be in Malaysia and to speak on comparative religions may be controversial but in our part of the world apparently lacking appropriate Islamic “wise” men and leaders to look up to, hopefully it is not false pride that Dr. Zakir is peddling but the doctrinal and institutional re-caliberation of the religion so that Malaysians can be reassured of its contribution to our religious and racial peace and harmony.