By Arshad Alam, New Age Islam
12 September, 2016
It is rather rich of Zakir Naik to write an open letter to the government about his perceived sense of persecution at the hands of Indian authorities. As I have written in previously, every person including Zakir Naik should be probed within the due process of law. To create conditions in which he is forced to live outside India without a clinching evidence is hardly excusable. That he is followed by thousands of Muslims who have not become terrorists is proof enough that there is a complex set of causative factors behind every act of terror. A complex phenomenon such as terrorism should not be simplified as the result of the teaching and sermons of some individual.
Zakir Naik’s letter however goes further. It accuses the government of the day of selectively targeting Muslims. Zakir Naik becomes the victim within this narrative by becoming one of the 170 million of India’s Muslims.
The problem starts right here. A majority of Muslims here are poor and uneducated and mostly do not have a voice. On comparison, Zakir Naik owns a million-dollar enterprise and has a powerful lobby fighting for his defence. How then can he compare himself with the average Indian Muslim?
Moreover, Zakir Naik speaks openly against the religious practice of the majority of Indian Muslims. He has accused them of being open to polytheism and not following the correct tenets of Islam. How then does he become one of them? Clearly his ideas about Islam is much at variance with that of the majority of Indian Muslims. And that’s precisely the reason why he cannot represent the majority of Indian Muslims. For almost all major schools of Islam in India, barring Salafi-Wahhabi-Ahl-e-Hadeesi, Zakir Naik represents something other than Islam; in fact, the majority even refuse to certify him as a religious scholar.
It sounds patently hypocritical when Zakir Naik talks about ‘murder of democracy’ and violation of ‘fundamental rights’. Of course, all this is peppered by the undertone of ‘justice’ which he argues has been denied in his case. Talking in terms of democracy and rights would almost make Zakir Naik a believer in these secular ideas. However, all his own speeches and conduct have belied this.
A person who sings praises for the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, accepts their hospitality and prize is now talking about democracy and human rights. Why didn’t he remember them when the Saudis gave him millions to promote their ideology of Islamism? As a champion of democracy, why did he accept Saudi money when it is well documented that there are flagrant violations of all kinds of rights in that kingdom. What kind of democracy is he talking about when his mentor hangs and stones people for petty crimes in full public view?
There cannot be any doubt that Zakir Naik is talking about democracy and rights without even believing an iota in these concepts. After all, didn’t his Islamist predecessors argue that democracy was a system of men and what they wanted was to bring the system of God? Has Zakir Naik all of a sudden turned secular when confronted with man-made laws?
In the same letter, Zakir Naik argues that he is promoting peace and harmony in society through developing an understanding of Islam. Again, he probably knows that this is not the case. Through his erroneous understanding of the text, he has created newer religious schisms within the Muslim society so much so that there was a fatwa against him. If he cannot create harmony even within Muslim society, then heaven only knows how he is going to create peace and harmony within the Indian society. His sermons actually have the opposite effect: of promoting enmity between different religious groups in society.
If one is hell bent on arguing that Islam is the best religion in the world and that polytheism of the Hindus is a backward and deplorable religious worldview, then how does this promote peace and tolerance? If he continues to justify that Islam alone is the saviour of world, then how does this promote peace and mutual respect? Calling such sermons of a third rate pedant as dialogue militates against the very idea of a dialogical plural world. Zakir Naik is not interested in dialogue: he is a fascist demagogue who wants the entire world to convert to his point of view.
His hypocrisy on democracy begins to unravel the minute he takes recourse to the Quran. There are many passages within the text to cite in terms of pluralism and tolerance. But to quote the verse which tells Muslims to be patient and wait for their eventual victory over the polytheists is perhaps too much. This is not a man who is a believer in the virtues of secular laws like democracy. This is a man who wants to unfurl the Islamic flag everywhere, demean and trounce all other religious traditions. The recourse to democracy and the language of rights are only a means to an end: that of establishing the supremacy of Islam.
Arshad Alam is a NewAgeIslam.com columnist.