Zakir Naik and his poverty of ideas by Commander (Rtd) S Thayaparan RMN
Wednesday, April 13, 2016
“People who change their religion should face the death penalty.”
- Zakir Naik
Malaysiakini : What
do Prime Minster Najib Abdul Razak and the so-called Muslim
intellectual Zakir Naik have in common? The answer is simple,
contemporary and demonstrative of the reality of Islam as opposed to the
assertion that it is a religion of peace. Both have received
recognition by the Saudi government for “service to Islam”.
Najib’s case, the recognition came in the form of a “donation” which was
subsequently returned or was it through intermediaries or shell
companies or complex financial legerdemain... I have lost track on
exactly how our prime minister received the monies for “defending Islam”
from the House of Saud.
Zakir, on the other hand, “was one of
five recipients of the King Faisal International Prize from Saudi
Arabia's King Salman”. Apparently the prize is awarded to those who work
in the “service of Islam”. Zakir, the well-known Indian Muslim (sic),
is controversial only to those who think that his rhetoric, which is
often times mendacious, hypocritical and prone to confabulations, is at
odds with any kind of rationality.
If you are familiar with
mainstream Islam, and I do not mean the “moderate Islam” that is
propagated by Western Muslims or Muslims who reside in the West and used
by middle path indigenous Muslims as political rhetoric in
multi-religious societies, then what Zakir says is harmonious with what
Muslims believe in most parts of the world.
However even the
dissonance of how Islam is practiced here in Malaysia, would take
someone like Zakir by surprise. Extremists are often surprised by the
virulence of their own beliefs. Take for instance the recent approved Home Ministry ruling
that “barred the publication and reading of the Muslim holy book in
non-Arabic languages, saying it was against the law unless accompanied
by Arabic text.”
Listen to what Harussani Zakaria, chairperson of
the Home Ministry’s Al-Quran Printing, Control and Licensing Board, said
- “the Quran was first written in Arabic and must be kept in that form”
- asserting too that anyone who read the original scriptures would reap
spiritual rewards even without understanding them.
this for a minute. People like Harrussani and Zakir often remind people
that they should not comment on Islam without first doing research on
the religion or consulting with “religious” scholars, and here we have
someone like Harussani claiming that blindly reciting religious text in a
language that one is not familiar with or even comprehending, will
reap, spiritual rewards. So what kind of intellectuals, “internal”
or otherwise, are they exposing young Muslims to?
Is there any need for
Muslim scholars or intellectuals, when according to Harrussani
spiritual rewards are possible without understanding or hard work but
with blind recitation in a foreign tongue? Hidayah Centre
Foundation programme director Abu Shariz Sharajoon Hoda who organised
the conference, which has received flak from the numerous Hindu/Indian
(sic) groups opposed to the idea that a bigot like Zakir should be given
a platform here in Malaysia, claimed "non-Muslims have opportunities to
come and ask questions, and openly clear their doubts first hand...
don't have to go through speculations on social media which are untrue."
is quaint considering the fact that anyone with access to an internet
connection can interact with Zakir through his numerous social media
platforms. Furthermore, why should non-Muslims have to wait for an
opportunity to clear their doubts or ask questions about Islam with this
bigot? Why can’t we ask questions and engage in debate through the
various media available in our so-called democratic country?
answer is simple of course. We non-Muslims are constantly reminded that
we should “not interfere” with Islam, even though Islam interferes in
our lives. Malays are constantly reminded that Islam needs defending.
Not a fan of pluralism
is why Isma (Malaysian Muslim Solidarity) carries a comment piece,
titled ‘Aren’t liberals the most hypocrite?’ (the title is amusing on
various levels but I digress…), where an extremist position is used as
example to propagate free speech and point to “liberal hypocrisy”. “An
interfaith dialogue by Dr Zakir Naik doesn’t set a middle ground so
that a win-win situation can be achieved by all religions. As a matter
of fact, he’d established Islam as the true and only religion so
brilliantly that others might seem to be swayed (read: threatened) by
“And that’s why liberals are not so fond of him, as he doesn’t
promote pluralism as most of interfaith dialogues organised by them are
doing. When it doesn’t work the way that they wanted, they’ll go all
out to ban it altogether and in this case, use all means to have it
prevented from happening.” Conveniently leaving out the point that
if any other religious adherents, say Christians, Hindus or Buddhists,
who made the same claim, would be charged with sedition, treason,
insulting the monarchy and the numerous other state-sanctioned mechanism
created to “defend Islam”.
Muslims who find succour in the words
of Zakir, and according to the likes of Isma, Amanah and PAS, are
legion, have always had a problem with free speech. Which is why Harakah
can pontificate in an op-ed piece ‘Hidupkan budaya berdialog. Bukan
hentam-manghentam’ and at the same time fail to acknowledge all the
times that they have waged war on free speech and expression in defence
of their religion.
Moreover, waging war is what the likes of Zakir
and his ilk do. Zakir may run a well-received propaganda media channel
mendaciously named ‘Peace TV’ but the reality is that he and his
adherents understand that it is really about domination and control. The language is there for all to see. So-called Islamic intellectuals like Isma get their knickers in a twist when the Zakir conference is banned or cancelled, retracting their claim
Najib is a war general - “At a time when Muslims, who form the majority
in Malaysia, are faced with numerous attacks, Najib who is supposedly
the ‘war general’ remains quiet” - propagating the state-sponsored meme
that Islam is under threat from the non-Muslims.
In other words,
Najib is perceived as a war general against a specific racial and
religious demographic that he supposedly claims to represent. All this
because of a scholar, who has proven to be a demagogue, charlatan and
peddler of hate. Should Zakir be banned? We should not even have to ask this question. Anyway, anyone reading my work for Malaysiakini, would know what my answer to that question, would be.
S THAYAPARAN is Commander (Rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.