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Zakir Naik And Indian Secularism

Prakash Nanda

Updated: July 9, 2016, 11:14 AM IST
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Zakir Naik And Indian Secularism
Digvijaya had in 2012 attended a conference organised by Zakir Naik

Congress leader Digvijaya Singh is worried. A very senior journalist, who until recently was editing a national daily is also worried. Both of them are worried over the fate of Zakir Naik, India's most talked-about preacher of Islam.

They apprehend that two "communal" governments – one led by Narendra Modi at the Centre and the other lead by Devendra Phadnavis in Maharashtra – are all set to harass and arrest the Mumbai-based televangelist, following complaints arising from Bangladesh that he has a large following of fanatic Muslims in that country, some of whom killed 22 people in a terror-attack at a coffee shop in Dhaka last week.

Both the veterans, one from the oldest national party of India which ruled India almost 54 years and the other who made his name and fame at one of the most influential media houses of the country claim themselves to be diehard “secularist”. For them, Zakir Naik cannot be said to be guilty as he has not been proved to be so by a court.

They seem to be of the view that Naik’s inflammatory speeches should be seen along with the similar inflammatory speeches by many BJP and RSS leaders. If the latter can be prosecuted, how can the former be taken to task, so run their argument.

I do not know if the former editor had some association or acquaintance with Zakir Naik. But the veteran Congress leader, who once had addressed Osama bin Laden as “Osama ji” and notorious Laskra leader Hafiz Saeed as 'Saeed Saheb', had in 2012 shared the dais with Zakir Naik.

Going by a video of the occasion, Singh had described Zakir Naik as a man "who spreads peace in the world". In fact, he had appealed that "Zakir Naik should travel all over India...I am very happy that he is spreading the message of peace....We need your message to reach the country."

No wonder why both Singh and the former editor have been telling everybody that the controversy over Zakir Naik is created by the ruling BJP to give a communal angle to the issue.

According to Singh, “The entire issue of Zakir Naik has been created and propagated by people who thrive on polarisation. BJP is the beneficiary of this polarisation, Congress is in fact losing because of this. Congress has always been liberal, modern and secular."

Going by this logic, it is secular to defend Zakir Naik, even though the televangelist has been banned from entry in countries like the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Malaysia and Indonesia for his inspiring sermons to the terrorists.

Naik is the founder and president of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organisation which also owns and broadcasts the free-to-air global Peace TV channel from Mumbai.

Incidentally, the Peace TV is not legal in India. But because of its popularity among Muslims, no Indian government has dared to take any action against it, lest its “secular” image would be tarnished.

This was particularly true in the UPA days when leaders like Singh were highly influential.

It may be noted that since Naik, unlike typical mullahs, wears western dresses (with a tie) and preaches mostly in English, his supporters are predominantly educated and well-to-do. That, perhaps, explains why the likes of Singh and the aforesaid editor – the typical Indian secularists - like Naik.

That also explains why the no sophisticated and traditional Muslim preachers do not consider Naik to be a true follower of Islam. In fact, following the recent attacks in Bangladesh, clerics of the Barelvi order in Bareilly city of Uttar Pradesh have demanded Naik’s arrest and a ban on his TV station.

"Naik's activities are against Islam and Indian culture”, says Maulana Asjad Raza Khan Qadri, Bareilly city qazi.

I have often argued that the more one talks of secularism in India the more communal he or she is in reality. In fact, these secularists cause as much harm to Islam as a religion as the terrorists and their supporters.

The idea of Islam for the terrorists is simple. And that is that Islam, the way they interpret, must prevail all over the world. They believe that once upon a time the Muslims were the most powerful and that their power has been lost in modern times because Islam has been abandoned by many Muslims, who have reverted to the condition that preceded God’s revelation to the Prophet Muhammad.

But if Muslims now return to the original Islam, they can preserve and even restore their power, so runs their argument. And this original Islam, revealed by the God through the Prophet, provides the one and only solution to all questions in this world, from public policy to private conduct; “it possesses an immutable law, revealed by God, that deals with every aspect of life, and it is an ideology, a complete system of belief about the organisation of the state and the world. This law and ideology can only be implemented through the establishment of a truly Islamic state, under the sovereignty of God.”

In my considered view, unlike terrorists of other religions, Islamic terrorists, invariably, justify their actions in the name of their religion. And unlike terrorists of other religions, whose goals are political and country-specific, Islamic terrorists have an international dimension.

They all believe in Wahabism that talks of the absolute supremacy of Islam over all other religions. They do not believe in pluralities of paths to reach the God. They have no faith in the concept of peaceful coexistence. They fight to strengthen their ultimate goal of establishing the Islamic domination all over the world. If they die in the process, they are “confident” of going to “paradise” of their God.

Unfortunately, Dr. Zakir Naik is one such Islamist. Let alone his justifications of suicide bombings and sex-slaves, he once said the following in reply to a question - Water is called by different names in different languages God is called by different names as Allah, Ram or Jesus; is it not one and the same?

“You can call water by various names in different languages, like water in English, paani in Hindi, tanni in Tamil, mai in Arabic, apah in Sanskrit, jal in shudh Hindi, jal or paani in Gujarati, pandi in Marathi, neer in Kannad, neeru in Telugu, vellam in Malayalam, etc. If a person tells me that his friend has advised that everyday early in the morning he should have one glass of paani, but he is unable to drink it because when he drinks it, he feels like vomiting. On enquiry he says that the paani stinks and it is yellowish in colour. Later I realise that what he is referring to as paani is not water but urine. Thus you can call water by different names having the same meaning but you cannot call other things as water or paani.

“People may think that the example is not realistic and I agree with them because even an ignorant person knows the difference between water and urine. He will have to be a fool to call urine 'water'. Similarly, when any person who knows the correct concept of God, sees people worshipping false Gods, he naturally wonders how a person cannot differentiate between a true God and false Gods”.

Similarly, when asked “Why do Muslims abuse non-Muslims by calling them 'kafirs'?”, Naik replies, “‘Kafir’ is derived from the word 'kufr', which means to conceal or to reject. In Islamic terminology, 'kafir' means one who conceals or rejects the truth of Islam and a person who rejects Islam is in English called a 'non-Muslim'. If any non-Muslim considers the word 'kafir' i.e. 'non-Muslim' an abuse, he may choose to accept Islam and then we will stop referring to him as or call him a kafir, i.e. a non-Muslim.”

This is the “peace” that Naik talks and Digvijay Singh is highly appreciative of. And for this Naik, our former editor is so worried now. After all, the typical “Indian secularists” that they are, there has to be one set of rules for majority Hindus and another set of rules for minorities—one can lambast Hindu beliefs, but he or she has to be very sensitive when matters pertain to minorities; the government can make and regulate laws for Hindus and their places of worship, but it cannot dare to touch the minorities, particularly the Muslims.

Let us realise the fact that Naik’s brand of Islam - Wahabism - is totally opposed to Sufism, the main guiding force of Muslims in the Indian subcontinent for ages that talked of peaceful and harmonious co-existence with other religions. But the vote-bank politics in recent years for politicians like Digvijay Singh and intellectuals like our “editor” is so pervasive that they are totally defensive and often apologetic to the champions of the xenophobic Wahabism that is dividing not only the Indians but also other “world citizens”.

First Published: July 9, 2016, 11:14 AM IST