“Beware of Muslims saying Osama Bin Laden is right or wrong. I reject them ... we don’t know.
“But if you ask my view, if given the truth, if he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him.
“I don’t know what he’s doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. If he is terrorising the terrorists, if he is terrorising America
the terrorist ... I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
This is an extract taken from a recent speech delivered by Zakir Naik in his native Mumbai. Most of us have the misfortune to encounter Naik on an almost daily basis, pumped in to our homes either by the Ironically named Peace TV, the Islam Channel, or the multitude of sub-continental TV Networks who are either bribed (or just stupid enough) to air his speeches! While those of us who are genuinely peace loving try to avoid and disassociate from him at any cost, English residents will soon have little choice! Zakir Naik was thrust in to UK mainstream media this weekend, as a result of the home office decision to grant him a visa to visit, lecture and tour England later this month.
The mammoth convention, euphemistically titled ‘peace convention 2010, will take in London, Sheffield and Birmingham in an alleged effort to increase and enhance understanding between faith communities across the UK.
Little is known about the wider content of this programme and the speakers to be featured, but Naik certainly tops the bill, presumably the organisers believe that any publicity is good publicity, and they are pinning success on Naik’s rare ability to regurgitate those facts he has on recall re: world religion and his own Islam.
A doctor by profession, it is unclear how/where Naik gained his Islamic knowledge. He is one of a new group of medical professionals who “see the light”, ditching medicine for a career in religion, and they’ve certainly profited at every turn! DR Israr Ahmed and DR. Farhat Hussain hashmi are 2 of the most wealthy professionals on Pakistan’s rich list. Naik however, has an edge over them and others like them. From humble religious beginnings, what sparked his rise to fame was his apparent extensive studies in to world religions. Naik claimed to have studied the bible, the torah and the full pantheon of Hindu religious texts, and it showed!! Naik could rime off parrot fashion huge sections from the aforementioned texts, thus appearing able to take on religious scholars of the world with ease and skill! No one knows how he trained himself to do this, whether he went through NLP etc, but whether he did or didn’t, he sure does have a God-Given talent for recall, (But God help you should you try to deviate from the path/portions his memory can accommodate!).
What is that famous British saying, about how you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can never fool all of the people all of the time!
Increasing numbers of Muslim faithful became aware of Naik’s strange debating techniques (for want of a better word!). His staple was to perpetually call the shots, he would name his opponent, venue and topics for discussion, and would never answer any question on the spot! He would also restrict his answering time to between 60/90 seconds, thus limiting any possibilities for a meaningful answer to be given! He held a number of “Dawa training sessions”, which appeared to be more about indoctrinating would-be activists in the art of indoctrinating others! As Muslims, we are taught that we have a responsibility to spread and share our faith with others, …., fine! But must we brain wash them in to taking the plunge? Can’t the facts speak for themselves!
Naik’s lectures stepped up a gear, he was speaking all over the world and generating new heights of interest! He was the favourite of extremist movements such as the Pakistan based Tabligi jamat, while his own TV Channel granted him 24/7 exposure to the masses, wherever they may be! But people noticed a palpable change in delivery: no longer were his lectures short, concise, punchy and with an interfaith focus, they became longer, more militant and very angry! The style changed too; Naik would often disappear off in to a long angry rant, spurting out unrelated threats and hate filled sweeping statements such as the one at the top of this post! The shia in particular (and a great many sunis) began to boycott Naik when in 2008 he was asked a question on the happenings during muherram, and in particular, who Yazeed (LA) was. Naik began by admitting that he didn’t really know who Yazeed was, but then added that he was a rightly guided khalifa, a peace-loving man who had got in to a “fight” with the Prophet Mohammed’s Grandson. According to Naik, the “fight” in question was nothing more than a tussle between princes, and while it physically appeared to pain Naik to take the name of Hussain (A.S), his every mention of the tyrant sparked the traditional wahabi refrain of (May Allah be pleased with him!).
The obvious contradictions, coupled with a blatant lack of knowledge and argument displayed here exposed naik to much greater criticism and scrutiny from his followers and from the mass media, and its fair to say that he’s been keeping his head down, restricting his rants to his own channel and those diehard devotees who hang on his every word! So, it came as quite a shock to most of us to learn that a UK Muslim charity had invited Naik to top the venue at their peace seminar!
The seminars have been organised and fronted by Al Khaire foundation, a UK based charity running several Islamic schools and co-ordinating a number of humanitarian projects across the middle East and south Asia. Though carrying some obvious wahabi undertones, the organisation has appeared harmless thus far, their accounts are in order, and they, like Naik, tend to keep themselves to themselves! But this new conference has elevated them well above the station they have previously been comfortable with! On one level they seem to be relishing the new found fame they are generating, while on another, their management of this event leaves almost every thing to be desired! Despite the obvious security threats that are part and parcel of bringing a controversial figure like Naik to the UK, Al Khaire Foundation have turned their own TV Network, Iqra TV, in to a training ground for the staff, volunteers and attendees for each conference! A pumped up religious leader spends hours a day preaching about their seating plans, seating allocation policies and the security arrangements for the day, practically giving trouble makers and protesters an open invitation to infiltrate their programme! He also informed us that Al Khaire had established a “disaster committee” (good job, seems like they’ll be needing it!), and they needed it allot sooner than initially anticipated, when news of Naik’s arrival hit the mainstream press! Al Khaire have gone out of their way to invite the media, dignitaries, MPs, government officials and other people with power to attend this event, presumably because they believe it will grant them the q-dos that a figure like Naik so desperately needs! Rather naively it seems, they assumed journalists would blindly take up this invite, not stopping to investigate Naik and the purpose behind such a programme. Before the unsuspecting volunteers knew it, a hate campaign against Naik had taken over the press, and now it appears questionable as to whether or not any of the events will go ahead after all (what will happen to that poor presenter’s seating plan!!).
While only time will tell how this particular drama will draw to a conclusion, one thing is certainly clear: there are plenty to benefit out of Naik, his hate, his controversy and his visit! His faithful benefit as they get a live chance to bask in his “wisdom” in real time. Al Khaire foundation definitely benefit, because despite the fact that they’ve wasted more than half a billion Pounds securing each venue Naik will speak at, they are selling tickets (very, VERY! Important Person’s tickets to be exact!), for 1000£ a piece, including a front roe seat at the show, individual attention, protocol and a back-stage pass to dinner with the man of the moment! Crazy you may say, but they are getting the money; and allot more besides! If only those with money to chuck away knew I could barely pay my fuel bills, maybe they’d chuck some my way as well!
Then there is the media: Naik’s plethora of TV channels will have material to play out for the next 6 months, and a great many of his staff based in India are getting a free holiday out of the tour as they travel to “support” him here. UK Muslim media will get their slice of the cake too, and if Peace TV have been slick about it, they are doubtless charging thousands for broadcast rights, which most of these channels are stupid enough to pay for!
Then there is the mainstream media here in the UK: they are not preaching against Naik for the sake of it! given that the conservatives appear to have secured Election victory purely on the basis of their barbaric immigration policies, Naik’s visit is the perfect opportunity for Tory hating journalists to put the boot in! and while the tories are rising to the challenge, it suits them to have Naik here: he is radical, but not violent (yet, any way!). He is definitely insightful, and thus fulfils a niche for the government; providing them with apparently justifiable ammunition on which they can build a case for banning Muslims (and in particular Islamic scholars) from visiting the UK overall.
It is the rest of us, the silent majority, sunis, shias, Muslims, committed to love, tolerance and harmony in our country, who are stuck in the middle of all these primary and secondary gains! When people ask me about Naik and figures like him, I am lost in a vile undercurrent which only looks set to ruin me; if I defend him, I am defending sectarian and interfaith hatred, which of course I’d never do, but if I shun him, I lose the support of a great many Muslims and face threats of violence and internet hate campaigns myself! My advice? Well, am not sure I have any! Other than keep your own head down, and pray that the home office have enough common sense to evoke his visa; God knows they have refused enough in the way of innocent activists over the past couple of years, now they have a chance to do right; save us from this hate mongering self-proclaimed terrorist who promises to bring nothing but destruction and tyranny to the Muslim community and beyond!
….., The drama continues!