Too close for comfort

Naik rose to fame by helping Muslims frame a response in a post 9/11 world, to insistent questions linking Islam and violence, and where the Muslim herself had come to doubt her identity and religion.

Written by Shireen Azam | Updated: September 19, 2016 12:11 am
Zakir Naik, Zakir Naik terrorism, Zakir Naik terrorist, Islam, Muslims, Qtv, terrorism, Quran, indian express columns, indian express The irony seems to be that Naik has been convincing Muslims that they are not terrorists while seemingly inspiring some of them to be terrorists.

Somewhere around 2004 or 2005, a family friend came to our house and told us to find “Q-tv” on cable and watch it at 7 pm. This zabardast speaker, Zakir Naik, is demolishing misconceptions about Islam using logic and science, we were told. We did, and there he was, saying the media is “picking a few black sheep” and “projecting as if Islam is asking them to do unlawful activities”. He would tell Muslims to keep a step-by-step answer ready in case friends, colleagues or security guards chide them about Muslims’ association with terrorism: Which madrasa did Hitler pass from? Of the many Muslims in the world how many are terrorists? Islam is a religion of peace, he insisted. He taught responses to questions Muslims were constantly hounded to answer: Why polygamy? Isn’t the burqa repressive?

Naik rose to fame by helping Muslims frame a response in a post 9/11 world, to insistent questions linking Islam and violence, and where the Muslim herself had come to doubt her identity and religion. Many Muslims found solace in Naik’s attempt at de-demonising Islam. However, Naik used the momentum gained from proving that Islam has been wrongly demonised, to fish the other end — that not only is Islam not the worst, it’s actually the best.

The irony seems to be that Naik has been convincing Muslims that they are not terrorists while seemingly inspiring some of them to be terrorists.

Everyone has been trying to find Naik’s dangers in singular utterances — that he supports Osama if he is terrorising “the terrorist America”, that suicide bombing may be allowed as a last resort, attacks on other religions, and several misogynist explanations of sexual violence.

Little attempt has been made to understand the dynamic of what happens in Naik’s two-hour-long lectures. Naik’s real danger, in which we all are implicated, is in the larger structure through which he has gained legitimacy, and within which the definitiveness of truth and justified violence have been sold to an audience who think of themselves as modern, liberal and hold scientific truths in high esteem.

Most attempts to understand Naik churn out the age-old rant of religion vs modernity: That Naik and his followers lack modern ways of thought and are blinded by religious passion. The incongruity between Naik’s constant invocation of “logic” and “peace”, and his inability to see beyond his rigid truth is understood by a simplistic relation — of hypocrisy. However, Naik’s following has not come despite modernity and reason, but through it. Naik has gained legitimacy from eschewing traditional religious authority, incorporating religious unbelief as a valid option and staging the illusion of choice. What counts as logic and rational argument in Naik’s speeches could be contested for authenticity, but in using the form, Naik is already within the public sphere.

Naik has been justifying his interpretations of controversial tenets in the Quran not by invoking any “special Islamic thought” but by borrowing logical premises from institutions in the secular world. Consider his reply to how can god be so egoistical as to punish people who do not believe in him. “Suppose tomorrow there is a student studying with you, he writes wrong answers. and teacher says both get first class first. Will you be happy with the teacher?” “No” says the respondent. “Because you believe in justice”

Naik plays this trick with examples across topics, on why polygamy is allowed because the female zygote is stronger and “statistically” there are more women in the world; violence can be justified in select cases because in a war an American officer would kill Vietnam’s soldiers.

Each of Naik’s “logical” arguments can be contested easily. But the question to cross-check is not if there are more women in the world, but how Naik and his followers are treating god as operating within the constraints of the natural world; a god who devises polygamy to correct the consequences of the female zygote being stronger. What does it mean that people who value reason think of Naik’s explanations as rational? Does it say anything about the sensibilities of the modern world: What is being scientific outside the lab or rational outside textbooks?

Naik’s case shows that the lack of aptitude to reason is not the mark of religious fundamentalism. It demonstrates how flimsily reason and logic have been conceptualised in the public sphere and how easy it is to justify religious violence from everyday examples of the secular world. The idea of the rational has been conceptualised entirely as a boisterous negation of what is religious. To appropriate the rhetoric of reason is easy, as has been done by modern states for patriotic wars and “growth”, overriding pain, environmental damage, inequality. How is Naik especially different? Is Naik a fundamentalist because he is sure of his rigid truth, or because he says violence can be justified on some occasions?

The purpose is not to defend the hateful Naik, but to simultaneously incriminate the structures through which he is able to convince people. Naik’s version of religion, far from being primitive, is an embarrassingly evolved version of how a rational religion was conceived post-Enlightenment, which has no interest in divinity and only in “belief” modelled on positivist truth. Naik’s legitimacy has come from being able to mimic structures deemed rational. His audience is one which has internalised both the good and true of the modern world and the humiliation meted out to Islam in it. To think of fundamentalism as an island with no relation to the structures in which we live is to miss the real danger.

The writer, 24, works for ‘Economic and Political Weekly’ and has written on Zakir Naik

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First Published on: September 19, 2016 12:00 am
  1. H
    Hemant Kumar
    Sep 19, 2016 at 4:13 am
    This lady is SHAITAAN. She uses complicated rigmarole to criticize rationalism and support Zakir Naik.
    Reply
    1. I
      Indian Muslim
      Sep 21, 2016 at 6:58 am
      I dont like Zakir naik Hairs, some of them are black and some of them are white
      Reply
      1. I
        Indian Muslim
        Sep 21, 2016 at 7:00 am
        Zakir naik is anti national, because once i met him tried to shake hand but he didnt see me at all
        Reply
        1. K
          K SHESHU
          Sep 19, 2016 at 2:30 pm
          Naik defends ' logically' illogical tenets of Islam and appeals to the people by showing supremacy of religion
          Reply
          1. A
            abuhasan
            Sep 19, 2016 at 7:03 pm
            He just demonstrate the real source of other religions , ask the follower of theses religions to (use logic), and just follow the guidance of their historical holy books. Regards
            Reply
            1. A
              Abu Basim Khan
              Sep 19, 2016 at 5:29 am
              What about Sadhvi,Yogi, Togadia and Sudarshan TV channels,and others are Saint.They are preacher of hate and violence.Dr. Zakir Naik challenged to keep one side my speeches and another side Togadia speech and compare.It is clear sign of Anti Muslims mind set of Indian ruling regime.
              Reply
              1. A
                alam
                Sep 19, 2016 at 5:21 pm
                WHAT DOES THE WRITER WANTS TO SAY???????????
                Reply
                1. A
                  ambrosial crap
                  Sep 18, 2016 at 8:37 pm
                  Every blind-fan of Mr. Naik should read this article.
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    anand
                    Sep 19, 2016 at 11:00 am
                    Answer to this simple question - why are you suspected in every country today?
                    Reply
                    1. A
                      anand
                      Sep 19, 2016 at 11:03 am
                      Good Joke. Now, tell me, why are you seen with suion in every country!
                      Reply
                      1. N
                        Nazeer Rahman
                        Sep 19, 2016 at 9:18 am
                        Its a pity that half learned authors are speaking as if they have understood the world, whereas people like ZakirNaik who had put years of hardwork in understanding various religious books which includes Quran, Bible, and the Vedas had to answer these less knowledgeable persons like the author and Mr.Arnab Gouswami etc. No one is perfect in this world, he might here and there would have said something during that time, but in context its easily gettable whereas if you start scrutiny into it then you can interpret as you want to be.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;Yes Islam says marry 4, but, but if you are capable of giving equal justice, the author lives in wonderland that if you go by number the extra marital affairs around the world will be shocking. Yes Islam says women should be covered fully, I was shocked to see my recent visit to chennai and Delhi where most of the women had covered fully, not for religious reason but to protect them from heat and in the process the evil eyes on these women was also protected. Theres a logic behind every verse in Quran which Zakirnaik explains. I hope this author knows about another indian born Ahmed Deedat who was the mentor of zakir naik who started all these. Understanding bible and quran and bringing in equality between them and the differences. Highly renowned scholars of Christianity failed to win over Ahmed Deedat shows the amount of knowledge these person posses. Not like the half baked authors. Quran is proven 80% proven logically and scientifically 100% correct and the rest 20% of Quran is yet to be proven and is unambigious, hence logically should also be correct. But who cares coz these kind of authors lack patience and need to study quran, hence they simply write what they see, possibly picking something out of some western authors.lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;To make it clear, muslims never look for zakir naik as a messenger, we see him as another teacher who teaches Quran and also make us understand what other books has to say. For all the muslims, Allah and Quran are the basis of being a muslim, neither the mullahs or naiks can take that away from anyone. lt;br/gt;lt;br/gt;There are several killings inspired by Hitler, ETA, VHP, RSS. Will you please talk about that rather than bashing zakir naik who is doing yeoman service to Islam. Jaihind
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Sayyed Matinuddin
                          Sep 19, 2016 at 8:16 am
                          watch biblical history on National Geography !
                          Reply
                          1. S
                            Sayyed Matinuddin
                            Sep 19, 2016 at 8:20 am
                            wrong, zakir naik have explored other religions too!! and most of the people, one can not get an apple to apple comparison when it comes to religion, so to find a common ground in order to live in peace! means to you your and to me main!
                            Reply
                            1. S
                              Shaz
                              Sep 19, 2016 at 9:39 am
                              Brother I would like to suggest you to go on YouTube,dr. Zakir Naik's official page and see full talks.
                              Reply
                              1. S
                                sanjay
                                Sep 19, 2016 at 2:07 pm
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                                Reply
                                1. S
                                  sanatani
                                  Sep 20, 2016 at 3:54 am
                                  "Taaran" means liberation from the cycles of births and deaths. Not "beating". And please read authentic versions of Hindu scriptures and not the ones (mis)translated by missionaries or people like naik :)
                                  Reply
                                  1. S
                                    sanatani
                                    Sep 20, 2016 at 3:56 am
                                    Yup...same way, even Hindu scriptures must be read and interpreted rightly.
                                    Reply
                                    1. D
                                      debabrata
                                      Sep 19, 2016 at 1:46 am
                                      Very true. Our modernistic outlook conditions us to believe- I am special, my job is special, my education is special, my reasoning and understanding is special....has left us devoid of the capability of being humble. Zakir Naik appeals to this very ego of the modern man....that you fellow Muslim- not only have you special knowledge of god, but you can rediscover him 'logically' by 'understanding' the relegious scripture. It is an appeal to the ego of the listener and confirmation of his 'specialness'. God has been reduced to the status of a pizza...an item of consumption for satisfaction.
                                      Reply
                                      1. D
                                        debabrata
                                        Sep 19, 2016 at 8:42 am
                                        Ha ha ha....biblical history of ng us proof of existance of god....you people really have some extra bit of iq
                                        Reply
                                        1. F
                                          Fahim
                                          Sep 20, 2016 at 12:52 pm
                                          Zakir naik does not know anything about islam and even humanity. Many of his statements can be easily answered if some one sitting in the crowd have enough knowledge of islam. But nobody asks him. And if someone dares to speak, there are few people around him to silent that person. He is a satan.
                                          Reply
                                          1. g
                                            guru592006
                                            Sep 19, 2016 at 3:25 pm
                                            There is no holy book for hindus. It is an open religion. The true Hinduism is always evolving and always fresh.
                                            Reply
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