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LAST_UPDATESat, 23 Jun 2018 10am

Is There Reason For Malaysians To Be Afraid Of Preacher Zakir Naik?

When police barred the talk by prominent international preacher from India, Dr Zakir Naik, scheduled on April 17 and to be held at University Technical Malaysia Melaka (UTeM), it stirred a commotion and sent many debates flying on social media.

But who is he? Dr Zakir Naik whose full name is Zakir Abdul Karim Naik, was born on October 18, 1965 in Mumbai, India. He is a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS) from the University of Mumbai and worked as a doctor in Mumbai. However in 1991, he resigned to become a full-time Islamic preacher. He is married with two children, Fariz Zakir Naik and Rushda Naik.

Dr Zakir Naik was inspired by Islamic preacher Ahmed Deedat, world-renowned scholar on comparative religion and active missionary for over 40 years. Before becoming an active missionary himself, Dr Zakir Naik has travelled in numerous countries around the world to give talks. In India alone, tens of thousands locals consisting of Muslims, Christians, Hindus and atheists attended his debates and talks. Those who came not only wanted to gain knowledge about the religion but also posed questions to clear their doubts.

One of Dr Zakir Naik’s best traits is that he is blessed with a strong memory. Not only is he able to memorise the verses of the Quran and the hadith of Bukhari and Muslim, but he also memorises scriptures of other religions such as the Bible, the Vedas, the Tripitaka, and the Bhagavad Gita.

He also has the ability to analyse the contents of the Bible and throw questions to his audiences during the question and answer sessions at his talks. To prove what a great man he is, this is evident through his talks via the Peace TV channel which is also broadcasted on YouTube.

In a statement, Hindraf Chairman P. Waythamoorthy, urged the government to immediately cancel the series of talks by Dr Zakir Naik lined up in several cities in Kuala Lumpur and Terengganu. Waythamoorthy claimed the teachings of the “deviant foreign preacher” was not in line with the Ahli Sunnah Wal Jamaah (ASWAJA), which Malaysia observes as the official faith for Muslims in the country.

However, it is rather strange when a Hindu claims Dr Zakir Naik’s teaching is not in line with the ASWAJA, because does Waythamoorthy even have knowledge in this field or about Islam?

His actions were followed by Penang Deputy Chief Minister II, Prof Dr P Ramasamy, who described Dr Zakir Naik as "Satan" in his Facebook status, before deleting it three hours later. His Facebook status has garnered mixed reactions among netizens who regard his actions were rude and brash.

MIC Youth leader C Sivarraajh also claimed that Dr Zakir Naik uses demeaning tactics to undermine other religions which could spark unrest without weighing the respect and sensitivity of others, and has lodged a police report nationwide.

Sivarraajh also stated that they handed a memorandum to the Home Minister and the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) urging organisers to stop the talks. Similarly, Malaysian Indian Progressive Association (Mipas) urged Putrajaya to ban Dr Zakir Naik from the country and lodge a police report at the Sentul police station.

It is saddening to see the resistance against Dr Zakir Naik not only coming from the non-Muslims but also the Muslims. President of the Malaysian ASWAJA, Ustaz Zamihan Mat Zin also agreed Dr Zakir Naik should be barred in the country, saying religious authorities, the Home Affairs Ministry and the police must ban the preacher. According to him, Dr Zakir Naik is a foreign speaker who should be screened in advance to avoid religious controversy, in order to protect the ecosystem of the Malaysian ASWAJA from any unwanted harm.

But ironically, Dr Zakir Naik was previously awarded with the ‘Tokoh Ma'al Hijrah Distinguished Personality International Award of 2013’, which was presented by the Yang Dipertuan Agong Malaysia, Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, in Putrajaya. And in contrast now, he is banned from giving his talk “Similarities between Hinduism and Islam” based on public order and sensitivities of the multi-religious society.

Datuk RS. Mohan Shan, president of the Malaysia Hindu Sangam’s (MHS), wrote an official protest letter dated 7 April 2016, addressed to the IGP, along with an attached copies to the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Education Minister, UMT, UTeM, also Nicholas Sylvester of Hidayah Centre, which has been spread on social networks.

In his letter, Mohan Shan accused the organisers of trying to influence, and forcing other religions to join Islam simply because the invitation to Dr Zakir Naik’s programmes encouraged non-Muslims to attend his talks.

The fact is, there is no compulsion for non-Muslims to attend Dr Zakir Naik’s talks. And if they do attend, it only means they are curious to find out more. Plus, if it really is sensitive, why didn’t the Chinese oppose his arrival as well, seeing as there are many Chinese Christians in Malaysia?

Shouldn't the Chinese too feel threatened by the eloquent preacher who had also compared the Bible and the Quran? So, is this ban applicable because Datuk Zakir Naik hails from Mumbai, India, and not Xinjiang or Linxia, China?

Could it be because Dr Zakir Naik does not know how to speak Chinese, and is not an expert in Chinese philosophy, therefore, his arrival is not seen as a significant threat to the Chinese but rather the Indians?

In India, according to the religious demographics issued by the Indian government in 2011, an estimated one billion people are Hindus and this is equivalent of 79.8% of the 1.2 billion population. As compared with Islam, which is a minority religion in India, with only 14.2% of the country's population.

Even the Indian government that are led by the Hindus, had allowed Dr Zakir Naik to run his own TV station, and hold his talks openly in Mumbai. It is apparent that the Hindu society in India do not feel the slightest threat from him.

Dr Zakir Naik grew popular because he was able to give good answers to challenging questions posed by his audiences during his talks. He also provided them with great insights in his answers, quoting the Quran, Hadith, along with scientific facts, and in addition to giving input based on different religions.

He simply translates and interprets Hindu scriptures and excerpts from the Bible that are already in existent, and without the intention to insult nor belittle the faiths of others. He basically clears any doubts for those who may not be clear with any religious teachings. And in saying which, only those who are narrow-minded would feel that Dr Zakir Naik is trying to insult their faith.

In a press conference on 11 April 2016 at Hotel Putra, Kuala Lumpur, Multiracial Reverted Muslims (MRM) president Firdaus Wong Wai Hung, said Dr Zakir Naik never taught anyone to insult other religions or use harsh words during his talks. Both Fridaus and Azran Chan are Chinese Muslim who were handpicked among four other Malaysians to become Dr Zakir Naik’s students in Mumbai, training as missionaries there for 45 days.

According to Firdaus, throughout his time with with Dr Zakir Naik, the core principle they were taught is to never insult other religions while giving talks. Furthermore, he had often reminded them to use good words and avoid using harsh words.

The arrival of Dr Zakir Naik is mainly to undo the wrong perception about Islam that has been widely spread by the Western media, especially after the September 11 tragedy. Islam is the true religion, it is a religion that is about spreading love and peace.

The media is the best and most effective way to convey this message to the public, and this is Dr Zakir Naik’s aim. Let’s not let our insecurities get the best of us, waging wars against each other simply because of our differences. Let’s not fall victim to slander.

Sure, Malaysia is multiracial country, as with many other countries like the United States for example. But in the same time, we must be mindful that Islam is the official religion of the country, with constitutions that protect and preserve the interests of Islam. However, the constitution also grants freedom of religion.

So, as long as there is no compulsion on anyone to attend his talks, the author does not see a reason why the presence of Dr Zakir Naik has become a controversial issue.

In verse 256 of surah Al-Baqarah, God said:

“There is no compulsion in [acceptance of] religion. The right course is distinct from error.”

 

Johari Yap
Chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Kelantan Branch