Why Not Ban Hate-Mongers?
Eid Mubarak, dear Muslim friends! While wishing all of you good time on this festive occasion that brings joy, felicity, love and reverence, I would like to snatch a few moments out of your day-long prayers, charity, togetherness and group meal-time, provided you feel inclined to share my thoughts. I am feeling awfully disturbed with the present-day environment of mounting hatred and senseless violence in the name of religions. On the occasions of festivities of Hindus, Sikhs, Christians and other communities, I routinely appeal, through my small writings, to leaders of these communities, both religious and political, to abjure violence as a means and course to resolve their grievances. The plainly stated reason is that no grievance and injustice, even if these have legitimate grounds, will ever find satisfactory fruition in an environment that is marred by bloody violence and disturbed social conditions.
There have been debates earlier on whether to put ban on all religious leaders who preach to their followers recourse to violence as the ultimate way of attaining their goals or solving their problems. Even private Bills were brought to Parliament to legally ban religious discourses that inflamed communal passions. Those measures were, however, not entertained by law-makers in view of our secular traditions. This time around, after Islamic terrorists hacked 22 people to death, it has come to light that the perpetrators drew "hate lessons" from Bombay-based Islamic ideologue and controversial Muslim televangalist, Dr Zakir Naik, who unreservedly praised Osama bin Laden and his terror outfit al-Qaeda’s hate errands and justified "suicide squads to avenge injustices done to Muslims." The Dhaka victims from different nationalities had done them no harm, were not even known to the killers. One of them was a 20-year-old innocent Indian (Hindu) girl. Yet, they chose to cruelly hack them as if they were their sworn enemies.
Similarly, a dangerous IS module, which was found to have been inspired by preachers like Dr Naik, was busted to a great relief of all Indian communities. Earlier, too, Dr Naik's name had prominently figured as a "religious hate-monger" for whom violence was no anathema, even though he talked of peace and brotherhood. If he is truly a religious preacher, labouring to bring peace to the planet, why is he feeling threatened and needs half a dozen security personnel to guard him? But yes, if he dangerously motivates the innocent Muslim youths with sermons to take up arms to "avenge injustices done to their brethren," he needs to be thoroughly probed and proceeded against, if found guilty. Why Dr Naik alone, all those from any faith, throwing incendiary messages in public or private zones, must be brought to book and shown their places.
What of the six misguided Muslim youths who were gunned down by Bungladesh soldiers after they had massacred 22 innocent Italians, Japanese, Bangaladeshis, beside an Indian girl? Their preachers or their handlers may have been enjoying the glory of effectively spreading terror in Bangladesh and in the neighbourhood, but those who took instructions from these enemies of humanity are no more present today to relish the fun of their merciless acts. And look at the violence in Kashmir which claims, on an average, 3 to 5 deaths every day at the hands of Pak terrorists, most of whom are inspired by ulemas, muftis, maulanas and preachers of hate. Some of those caught revealed having repeatedly watched Dr Naik's videos.
Everyone knows that Dr Naik is a much-awarded televangalist for his "significant service and contribution to the development of Islam." But it is significant to note that he received these awards and honours only from Islamic governments or organizations. His standing with non-Muslim governments and organizations all over the world is not creditable and he is despised as a "rank hateful preacher." The religious television channel, Peace TV, which acknowledges him as "its driving force", has been banned by the Indian government for its "anti-Indian malicious content." Nothing else explains why Dr Naik has been banned from entry to the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore and many other countries for "his attempts to justify terrorist activities and fostering hatred.” Even though he claims that he is being unfairly targeted for his religious zealotry and popularity with the Muslim community, facts don't justify his claim. Then, has he been quoted out of context for his stand on terrorism?
It is, however, mind-boggling to note that Dr Naik who holds conservative and extremist views on a wide range of subjects, including apostasy and denial to propagation of other faiths in Islamic states, has attained such a vast popularity among Muslims globally. He argues that Muslims who convert from Islam should not necessarily receive death sentences, but that under Islamic rule, those who leave Islam and then “propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam” should be put to death. Dr Naik also says, “There is no death penalty for apostates in Islam, until the apostate starts preaching his new religion; then he can be put to death.”
And see the absurd logic in Dr Naik asserting that while people of other religions must allow Muslims to freely propagate Islam in their country, “the dissemination of other religions within an Islamic state must be forbidden because other faiths are 'incorrect', so their propagation is as wrong as it would be for an arithmetic teacher to teach that 2+2=3 or 6 instead of 2+2=4.” And finally, Dr Naik nails his colours to the mast:" How can we allow building of churches and temples when their religions are wrong and when their worshipping is wrong." A mortal human in his fragile frame, this preacher seems to be passing edicts as if he were the 'creator and ruler' of the universe himself. And when politicians from Congress, RJD, JD(U) and Samajwadi Party, who invariably ride to power on Muslim votes, surprisingly lose words to condemn the outbursts of such hate-mongers who have nothing to do with peace and social harmony. Here, one can see the vote politics coming to the fore. In a 2012 video, Congress leader Digvijay Singh is seen embracing Dr Naik, calling him a "messenger of peace."
I take this opportunity to advise my Muslim friends, at least the moderate ones, to assess how far Dr Naik's teachings fit into Islam, a religion that leaves clear messages of love, peace and togetherness. Do we get to see the five pillars of Islam - the declaration of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage - in Dr Naik's messages? His interpretation of Islam tends to take him to the fundamentalist strain, that of freedom and privileges only to the Islamists and none else. But the monotheistic faith, as revealed through Muhammad as the Prophet of Allah, focuses mainly on "serving, worshipping, and lovingly submitting to God." How can Allah, the Creator, accept cruelty by humans to their fellow living beings? Muslims following Quran believe God communicates His guidance through human prophets sent to every nation. I don't think Dr. Naik can be the "human prophet" sent by Allah to India!