DEAR brother Anas Zubedy,
Peace and blessings of Allah be upon you.
It was with great interest that I read your plea to Dr Zakir Naik to leave the country voluntarily, and I am moved to respond to each and every argument that you have raised.
By the end of this essay you will come to realise (God willing) why Zakir is perfectly welcome to stay in this country and should be extended the fullest courtesy and refuge by our government.
1) One’s duty to educate ignorant, malicious and intolerant family members
If you bring in a friend whom you know to be righteous, decent and a good person, but your other family members are being ignorant, malicious and intolerant towards him and subjecting him to unfounded accusations and character assassination, isn’t it your duty to come to his defence and protect him against those people?
Or should you behave in a cowardly and unprincipled fashion by siding with those people just because they’re your family members – despite they being on the wrong about him?
Where’s your dignity and self-worth if you choose to behave in that manner? If you stoop so low to pander to their whim and prejudice, you might as well leave that family and go live elsewhere.
Let’s not forget that the vast majority of Malaysian Muslims are firmly on the side of Zakir and have no problem with him staying in Malaysia as long as he desires.
Even the majority of non-Muslims have no issue with his presence as you don’t see them organising nationwide protests and campaigns to deport him to India. They don’t even care whether he’s in Malaysia or not as the issue doesn’t concern them in the least. His staying in the country has not triggered any social upheaval or communal clashes like that which frequently occur in the Indian subcontinent.
As a whole, Malaysians are still united and living harmoniously with each other.
Only a tiny minority of critics and haters have made a hobby of harassing and persecuting him by spreading obscene lies and vile allegations in the service of the Indian government (more on that later).
2) Non-Muslims in Malaysia are still converting to this religion in Malaysia despite his presence
Isn’t it a fact that non-Muslims are still coming forth to embrace Islam despite the continued presence of Zakir?
Has any Islamic department in Malaysia reported a drastic reduction in conversion because non-Muslims are offended by his presence? How could his staying in Malaysia be regarded as being counter-productive when the majority of non-Muslims are not in the least concerned about his presence, and neither has it deterred those who are interested to learn more about Islam?
Just ask those many Islamic NGOs who carry out missionary work and respond to queries from non-Muslims. In fact, there are many mosques that will report a steady number of non-Muslims visiting them almost every day, and the presence of Zakir has had not the slightest negative impact on their attendance.
3) Exhortations to comparative religion dialogue is found in the Koran
Is it not part of Islam’s teachings to engage in dialogue with followers of other faiths (see Koran 4:171, 5:72-75, 19:88-93, among others)? While Muslims are prohibited from forcing or compelling others to convert to Islam (2:256), we are most certainly obliged to reason, discuss and invite them to embrace the faith (3:64).
Part of that is by having dialogues and debates – which used to happen even in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
Even in Malaysia, inter-religious discussions are commonly held with non-Muslim visitors to mosques, in public sessions like forums and symposiums and even more so on social media.
To claim that non-Muslims are not allowed to respectfully question aspects of Islam or respond to claims made by Muslim preachers is unfounded as preachers like Firdaus Wong will tell you. Don’t they engage in discussions and respond to queries on social media or by non-Muslim visitors to their office?
Muslims have never discouraged curious non-Muslims who seek information and enlightenment from approaching them. Nor have we shied away from participating in civil dialogue and informed discussions with followers of other faiths.
Zakir too has never stepped away from answering questions posed by non-Muslims during his many public talks (unless they start getting quarrelsome and become a nuisance to others).
In fact, it is customary in his programmes to give priority to non-Muslims to pose their questions or even criticisms. How is that offensive to anyone or detrimental to the nation’s harmony and peaceful co-existence?
Here’s an interesting tidbit that is often overlooked by his critics. For the many years that Zakir has given public talks to thousands of people in India, there never has been a single incident of communal clash or sectarian riot arising from his speeches.
Nor did it threaten India’s peace and security or he would have been banned years ago from speaking in public for allegedly preaching hatred and instigating violence.
Why didn’t that happen? Hindu-Muslim clashes have occurred for so many reasons and in many parts of India but not one of them could be attributed to Zakir’s speeches or writings.
So, if his presence has never threatened peace and harmony in India, why should some Malaysians think otherwise?
4) Zakir’s presence has at least united Malaysian Muslims of different political parties
The presence of Zakir in Malaysia can only be counted as a blessing to the ummah (Muslim community) as Muslims are generally united in keeping him safe in this country – despite their being of disparate political factions.
Isn’t it amazing and wonderful that he is enjoying such widespread support and approval from the Muslim leaders in the government and the Opposition, and that they could put aside their differences and rally to his noble cause?
If they could agree on that one thing, isn’t that a splendid stepping-stone to arriving at a consensus over other issues that are dividing us?
If some non-Muslim dominated parties are unhappy with his presence, they are evidently against Muslim unity and this is something we should not compromise on. They are the ones being the cause of disunity and disharmony that is dividing the nation.
To blame Zakir allegedly slowing down Malaysia’s political revitalisation is pretty lame and imprudent. With or without his continued presence, our politicians will continue to bicker and argue over everything under the sun, so let’s not hold him culpable for our division and lack of unity.
The vast majority of Muslims in Malaysia (regardless of political affiliations) have given full and perhaps unprecedented support to (Prime Minister) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s decision to grant him sanctuary.
Isn’t that a good thing for the country to bring about political unity and consensus that will help to establish a stable government?
Again, only some non-Muslim dominated parties and groups are troubled by Zakir’s presence, and they have their self-serving malicious agenda for harbouring ill-will towards him. We are not going to let them have their way.
READ ALSO: Zakir rapped over his combative style
The reason for Zakir seeking sanctuary in this country is pretty evident to any sensible and right-thinking person. Being a public figure who commands great respect and admiration throughout the Muslim world, Zakir has become a target of loathing, intolerance and vilification orchestrated by the fascist Hindutva government of India led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
They are most troubled by the attention that he gains from the general public and the fact that Hindus are converting to Islam after listening to his talks and reading his booklets. What better way to silence him than to hurl false accusations, fabricated charges and allegations of inspiring terrorism that will make him a menace to the country, if not the world?
In such a dark climate of bigotry and increasing Islamophobia in India, what guarantee is there that Zakir will be safe in that country or that he will even receive a fair and objective trial according to rule of law?
The very fact that Interpol has refused (for the third time!) to issue a red corner notice (RCN) against him is testament to just how flimsy and wretched is the case that the Indian authorities have built against him.
The malicious hate campaign orchestrated by the BJP government is certainly embarrassing themselves and is in the process of vindicating Zakir as being an innocent victim of a political chicanery and devious operation of character assassination.
Till that comes to pass, Zakir is most welcome to continue staying in our midst and contributing to the enlightenment of the ummah, and to inspire Muslims to greater heights of knowledge and commitment to their faith.
In view of all this, I humbly appeal to brother Anas Zubedy to be reminded of the following Koranic injunctions against serving the forces of bigotry and injustice:
“O you who believe! Stand out firmly for justice, as witnesses to Allah, even if it be against yourselves, your parents, and your relatives, or whether it is against the rich or the poor ....” (4:135).
“Let not the hatred of a people swerve you away from justice. Be just, for this is closest to righteousness ....” (5:8).
Peace be upon you.
Perkim (Malaysian Islamic Welfare Organisation), Penang