“Is there any need for Muslim scholars or intellectuals, when according to Harussani, spiritual rewards are possible without understanding or hard work but with blind recitation in a foreign tongue?”
- S Thayaparan, ‘Zakir Naik and his poverty of ideas’
In yesterday’s article, I argued that it is immoral for Malaysians not to speak up when faced with an existential threat. I also rejected the idea that merely keeping silent when it comes to the excesses of a state-sponsored religion is demonstrative of racial and religious harmony.
Here in Malaysia, there is enough empirical evidence of the biasness of the state when it comes to dealing with religious provocations. Freedom of speech is limited but what is not in short supply are the efforts of the security apparatus to police our public spaces in an attempt to curb any provocations against Islam.
This is where someone like Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik thrives. He is free to make claims against any religion he chooses, safe in the knowledge that his speech is protected whilst his detractors are not. Admirers of Zakir (and unfortunately, they are legion) seem to have no knowledge of his attacks against other religions or peoples even when evidence is adduced to demonstrate such.
A couple of years ago, I had a very public falling out with Hindraf chairperson P Waythamoorthy, and while we may disagree on a range of issues, I admire his tenacity in tackling this issue of Zakir Naik. It is a matter of public record that I have argued numerous times, the Islamist - using the Sam Harris definition - agenda is the existential threat facing Malaysia today.
Waytha has been in the forefront of making the case that Zakir is a threat to national security but so far this has been a muted affair with other NGOs not jumping in the fray for various reasons. The indefatigable Lim Teck Ghee is attempting to remedy this sad state of affairs by reaching out to other interested parties, while Waytha has been busy agitating the Umno state to the dangers of Zakir Naik.
When Zakir was banned from England in 2010, UK Prime Minister Theresa May, then-home secretary, said (on BBC) - "Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour.”
While certain countries have argued that his behaviour is unacceptable, Malaysia on the other hand, when denying rumours that he was granted citizenships, said (Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed) - “He is more Indian and South Asia-centric but some of his ideas can be used here. That's why he was awarded the Tokoh Maal Hijrah award.” What exactly those “ideas” are was not mentioned.
In reference to letters written by Waytha’s solicitors to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Waytha said - “I am rather puzzled and am not able to comprehend as to why you and your government seem to be harbouring this fugitive who is evading arrest and investigations under the terrorism laws and money laundering of the Republic of India. On the contrary, you and the deputy prime minister seem to be innocently and naively hosting the said Zakir Naik for breakfast and dinners.”
In that same letter to the prime minister, Waytha argued that Zakir is as much of a threat to Malaysia as he is to the United Kingdom. The following are what Waytha wants the prime minister to answer:
1) Whether you would place the security of Malaysia and the peaceful co-existence of our multiracial and multi-religious society top priority.
2) Whether you would honour your pledge at international conferences to cooperate with international community to combat terrorism.
3) Whether it is indeed true Zakir has been given permanent resident status;
4) Whether the government would be willing to revoke his visitor visa/entry permit or any other permission granted to him to remain in Malaysia.
5) Despite all the representations made, would the government still be willing to harbour this fugitive hate preacher?
6) I also urge you to keep your promise to the Malaysian society that you would promote the concept of ‘wasatiyyah’ (moderation).
In his letter, Waytha produced two statements (of many) that the Court of Appeal in the UK used to uphold the ban.
Statement 1: “As far as a terrorist is concerned, I tell the Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist... What is the meaning of the word ‘terrorist’? ‘Terrorist’ by definition means a person who terrorises. When a robber sees a policeman he's terrified. So for a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber... Every Muslim should be a terrorist too.”
To really appreciate the acrobatics of Zakir’s argument defending such a statement, you have to read the detailed Guardian article, which is interestingly enough for a left-leaning publication to support the ban.
“As (Court of Appeal judge) Gross LJ observes, Dr Naik's explanation that he used the word ‘terrorist’ to support terrorising ‘anti-social elements’ is difficult enough to follow on its own terms, even with time to analyse the written word; this ‘convoluted explanation’ would simply be lost on a ‘live’ audience.
“In any event, the notion that for a robber, a policeman is a ‘terrorist’, belongs in the realms of linguistic fantasy. – Gross LJ.”
The other statement was, “The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. In America, most people consume pork. Many times after dance parties, they have swapping of wives; many say, 'you sleep with my wife and I will sleep with your wife.' If you eat pigs, then you behave like pigs. [Occasion unspecified, referred to in Western Mail, August 2006]”
I do not know if this demonstrates that Zakir is a threat to national security but it does make me want to have a bacon sandwich, preferably during ladies’ night at a club in downtown Kuala Lumpur.
So, is Zakir a national security threat...