My previous article “Peace is a Grave Matter” about Peace TV and Dr Zakir Naik has invoked responses from all over the world. There have been some subsequent developments and broadcasts that merit attention.
A Jesuit priest in Rome has expressed disagreement with my presentation, saying that we should not give undue importance to the comments about Christians on Peace TV, as it will fade out in its own way. Isn’t that the same wait and watch attitude that the Catholic Church adopted towards Hitler? The silence of the shepherds led to the slaughter of the lambs!
CM Paul, placed my article on his blog. It elicited a sharp response from one Moeenuddeen, probably an ardent follower or close associate of Dr Zakir Naik. I also received a much studied comment from Predhuman Joseph Dhar, a scholar, and a Kashmiri Pandit who has embraced Catholicism. It is worth considering these responses and developments subsequent to my article.
On 5th November, Naik made a seething attack on idol worship in Hinduism and veneration of sacred images in Christianity. On 7th November Naik tried to justify Islamic terrorism, equating the terrorists with Shaheed Bhagat Singh; whom the British considered a terrorist. On 16th November the Times of India carried a report on Naik trying to justify the actions of Osama bin Laden, who it called the “most wanted man in the world”. On 15th November, another speaker on Peace TV said that a Muslim in America could not swear allegiance to the American Constitution, as it contained provisions that were contrary to Islam.
Should the shepherds keep silent? Will it then be the “Silence of the Lambs”?
Let us first address the social issues. There is the adage, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. If a person migrates to another country he is duty bound to abide by its Constitution. If not, such persons should not migrate there in the first place. By this logic a person of any religious persuasion can cite religious beliefs to disobey the law of the land. This will lead to anarchy. Moeenuddeen states that following Muslim Personal Law does not, and will not, create any problems in India. He has forgotten the Shah Bano case.
In that case the Supreme Court had ruled that a Muslim woman who had been divorced by her husband was entitled to maintenance, as per civil law. The Muslims considered this an intrusion into their personal laws. To appease them Rajiv Gandhi then enacted a law – “Muslim Women’s (Protection of Rights on Divorce) Act” in 1986 – by which Muslim Waqf Boards would bear the maintenance costs of the divorced women.
This created a backlash among the Hindus, as Waqfs receive substantial grants from the Government. In effect this meant that a Hindu tax payer would be funding the maintenance of a Muslim divorcee! It was considered totally unjust. In like manner Hindus resent a rapid increase in the Muslim population as the latter consider it against their religion to follow family planning, and also believe in polygamy (though the second fear is largely unfounded).
To placate the agitated Hindus, the politically naïve Rajiv Gandhi then allowed the opening of the locks of the Ram Janmabhoomi/ Babri Masjid in Ayodhya. The rest is history. So assertion of religious laws does create problems – serious ones at that.
In like manner, giving a religious garb to terrorist acts, and then justifying them in the name of religion, is fraught with danger. We are now witness to militant Hindu leaders using religion (or the perceived threat to it) as a justification for violence and vengeance. In what way are Lt Col Purohit, Sadhvi Pragya and self – styled Shankracharya Amritanand different from the SIMI, HUJI, LET, Osama or others who seek to give a religious colour to their dastardly and inhuman acts? Such attacks are in no way justifiable, as sought by Dr Naik on Peace TV.
As for idol worship, P.J. Dhar states that this is integral to the Bhakti Marg in Hinduism. He says that Hindus do not consider the material objects to be God, but an indwelling of the Divine; just as Christians believe that God dwells in them. Christians do not worship (aradhana) sacred objects. They venerate (upasana) them, as a means of uplifting ones human sensibilities, through tangible means, to the intangible God. If we can take photographs of our loved ones, and erect statues of great leaders, can we not revere those persons or objects that draw us closer to God? Naik and Peace TV must respect the religious beliefs of others. Unfortunately, even Moeenuddeen rubbishes my earlier statement about the ban on religious objects in Saudi Arabia. He says that they are “intolerant of nonsense like the Rosary, Valentine’s Day, Halloween, New Year, Christmas cards etc”. At least he admits to “intolerance”. He also admits to ignorance, by placing Valentine’s Day and Halloween in his list of Christian nonsense!
Moeenuddeen has also objected to my reference to different Muslim sects and describing Dr Naik as a possible Wahabi. Subsequently the Times of India has also referred to Dr Naik as a Salafist Wahabi. We need to accept the diversity of the human race. Hence there are bound to be factions and sects in all religions – Hinduism, Christianity or Islam – God the Creator is both creative and innovative. We humans mint coins in billions, each indistinguishable from the other. God the Creator has produced trillions upon trillions of human beings, but no two have the same finger prints. That being so, they will quite naturally leave different foot prints on the sands of time.
Moeenuddeen, in his defence of Dr Naik, refers to his numerous “debates” with people of other religions. I have not seen these “debates”. However, religion is not something to be debated; wherein one seeks to be one up on the other. Inter religious interaction should be a dialogue, a humble listening to the other in a cordial atmosphere of searching for truth. In India we call this Satsang.
I would reiterate that Dr Naik and Peace TV are well within their rights to propagate the wonders and virtues of Islam. However, I strongly object to their divisive and derogatory approach to all other religions. If this does not stop one will be constrained to lodge complaints with the Minister of Information & Broadcasting, Shastri Bhawan, New Delhi, and the British High Commissioner, Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi (as Naik’s address is shown as Birmingham, England).
Let us hope and pray that good sense will prevail on Dr Zakir Naik and Peace TV. May we all strive for peace, aman, shanti, shalom, without causing grave injury to others.
* chhotebhai (the writer) is a former National President of the All India Catholic Union
Chk this link for chhotebhai’s earlier piece on Peace TV