Exposing Zakir Naik might be a better idea than banning him – T. A. Bharadwaj

Zakir Naik Quote

T. A. BharadwajThe problem with having hate speech laws is that they aren’t designed to fight hate. They just make voicing a hateful opinion illegal. – T. A. Bharadwaj

As per recent revelations, at least two of the seven terrorists, who hacked 20 people to death in Dhaka, were followers of Dr Zakir Naik.

Naik, a controversial Indian Islamic preacher, is extremely popular among a section of middle class urban Muslims. Indian media and the political establishment at large have been clamouring to have him banned and to prosecute him on grounds of hate speech.

I believe this would be a terrible move.

First things first, let me make it clear that I consider myself a free speech fundamentalist, but I’m not enamoured by romantic notions of free speech.

I don’t underestimate the threat of radical Islamism and recognise the capacity of hate preachers to influence impressionable young men to commit heinous acts of violence in the name of religion.

The problem with banning someone like Naik is that it doesn’t really help in dealing with radicalisation.

Watch any of his lectures or debates on YouTube and you will see that not only does Naik draw in huge crowds at his events, but he also has a substantial online audience. His large fan base would seem to suggest that many of his abhorrent views are shared by huge swathes of people.

So, while we may be able to ban him from preaching, how would we deal with millions of his fans who hold similar beliefs? Do we ban them too?

We cannot because ideas cannot be made illegal.

The problem with having hate speech laws is that they aren’t designed to fight hate. They just make voicing a hateful opinion illegal.

Salman RushdieJust because people don’t say things out loud, doesn’t mean the idea doesn’t exist. Salman Rushdie once remarked: “If we give people the freedom to voice their hateful views, at least we can see where the hate is coming from and take it on directly.”

The best way to counter the influence of people like Naik is to expose their ideas, for the regressive, conservative and pre-medieval notions they are. Inviting him to debates on national television instead of banning him, would be a good place to start.

Even if you aren’t convinced by my idea and still think people who preach hate should be banned, Naik is hardly the guiltiest on this count.

In fact, if you look at his most controversial statements, as problematic as they are, they aren’t calls for violence. Zakir Naik is a hardcore fundamentalist and the only way to defeat religious fundamentalists is by critically scrutinising their ideology by pitting them against ideas based on reason.

We need to win over people’s hearts and minds instead of alienating them for their false sense of right and wrong.

The only reason Naik is even in the limelight right now is because two of the Dhaka terrorists were his fans. Banning him with that as the reason would set a dangerous precedent.

It was revealed soon after Osama Bin Laden’s death that he was a fan of Noam Chomsky, among others.

In fact, Chomsky’s critique of American foreign policy makes him a darling among Islamists. Would that be reason enough to ban Chomsky?

Naik’s views are regressive and extremely conservative.

However, Indian media has made him the sole scapegoat of a problem that nobody is willing to acknowledge the depth and severity of.

If we want to mitigate the problem of radicalism, we need to wage a battle of ideas.

Banning one preacher would hardly make a dent in the problem and is bound to create more ill will among the people we should be trying to win over. – Daily-O, 9 July 2016

» T. A. Bharadwaj is a student journalist and philosophy buff.

Zakir Naik : Flat Earth!

Zakir Naik Quote

See also

12 Responses

  1. once you cut your Peni.., then you need to cut all. ….. Er Kamal Dev Jhalli..

  2. No plans to return to India this year: Zakir Naik – PTI – Jul 15, 2016

    MUMBAI: Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, facing multiple probes over his alleged provocative speeches, on Thursday said he has no plans to return to India this year even as he claimed his remarks were “blown out of context” and that he has never inspired any terror activity.

    The televangelist, who had cancelled press meets thrice citing pressure from authorities of the venues where they were planned, had a lengthy interaction with media via Skype from Saudi Arabia, rubbishing the charge that his sermons had inspired terror activity, including the Dhaka attack.

    Stating that he is a “messenger of peace”, Naik said, “Killing innocent people is prohibited in Islam and I condemn all terrorist attacks” and that he is a victim of media trial with his statements being blown out of context. READ MORE HERE

  3. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar & Zakir Naik

    Must read critique of Zakir Naik and his monotheism: Punya Bhumi and the bleak landscape of one god-ism – Vijaya Rajiva

  4. True, he may move off to Saudi Arabia, but with the attacks in Medina, his stay may not be as welcome as he may believe it to be.

    And India will be free of this person.

  5. Comparing Naik with Chomsky is somewhat misleading.

  6. 900 million Hindus living in india and not even one can give this guy a slap. Its only in india where people like Zakir Naik and Mother Teresa become empowered because of the weakness of the people.

  7. Very well explained, Admin!

  8. Street dogs do bark while we walk on the streets…. do we need to respond them? Keep calm and simply ignore them. Time will perish these people!

  9. The government has known about Naik for years and has done nothing about him (this is minority appeasement of a kind). Now they are investigating him—or so they say—and may cut off his Dubai and Doha funds and force him to move to Saudi Arabia where he will continue to talk the same nonsense to the enamored Muslim millions who have followed him for years.

    Most of the drivel that runs out of his mouth is just plain folly. His appeal to the Muslim masses are the slick sets, shiny suits and cocky, self-confident acting—aggressive, staccato speeches that allow no space for a reasoned response, and his not very subtle attacks on Hindus and non-Wahhabi Muslims.

    Does he support IS and Islamism. Of course he does (however much he may deny it; Muslims are not obliged to tell the truth to Kafirs). He uses exactly the same single-finger hand signals IS does. And there will be other coded actions and terms in his speeches that we will miss because we are not Muslim and cannot read the hidden messages.

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