Why Zakir Naik’s style of preaching is disrespectful

Praying and worshipping your God does not require you to concern yourself in any way with how others pray and worship. 

David Dass, Malaysiakini

The Dr Zakir Naik controversy has brought the issue of accepting and respecting religious diversity to the fore.

There are some Zakir Naik supporters who defend his and their right to proselytise, that is, convert non-Muslims to Islam. By extension, they are saying he and they are therefore allowed to compare religions and to expose flaws and untruths in the religious beliefs of non-Muslims. And Zakir Naik as a self-proclaimed expert in comparative religion (whatever he and his followers think that means!) is eminently qualified to appraise, evaluate and validate or invalidate religious beliefs.

Simply stated, this means he is free to rubbish religions other than Islam, all in the cause of obtaining Muslim converts. Never mind the hurt and anger they cause. Because these ‘truth and convert’ sessions take place before large audiences, they can be quite disturbing. Especially as they are usually published in the form of YouTube videos.

But that is not the only problem.

Muslims, like non-Muslims, are free to listen to whichever preacher they want and to have any view they want of other religions. That is what freedom of religion means.

But there is a conundrum here for a multi-religious country like ours. Where our children attend the same schools. And where we engage with one another on a daily basis. How do we ensure that there is mutual respect for each other? How do we ensure peaceful co-existence when Zakir Naik’s religion bashing occurs before Muslim communities? Where non-Muslim religions and religious and cultural practices are portrayed in a negative light?

We have seen what IS (Islamic State) was doing to non-Muslims they captured. We know of the ongoing battles between Shiites and Sunnis. PAS leader Abdul Hadi Awang says repeatedly that non-Muslims cannot be equal to Muslims. He also suggests that non-Muslims cannot be in the cabinet. And there are some who suggest that Muslims should have more rights than non-Muslims. These attitudes create tension among communities.

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