The venue for radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Thursday presser in Mumbai has been denied. That’s the fifth time in last two days.
This time, Naik's own neighbourhood denied him audience.
The management of Mehfil Hall in Agripada, hardly a kilometer and half away from his Dongri home, had offered him a place to hold a press conference via Skype, after three Mumbai hotels and the World Trade Centre in Cuff Parade allegedly denied space to the televangelist.
"The management of the Mehfil hall in Agripada, around 11 pm tonight, told our team present at the venue that they cannot allow the press conference to take place and that we should dismantle and pack up all the venue arrangements we had made," an assistant of Naik told Firstpost.
On Wednesday, senior members of Mumbai’s Muslim community and clerics held a media briefing denouncing Zakir Naik's speeches and distancing from his religious ideas.
What does it tell us?
Except a handful of people who went to the streets in Kashmir shouting slogans in favour of Zakir Naik and the likes of All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) leader, Asaduddin Owaisi and Kerala’s Indian Union Muslim League (IUML), Naik doesn’t have any support from his own community, for that matter, even his own neighborhood.
No one wants to associate with the preacher, who has been allegedly advocating the sole supremacy of Islam over other religions. Naik often connects the lines in different religious scriptures with his enchanting memory skills to come to his final point. Why Islam is one true religion and the rest aren’t and why Muslims should fight against the ‘enemies of Islam’. Such speeches have allegedly inspired Islamic State terrorists who perpetrated the attack in the upscale Dhaka cafe and even youth in India to join the terror outfit.
But, India’s larger Muslim community (about 172 million of them as per Census 2011 data), except in certain pockets, do not approve his radical, religious fundamental ideas and the idea of religious supremacy. They believe in the larger ideals of religious pluralism and the country’s secular fabric. For them, the Constitution comes first even before the religion, something on which Naik has a different view. Naik has always maintained that Muslims will follow the law of the land till the time it doesn’t goes against the law of the creator.
That’s the reason he highlighted once, and warned both Mulsims and Hindus, not to say ‘Vande Mataram’ (I bow the motherland). In a February 2012 video, addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to 'fight for Islam' and 'disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator'. Saying Vande Mataram, Naik said, is not desirable not just for Muslims, even for Hindus.
Because, Hinduism, Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land. A Muslim is only obliged to bow to the 'creator', Naik added.
The point here is, in a democracy, everyone does have the freedom to do what he or she wishes, provided it doesn’t breach the law of the land and cause disrespect to the Constitution. But, only an ignorant mind would make a comparison of one's religious beliefs and his patriotic feelings in a secular, democratic setup.
Naik’s reasoning could be applied in a country that is run with Sharia law, where Islam is also a political entity and there is hardly any separation between religious and temporal powers. But, that isn’t so in a secular society, where the constitution is the sacred text and the motherland is the goddess above all religions. So when Naik is saying,
“We (Muslims) are not ready to worship the country,” he is disrespecting the Constitution of India and the motherland.
By speaking up against Naik’s radical religious thoughts and what could amount to hate speech, Indian Muslims have discarded the ideas Naik seeks to propagate and reaffirmed their faith in the country’s secular character and the supremacy of the constitution. Naik’s biggest critics aren’t Hindus or Christians but the people in his own community and people in even his own neighborhood, who nurture the values of India’s secular character.
The reason why India has produced so less number of 'Islamic terrorists', despite housing a bigger Muslim population than Pakistan, is India’s secular culture. That’s the biggest weapon India wields to fail those who advocate religious fundamentalism.