Another day, another news story involving the Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. After absconding from India, he’s now in Malaysia and his presence here has divided people more than whether or not pineapple belongs on pizza (it does btw).
So far, despite public outcry, he remains in Malaysia and will not be extradited to India. In fact, our new Prime Minister Dr Mahathir himself has rejected extradition attempts by India, citing Zakir Naik’s permanent residency status and refusal to give in easily as reasons why.
It’s not just international peace at risk over Zakir Naik’s staying in Malaysia tho. Prof. P. Ramasamy, the Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, has recently called for Zakir Naik to leave Malaysia, despite Mahathir approving his stay. This led to protests happening by Muslim NGOS against Ramasamy. Meanwhile, Education Minister Dr Mazlee Malik has also courted a fair share of controversy as some claim he’s a huge supporter of Zakir Naik.
In light of so much controversy surrounding Zakir Naik, you’ve probably seen various claims being made on social media regarding the preacher. But with fake news spreading faster than a mat rempit on the highway, we here at Cilisos thought that this would be a good time to look at some of these Zakir Naik claims and fact check them to see if they’re true or not.
Identities of the people behind these posts have been censored for their privacy.
1. CLAIM: He supports ISIS and terrorism.
Perhaps one of the most common claims against Zakir Naik is that he’s preaching extreme and violent forms of Islam and that he’s a supporter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, better known as the terrorist group ISIS. But is it true?
If you think so, you’d be surprised to hear then that Zakir Naik actually did reject acts of terror in the name of ‘jihad’. He’s gone on record to say that anyone killing innocent people, regardless of whether the victim is Muslim or not, is prohibited by Islam.
“Jihad is misunderstood by both Muslims and non-Muslims. Jihad means to strive and struggle to make the society better. The best form of Jihad is to strive and struggle against non-Muslims, using the teachings of the Quran; to the Prophet Peace Be Upon Him and the Almighty Allah, Islam means peace,” – Zakir Naik, as quoted by All Africa
As for his link to ISIS, Zakir Naik has called out the terror group, claiming that their actions of killing innocent people in Iraq and Syria are un-Islamic as well as calling ISIS the enemy of the Muslim religion.
“If you ask me, have ISIS killed innocent human beings? I would say no, it is the ‘Anti-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria’ which has killed the innocent human beings because Islam condemns the killing of innocent human beings. … So how can any Muslim kill an innocent human being?” – Zakir Naik, as quoted by The Indian Express
2. CLAIM: He’s being discriminated by Hindus in India, which is why he’s here.
On paper, he’s been charged with ‘indulging in unlawful activities and promoting religious hatred‘ by India’s counter-terrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA). This came after the Dhaka attacks, which Bangladeshi police claim were carried out by fans of Zakir Naik. The Indian government has also banned the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), a non-profit organisation founded by the preacher, while his Peace TV channel has been banned by the Bangladeshis.
However, there are people who believe that Zakir Naik is being prosecuted for being a prominent Muslim in India. See, the current governing party there – the Bharatiya Janata Party – apparently has links to the Hindutva movement in India, which some people have claimed to be a ‘fascist and racist’ ideology. Of course, the counter argument to this could be that the Indian government are simply carrying out what they may see as the right move by attempting to arrest Zakir Naik.
3. CLAIM: He’s controversial to Muslims as well
In India, there’s a major group of Islamic scholars called the Darul Uloom Deoband, and in 2007, they had issued a fatwa against Zakir Naik, calling him a ‘ghair muqqalid’, which means to say he’s a Muslim who doesn’t follow any of the four Sunni Imams. This is probably quite important seeing as Malaysia’s Islamic religious authorities takes being a follower of one of the four accepted Sunni schools pretty seriously.
However, the Darul Uloom Deoband made a pretty remarkable u-turn of opinions regarding Zakir Naik in the later years. In 2016, they came to Zakir Naik’s defense amidst media outcry of the preacher, saying:
We (Darul Uloom) have bad differences of opinion with Zakir Naik. But he is recognised as an Islamic scholar the world over. We don’t believe that he could be connected with terrorism in any way,” – Darul Uloom Deoband, as quoted by DNA India
4. CLAIM: He calls for the death penalty towards those who leave Islam.
Okay, so this claim is a lil tricky. Technically speaking, Zakir Naik does not call for a compulsory death penalty against Muslims who leave the religion.
Indeed, in this respect, he even quotes the Quran and refers to an event in it where the Prophet allowed a relative of his companion to leave the religion. However, Zakir Naik has also been found to say that Muslims who convert to other religions and then spread their new faith and speak against Islam should be sentenced to death.
On top of that, Zakir Naik is also not a fan of other religions being spread because according to him, other faiths are incorrect. It is here we see his now infamous analogy – as other religions are ‘incorrect’, to allow them to be spread is as tho allowing math teachers to teach their students that 2+2=3 or 6 instead of the correct 2+2=4.
5. CLAIM: He was untruthfully accused of being pro- wife beating.
Contrary to the claim made in the tweet, Zakir Naik actually does endorse wife beating… ‘lightly’. According to Zakir Naik, when the wife ‘sins’ continuously and the husband has run out of options in terms of verbally telling her off and sleeping separately, the husband can then hit the wife – but only with a handkerchief.
Zakir Naik however apparently does not approve of full-on wife abuse. He cites the Quran when explaining this, stating that even the Holy Prophet himself didn’t abuse anyone in his household. In the event that the man thinks the best option to ‘discipline’ his spouse and be a ‘good Muslim’ is to leave her, he may divorce her.
That doesn’t mean Zakir Naik is the new feminist icon tho; far from it in fact. Many are unimpressed with Zakir Naik’s view of women in Islam, where he says that women are born only as reasons for the father to enter heaven and that she completes half of his religion when marrying another man.
6. CLAIM: His feud with Ramasamy started back when Ramasamy called him ‘Satan’.
In light of the current feud between the preacher and the politician, a number of Zakir Naik’s supporters have been bringing up a previous event in their relationship in which the DAP man had allegedly called Zakir Naik ‘Satan’. And believe it or not, this one is actually true (but the tweet we used as example salah sikit laa, it actually happened in 2016).
Ramasamy had apparently posted on Facebook what he thought of the Islamic preacher, ending his post with “Let us get ‘satan’ Zakir Naik out of this country!”. Needless to say, many of Zakir Naik’s supporters back then had retaliated in support of the preacher. Some neutrals had also called Ramasamy’s comments inappropriate, especially since Ramasamy’s real job is a professor specialising in – ironically enough – international conflict resolution.
Sadly, despite Ramasamy eventually apologising for his ‘Satan’ remark, there were some consequences for the prof. After he made the ‘Satan’ comment, he found his service center in Penang in flames, as molotovs had reportedly been thrown toward his office.
When it comes to Zakir, perhaps it’s all in the interpretation
Tbh, we can’t really say for sure that each of these claims are 100% black or white. For example, yes, he did tell people to beat their wives, but only with a handkerchief and as a last resort. Yes, he’s been called deviant, but being deviant means different things depending on which sect you’re looking from. It’s a topic that has more shades of gray than a rich guy’s dungeon, which is perhaps why people are so divided on the issue.
It might seem weird for Malaysia to keep around someone who’s been banned from multiple countries and has such a terrible reputation regarding religious terrorism, especially when we have been associated with ISIS before. But the decision to let Zakir Naik stay wasn’t made solely by Muslims, in case anyone is suspecting that. Gobind Singh Deo, M Kulasegaran, and Dr Xavier Jayakumar (Communications and Multimedia, Human Resource and NRE Ministers, respectively), as Indian ministers in the cabinet, had reportedly spoken to Tun M about this matter, and they have decided that if India makes a case against Zakir which warrants him to be sent back, then Malaysia will act accordingly.
And it’s not like Zakir himself is hiding out in some cave in the Belum rainforest: like we said earlier, he had met Tun M himself recently. Of course, Malaysia is well aware of his reputation, so Zakir is actually under close supervision.
“We monitor him because this person has a very ‘interesting personality’ and he attracts a lot of attention,” – Mohammed Fuzi Harun, Malaysia’s IGP, as quoted by the Diplomat.
Some are in the opinion that the simple act of letting him stay is an act of endorsement of his alleged hate-mongering, but we have yet to find conclusive evidence on his involvement in hate attacks or terrorist training in Malaysia, if any. However, if there comes a day when he actually causes damage, or even plan to, we can be assured that it will be hard for the government to let that slip. After all, according to Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin,
“From my perspective, regardless whether he is a Malaysian citizen or not, he is subject to the rule of law. If he does not abide by the law, we will take the appropriate action,” – Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, as reported by the Malaysian Digest.
From this article, the one thing that’s clear is that there are MANY perspectives on Zakir Naik. Even here at CILISOS, we have writers who are supportive of him, damning of him, and quite a few in the middle. But rather than spout half truths, get at each other’s necks, and demand for his, maybe we can all just tone it down a notch and try to bring some understanding to the situation instead.