Even sophisticated people speak of Islam as if it is one thing. The devout, the haters and the indifferent often share this belief in Muslim unity. And for them all there is no greater display of Muslim unity than the Hajj.
The Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca, is a grand and dramatic display of Islamic brotherhood without racial or national bounds. Or so it appears from the outside. But this way of seeing the pilgrimage is relatively new. It seems to have originated in accounts by 19th-century European travellers. The most active and best proponents of the myth of the Hajj have always been notable Western converts, such as the Galician Jew Leopold Weiss, who became the Islamic thinker and Pakistani politician Muhammad Asad, or Malcolm X, the activist for equality in the United States, who wrote about the Hajj in rapturous terms. Given that Saudi Arabia had abolished slavery only a few years before Malcolm X’s pilgrimage, his view of the Hajj as the embodiment of a longstanding and more just alternative society might have been a bit naïve.
Muslims themselves have also taken up the claim that the Hajj represents a kind of ideal society, free of the prejudices and divisions that dominate the profane world.
Proponents of the Hajj as a social ideal speak of the brotherhood it enacts. Brotherhood is a common and powerful metaphor of closeness. As all brothers know, however, brotherhood is rarely if ever about equality.
Muslim teaching has much to say about brotherhood, and about equality. Clearly, they are not the same thing, and can even contradict one another. Families, after all, tend to be hierarchical and harbour various kinds of violence. They often sacrifice some members for others. The newly fashionable term ‘Abrahamic religions’ tries to mask such unhappiness. In the past generation, this term has grown in popularity as an alternative to ‘Christian’ or ‘Judeo-Christian’.
By emphasising the patriarch Abraham – the common ancestor – ‘Abrahamic religions’ is meant to express the familial relationship between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The patriarch Abraham’s sacrifice, according to the metaphor, makes him foundational for all three religions. Proponents of the ‘Abrahamic religions’ want to emphasise closeness and de-emphasise conflict.
But Abraham was ready to sacrifice one son and abandon another. This is not a simple and happy family. Nor is it necessarily a close one.
The historical experience of Abraham’s metaphorical descendants is simply very different. Only a minority of Muslims, those living around the Mediterranean basin or the Caucasus, have grown up with Christians and Jews as interlocutors and neighbours. Historically, Islam’s primary siblings have been not Jews or Christians but Hindus, Buddhists and Zoroastrians. Unlike their Jewish and Christian ‘brothers’, Muslims are part of a polytheistic and non-Semitic world. The poor ‘Abrahamic religions’ metaphor tears away the historical experience of the majority of the world’s Muslims.
Like the idea of the three monotheistic brothers, the idea of Muslim unity is recent, well-meaning and highly misleading. At a deep level, both ideals – Muslim unity and Abrahamic religions – are based on violence. But what does it really mean to describe as violent such a seemingly benign ideal as Muslim unity?
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Last August, I was in Riyadh for a conference. It’s not so easy to get into Saudi Arabia and, while there, I thought I might visit the sacred cities of Mecca and Medina. The Hajj was about to begin, so the opportunity was a rare one. Thanks to the Indian consulate in Jeddah, I managed to secure the services of guides in both cities. And so I found myself travelling to Mecca with an Indian driver and companion. He turned out to be a Muslim divine from the city of Deoband, one of the great seminaries of the subcontinent.
In its magnificently craggy desert setting, Mecca is a redeveloped place, devoid of any historical or aesthetic character. The black-draped Kaaba, standing at Islam’s ritual centre, lay within a corset-like framework of stairs and floors that allow pilgrims to circumambulate it on three levels. Many circled the Kaaba while filming themselves with mobile phones, adding a new gesture to the ceremonies of pilgrimage. Two disasters marred last year’s Hajj: a crane collapsed in the Great Mosque, and a stampede occurred at Mina. Both involved hundreds of fatalities. But the only discomfort I suffered was when a pilgrim in a wheelchair ran over my foot as I trudged my seven circles around the Kaaba.
On the road back to Jeddah, the driver got into an argument with the Deobandi divine. Our driver was a fan of the Mumbai-based television preacher Zakir Naik. Naik’s satellite TV show has made him a global Muslim celebrity. He is a conservative televangelist whose sermons are in the model of American media figures such as the Southern Baptist pastor Jerry Falwell, as were the orations of his predecessor, the South African Muslim preacher Ahmed Deedat. Like Deedat, Naik preaches in English, and his popular show espouses highly conservative views. He wears a Western suit and a skullcap. The driver also wore Western clothes, and clearly saw himself, like Naik, as a modern man, yet one who prized social and religious harmony above all else. The driver said he disapproved of the sectarian disputes among Muslims and religious conflict in India, too. He praised the peaceable nature of the Hajj.
The Deobandi cleric pointed out that the order and harmony of the Hajj derived from Saudi Arabia’s monarchical form of government. The Saudis, he observed, support one form of Islam and prohibit the public manifestation of all others. The nature of Saudi government ensured many different kinds of believers could mingle without open dispute. Indian democracy, the Deobandi divine noted, entailed the absence of a state religion. Sectarian disagreement and disputes, he observed, resulted naturally from the freedoms of a republican form of government. Republics, he insisted, maintain their democratic character through disagreement. They would lose it by favouring any one religion – by which of course he meant Hinduism – even if it was to promote social harmony. Consensus, he was saying, was not a mark of freedom but its opposite.
Liberal Muslims commonly make this argument about the good of religious difference. When they do, they often cite scriptural passages about the virtue of difference and the competition in goodness it makes possible. The Deobandi divine, however, drew his justification not from theology, but politics construed as a realm autonomous of it. He was not interested in tolerance or pluralism as inherently good things. Instead, the divine made a case that conflict and contestation must be part of political life. Democracy, he was saying, was not afraid of disagreement. On the contrary, democracy and freedom depended not on some false consensus, but on institutional mechanisms that helped prevent dispute from turning into violence or oppression. In other words, democracy made living with disagreement possible.
The channels and institutions of disagreement in India and other democracies might not always prevent violence. During elections they can even foment it. Nevertheless, their ideal is meant to stand as a guarantor of freedom for all citizens, not just members of one religion or sect. By focusing on disagreement in the political life of a democracy, my Deobandi guide was criticising the driver’s liberal pleas for harmony and unity as anti-political and illusory in nature. The cleric left scripture to the side. He focused on the state, and its essential role as the guarantor of this freedom. Indeed, there is no group in India – Muslims chief among them – that does not advocate for a secular state. What exactly secularism means, however, constitutes one of the great subjects of disagreement in India.
Importantly, there is nothing peculiarly Indian about the cleric’s turn to the state and its politics. The nation-state is inescapable when it comes to matters of establishing and governing matters within and between religious communities. People often see the Hajj as an example of Islam’s global, transnational community. However, even the possibility and experience of the Hajj is shaped entirely by nationality. It is not a melting away of national distinctions in transcendental unity. Rather, the Hajj is a carefully managed, entirely conventional instance of internationalism. First, quotas for pilgrims are set by their national citizenship: one per cent of a country’s Muslim population is given visas. Throughout the Hajj, pilgrims are marked by national identity. They are provided name tags, backpacks, sun visors and other paraphernalia by tour companies. All are embossed with national flags or printed in their colours. Guides have national flags attached to their clothing.
National languages play a crucial role in the Hajj. Housing and services provided to Indian pilgrims are identified in Hindi, whose script is also that of Hinduism’s sacred language. Because of the large numbers of Keralans settled in Gulf countries, one also saw housing and other services identified in Malayalam, the language of Kerala, in southern India. Sometimes, a dormitory in Mecca becomes full, and a pilgrim from one part of the country must be housed with pilgrims from another region. I am told that loud complaints about inedible food and strange tongues always follow – as they would among the pilgrims’ Hindu compatriots similarly housed in the holy city of Benares.
because we were marked as Indian, we exchanged no words of greeting at this most sacred site of Muslim brotherhood and unity
In Mecca, pilgrims’ native tongues vary at least as much as their nationality. As a result, very few pilgrims can communicate with those from other countries in any language but English or French: which it is depends on their particular history of colonisation. Thus even the experience of Muslim global unity supposedly exemplified by the Hajj is facilitated by the languages of the Western European coloniser.
Arabic, English, and Urdu are the languages most conspicuous at the Hajj, visible on signs and notices all over Mecca and Medina. Arabic is there largely for symbolic reasons, given that there are relatively few Arab pilgrims. My guide and I conversed in Urdu, which is both a north Indian language and the national language of Pakistan. We often came across Pakistani pilgrims speaking the same language. But because my guide and I were marked as Indian, never once did they acknowledge us, nor us them. We exchanged no words of greeting at this most sacred site of Muslim brotherhood and unity. We remained identified by our nation-states, which defined our experiences.
The multilingual signs of Mecca proliferate at important sites and monuments. Illustrated with citations from Muhammad’s sayings, these notices warn pilgrims against touching or kissing structures that the Saudis haven’t torn down, and warn against taking back sand from the holy places as a souvenir. The Saudi government fears that such souvenirs could engender idolatrous, un-Islamic attachment. As a result, authorities have fenced off the areas that once held the tombs belonging to the Prophet’s relatives and Islam’s early martyrs. Such monuments would surely become objects of idolatry. The historic battlefield of Uhud outside Medina, for instance, had been walled with opaque glass, but pilgrims broke holes to peer at the wilderness within.
The Hajj is also replete with small acts of insubordination. Signs bearing images of forbidden practices, each crossed out by a red X, serve only to highlight these instances of minor rebellion. The pillar outside Mecca at the site of Muhammad’s last sermon, for example, has its top plastered with signs warning pilgrims against paying it any devotion. But the bottom of the pillar is covered with graffiti, which in the circumstances is not a defacement, but the only way to recognise the site’s sacredness. In effect, the signs speak of a city under occupation, apparent prescriptions for order imposed from above by a foreign ruler. The Saudi royal family and its Wahhabi form of Islam, after all, took the holy cities by force only in the 20th century, in the wake of the First World War.
The harmony of the Hajj is simply not based on any kind of Muslim unity of any significance. Its order and concord derive from, on the one hand, the dominance of Saudi monarchy and Wahhabi establishment and, on the other, mutual indifference among Muslims.
My Indian driver told me of a rumour about the Barelvis, great rivals of the Deobandis in India and Pakistan. He accused the Barelvis of praying privately in their hotel rooms. They feared, he alleged, that standing behind Wahhabi imams in the mosque would imperil their salvation. It is true that Saudi control confers on the Wahhabi denomination some exclusive prerogatives in the holy cities. But the shuffling, inelegant rows of pilgrims at prayer in Mecca, each with his or her own slightly divergent ritual tradition, are subtle demonstrations that Islam, even in the heart of Wahhabism, even during the Hajj, can never be brought completely under any sect’s control.
Today, calls for Muslim unity come from so-called militants and moderates alike. Such calls for Muslim unity do not date back much before the 20th century. To be sure, the ideal of universal agreement in Islam might have existed before. But it seldom constituted a political or even religious project beyond fairly circumscribed arenas of debate. On the contrary, the internal schisms and conflicts of Muslim societies demonstrated a sense of confidence and comfort with disagreement as a political necessity. This recognition of disunity is illustrated by an oft-cited saying attributed to Muhammad; in it, the Prophet pronounced that his community would be divided into 72 sects until the end of time, with only a single crucially unspecified one bound for salvation.
With the rise of European empires in the 18th and 19th centuries, Muslim unity emerged as a significant theme. In other words, this unity served as a defensive strategy to counter the loss of Muslims’ control over their own political life. Still, the desire remained largely theoretical, even during the heyday of Pan-Islamism in the early 20th century. It took the rise of new global movements and identities following the end of the Cold War for the current visions of Muslim unity to arise.
One of the earliest moments in the new, and now explicitly global rather than merely international, project of Muslim unity came with mobilisations that followed the outcry over Salman Rushdie’s allegedly blasphemous novel, The Satanic Verses (1989). The demonstrations were not and could not be confined to a particular country, movement, revolution or terrorist group. Made possible by television and the sense of simultaneity and collective identification that it offered, these reactions to a perceived affront catalysed new calls for a global form of Muslim unity that, unlike Pan-Islamism, didn’t take a coalition of states as its model.
This global mobilisation presented novel opportunities and challenges for Muslim leaders. Initially, this ‘Muslim unity’ appeared in the form of declarations signed by a motley crew of divines, politicians and ideologues for or against the Iranian fatwa calling for Rushdie’s murder. Some of these attempts at generating agreement sought to corral global forms of Muslim mobilisation in opposing ideological directions. The initial calls came in response to supposedly insulting depictions of the Prophet. More recently, such calls are made both in support and to counter the much less popular cause of recruiting Muslims to Al-Qaeda or ISIS.
Posturing about ‘Muslim unity’ tends only to alienate Muslims from the political world of nation-states that govern their societies
In some ways, these declarations resemble the long history of Christian ecumenical councils. But since Islam lacks an institutional basis comparable to the Vatican, the results are even less coherent. The calls for Muslim unity are no less, and no more, than the collective expression of a pious wish by a random assortment of dignitaries. If pressed or asked to take any actual measures signifying unity, even the signatories of these declarations would immediately find themselves in disagreement about ‘Muslim unity’.
At root, however, the problem is not the details of these calls for unity. It is the essence, the very ideal of consensus. As a matter of course, calls for Muslim unity customarily violate the spirit of their claims by anathematising their Muslim opponents. Calls for unity are not high-minded but, in a word, disingenuous, a seemingly noble pretext for anathematising or demonising opponents.
Even more deeply, however, the ideal of unity is inherently anti-political. The Deobandi cleric was right in identifying the political as the sphere offering the only real potential for peaceful accommodation of differences and disputes. Posturing about an illusory ‘Muslim unity’ tends only to alienate Muslims from the political world of nation-states that govern their societies. From this perspective, Muslim militancy, too, is actually a consequence of de-politicisation and not, as is commonly presumed, the reverse.
Whether by Western or Middle Eastern governments, condemnations of terrorism in religious language, in the name of Islam, are losing causes. Real problems will not be solved on theological terrain. When liberals and advocates of tolerance too celebrate or promote moderate Islam, it is another step away from the world of politics and institutions, the world of progress and solutions. The quest for harmony, for unity, is a siren song, and is to be resisted.
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is a university reader in modern south Asian history at St Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, where he is also the director of the Asian Studies Centre. His latest book is Muslim Zion: Pakistan as a Political Idea (2013).
Naik in the Maldives in May 2010
|Born||(1965-10-18) 18 October 1965 (age 52)|
Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Occupation||President of Islamic Research Foundation, Public speaker|
Founder of Peace TV, Peace TV Bangla, Peace TV Urdu and Peace TV Chinese
|Board member of||Islamic Research Foundation,iERA,Islamic International School and United Islamic Aid|
|Children||Fariq Naik, Rushdaa Naik|
|Awards||King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam, 2015|
Zakir Abdul Karim Naik (born 18 October 1965) is an IndianIslamic preacher, and the founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). He is also the founder of the Peace TV channel through which he reaches a reported 200 million viewers. He has been called an "authority on comparative religion", "perhaps the most influential Salafi ideologue in India", "the rock star of tele-evangelism and a proponent of modern Islam" and "the world's leading Salafi evangelist". Unlike many Islamic preachers, his lectures are colloquial, given in English, not Urdu or Arabic, and he usually wears a suit and tie.
Before becoming a public speaker, he trained as a physician. He has published booklet versions of lectures on Islam and comparative religion. Although he has publicly disclaimed sectarianism in Islam, he is regarded as an exponent of the Salafi ideology, and as a radical Islamictelevangelist propagating Wahhabism. His preaching is currently banned in India, Bangladesh, Canada and the United Kingdom.
Zakir Naik was born in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India. He attended Kishinchand Chellaram College and studied medicine at Topiwala National Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital and later the University of Mumbai, where he obtained a Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBBS).
In 1991 he started working in the field of Dawah, and founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). Naik's wife, Farhat Naik, works for the women's section of the Islamic Research foundation (IRF).
Naik said in 2006 that he was inspired by Ahmed Deedat, an Islamic preacher whom he met in 1987. (Naik is sometimes referred to as "Deedat plus", a label given to him by Deedat.)
Naik founded the Islamic International School in Mumbai. and United Islamic Aid, which provides scholarship to poor and destitute Muslim youth. He is also a board member and adviser of iERA.
The Islamic Research Foundation website describes Naik as "the ideologue and driving force behind Peace TV Network". Naik's channel is to promote "Truth, Justice, Morality, Harmony and Wisdom for the whole of humankind", mentions its website. The Indian government banned the Peace TV channel in 2012. According to The New York Times in 2015, quoting an anonymous Indian journalist, the Mumbai police have barred him from holding conferences "because he stirs controversy", and Indian satellite providers have refused to broadcast his television channel, Peace TV.
In 2016, during a press conference Naik claimed himself to be a non-resident Indian (NRI). In 2017, according to the Middle East Monitor, Naik was granted citizenship by Saudi Arabia.
On 18 July 2017, India revoked Naik's passport following a recommendation from the National Investigation Agency (NIA). On 28 July 2017, the NIA declared Naik an offender and initiated a process to attach his assets. 
Naik currently resides in Malaysia, where he has permanent resident status.
Lectures and debates
Naik has held many debates and lectures and is said to "have delivered over 2000/4000 lectures around the world". AnthropologistThomas Blom Hansen has written that Naik's style of memorising the Quran and Hadith literature in various languages, and his related missionary activity, has made him extremely popular in Muslim circles. Many of his debates are recorded and widely distributed in video and DVD media and online. His talks have been recorded in English and broadcast on weekends on several cable networks in Mumbai's Muslim neighbourhoods, and on the Peace TV channel, which he co-produces. Topics he speaks on include: "Islam and Modern Science", "Islam and Christianity", and "Islam and secularism".
His first debate was in 1994, a debate on the views of writer Taslima Nasreen on Islam in her book Lajja, organised at the "Mumbai Marathi Patrakar Sangh", entitled "Is Religious Fundamentalism a Stumbling block to Freedom of Expression?". With the presence of four journalists, the debate went on for hours. In April 2000, Naik debated with William Campbell in Chicago on the topic of "The Qur'an and the Bible: In the Light of Science", one of his most-cited debates. On 21 January 2006 Naik held an inter-religious dialogue with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Bangalore about the concept of God in Islam and Hinduism. In February 2011 Naik addressed the Oxford Union via video link from India. Every year since November 2007 Naik has led a 10-day Peace Conference at Somaiya Ground, Sion, Mumbai. Lectures on Islam have been presented by Naik and twenty other Islamic speakers.
Australia 2004 and Wales 2006
In 2004 Naik, at the invitation of the Islamic Information and Services Network of Australasia, made an appearance at the University of Melbourne, where he argued that only Islam gave women true equality. He said the more "revealing Western dress" makes women more susceptible to rape. Sushi Das of The Age commented that "Naik extolled the moral and spiritual superiority of Islam and lampooned other faiths and the West in general", further stating that Naik's words "fostered a spirit of separateness and reinforced prejudice".
In August 2006, Naik's visit and conference in Cardiff caused controversy when Welsh MPDavid Davies called for his appearance to be cancelled. He said Naik was a "hate-monger", and that his views did not deserve a public platform. Muslims from Cardiff, however, defended Naik's right to speak in the city. Saleem Kidwai, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Wales, stated that "people who know about him [Naik] know that he is one of the most uncontroversial persons you could find. He talks about the similarities between religions, and how should we work on the common ground between them", whilst also inviting Davies to discuss further with Naik personally in the conference. The conference went ahead, after the Cardiff council stated it was satisfied that he would not be preaching extremist views.
Denial of entry to the UK and Canada, 2010
Naik was denied entry into the United Kingdom and Canada in June 2010. Naik was forbidden to enter Canada after Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, warned MPs of Naik's views. He was banned from entering the UK by the then Home SecretaryTheresa May after arranging to give talks in London and Sheffield. May said of the exclusion order, "Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour". Naik argued that the Home Secretary was making a political decision, not a legal one, and his lawyer said the decision was "barbaric and inhuman". He also claimed that his comments were taken out of context. Film producer Mahesh Bhatt supported Naik, saying the ban constituted an attack on freedom of speech. It was reported that Naik would attempt to challenge the ruling in the High Court. His application for judicial review was dismissed on 5 November 2010.
In 2014, Naik visited Gambia at the invitation of President Yahya Jammeh to attend the grand celebration of Gambian revolution's 20th anniversary. There he delivered four lectures between 11 and 22 October. The lectures took place in University of the Gambia, Pancha Mi Hall of Paradise Suites Hotel, presidents home village Kanilai, Foni Kansala and Kairaba Beach Hotel, Kololi. Gambian cabinet ministers, religious leaders, students and thousands of people attended his lectures on subjects including "Terrorism and Jihad: an Islamic perspective", "religion in the right perspective", "Dawah or destruction?" and "the misconceptions about Islam". Meanwhile, he also met with the president Yahya Jammeh along with Gambia Supreme Islamic Council and held an Islamic conference with the Imams of Gambia.
Malaysia 2012 and 2016
Naik delivered four lectures in Malaysia during 2012. The lectures took place in Johor Bahru, Universiti Teknologi MARA in Shah Alam,Kuantan and Putra World Trade Centre in Kuala Lumpur. The former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Mahathir Mohamad, prominent figures and several thousand people attended the lectures at different places despite protest by the members of HINDRAF. The organisers of Naik's speeches said their purpose was to promote harmony among people of various religions.
Naik delivered another six lectures in April 2016. Two of his lectures in Malaysia, entitled "Similarities between Hinduism and Islam" and "Is the Quran God's word?" were objected by HINDRAF, along with other NGOs, saying that these lectures might provoke inter-racial tensions. With the initial support of the Government authority, the event went ahead as planned.
Naik says that his goal is to "concentrate on the educated Muslim youth who have become apologetic about their own religion and have started to feel the religion is outdated". He considers it a duty of every Muslim to remove perceived misconceptions about Islam and to counter what he views as the Western media's anti-Islamic bias in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. Naik has said that "despite the strident anti-Islam campaign, 34,000 Americans have embraced Islam from September 2001 to July 2002". According to Naik, Islam is a religion of reason and logic, and the Quran contains 1000 verses relating to science, which he says explains the number of Western converts. Some of his articles are published in magazines such as Islamic Voice.
Naik says that Islam is the "best" religion because "the Quran says it. No other religious text or scripture claims this fact." He added that, "Islam is also labelled as intolerant, and it is indeed, but towards corruption, discrimination, injustice, adultery, alcoholism, and all evils. Islam is the most 'tolerant' religion as far as promoting the human values is concerned."
Naik equates music with alcohol and says that both are intoxicating in nature. He has condemned dancing and singing because they are prohibited in Islam.
Punishment for stealing
Naik said that guilty people must be punished and accepts chopping hands off for stealing. He has also recommended that the US implements this logic in order to reduce criminality.
Women rights controversy
Naik is permissive of beating one's wife "gently". He argues that "as far as the family is concerned, a man is the leader. So, he has the right", but he should beat his wife "lightly". He also said that Muslims have the right to sex with their female slaves where he referred to slaves as "prisoners of war".
Naik referred to the LGBT community as "patients suffering from a sinful mental problems" and said that "It's because they watch pornographic movies. The TV channels are to be blamed". "According to Quran and Sunnah", he recommends the "death penalty" for homosexuals.
Dismissing Darwin'sTheory of Evolution, Naik said that the theory of evolution is "only a hypothesis, and an unproven conjecture at best". According to Naik, most scientists "support the theory, because it went against the Bible – not because it was true." Naik argues that scientific theories were prophesied by the Quran. For example, he has stated in 2010 that certain verses of the Quran accurately describe embryological development.
Naik argues, "What Darwin said was only a 'theory'. There is no book saying 'the Fact of Evolution' – All the books say Theory of Evolution." He further added, "There is not a single statement in the Qur'an, which Science has proved wrong yet. Hypothesis go against the Qur'an – theories go against the Qur'an. There is not a single scientific fact, which is mentioned in the Holy Qur'an which goes against established science – It may go against theory."
Criticism of media
Naik has called the media "the most important tool rather the most dangerous weapon in the world, which converts black into white and a villain into a hero". He suggested that, "We should use the same media to remove the misconceptions, misquotations, misinterpretations, and misrepresentations about Islam." He claimed, western powers and media play a double-standard strategy, who describe Muslims as extremists and fundamentalists to defame Islam. He said, "The maximum damage done to the image of Islam today is by the international media which is bombarding misconceptions about it day and night using an array of strategies. International media, be it print, audio, video, or online, use a number of strategies to malign Islam by first picking up the black sheep of the Muslim community, and portraying them as though they are exemplary Muslims." Naik also claimed the "third and fourth" strategy by international media is "to pick a word from Quran or sunnah and mistranslate it" and "to malign Islam by saying something that does not belong to it".
Naik also said, "If a Muslim woman wears hijab or veil it is labeled as women subjugation, but if a nun does to the same it turns into a sign of respect and modesty. A 50-year-old Muslim marrying a 16-year-old girl (willingly) is a headline, but a 50-year-old non-Muslim raping a six-year-old girl appears as brief news or filler. They say Islam does not give rights to women, and is an illogical religion. They portray Islam as the problem of humanity though it is the solution to all man's problems. The same applies to the misinterpreted words 'fundamentalist' and 'extremist' which are basically western words. A true Muslim must be an extremist in the correct direction, by being extremely kind, loving, tolerant, honest and just. While Indians were fighting for their freedom, the British government was labelling them as terrorists; same activity, same people, but two different labels. The same happened with Muslims who are labelled as terrorists in media, so we should look into backgrounds and reasons for an activity before labelling people." 
He criticizes the portrayal of Muslims in films saying, "Hundreds of movies were made in Hollywood to malign the image of Islam that a non-Muslim gets scared when he heard a Muslim saying 'Allah Akbar', thinking that he is going to kill him. If anyone really wants to know how good Islam is, he or she has to study its authentic sources; the glorious Quran and Hadith rather than looking to its followers (Muslims) as is the case with a motorist whose reckless driving should be blamed for an accident rather than the latest Mercedes car he was driving. The best exemplary Muslim is the last and final messenger prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him." He also criticized media for "pick(ing) up Muslims who criticised Islam like Salman Rushdie, and giv(ing) them awards", saying, "If a Muslim does something great, they may give him credit but ignore his religion or change his Muslim name like the Aristotle of the East, Avicenna, whose real name was "Ali Ibn Sina"."
Naik believes that Muslims who convert from Islam should not necessarily receive death sentences, but that under Islamic law those who leave Islam and then "propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam" should be put to death. Another source states that according to Naik, "There is no death penalty for apostates in Islam ... until, the apostate starts to preach his new religion: then he can be put to death."
Propagation of other faiths in Islamic states
While he appreciates that people of other religions allow Muslims to freely propagate Islam in their country, Naik preaches that the dissemination of other religions within an Islamic state must be forbidden because he believes that other faiths are incorrect, so their propagation is as wrong as it would be for an arithmetic teacher to teach that 2+2=3 or 6 instead of 2+2=4.
Likewise, Naik argues, "regarding building of churches or temples, how can we (musilms) allow this when their religion is wrong and when their worshiping is wrong?"
Naik criticises the activities of Christian missionaries in the Muslim world saying, "the missionaries write verses of the bible in Arabic calligraphy, such as 'God is love' to catch fish with the Muslims. We in Peace TV, for example, do not use such deceit."
In a lecture given in University of the Gambia, Zakir strongly condemned the atrocities around the world in the name of Jihad, where innocent people lost their lives, saying “Jihad is misunderstood by both Muslims and non-Muslims, Jihad means to strive and struggle to make 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.” According to Naik, the killing of any innocent person, either Muslim or not is prohibited by Islam, while condemning the double-standard, played by the western powers and media who describes Muslims as extremists and fundamentalists. He said in unequivocal term that, even in Islamic Jihad, there are laid down rules and regulations as when and how to kill a person, which he noted, totally contradicts what is currently happening around the world, by some groups who claim to fight for Jihad.
In another lecture given in Al-Khawaneej, Dubai, Naik stated that the most mistranslated and misunderstood word about Islam by non-Muslims and even some Muslims is "Jihad", which, he said, has nothing to do with the phrase "holy war" that is never actually used in the Quran or sunnah and was first used by the crusaders who killed millions in the name of Christianity. He added the word "Jihad" actually means to strive or struggle against one's own evil inclinations, to make the society better, in self-defense on a battlefield, and against oppression.
September 11 attacks and Osama bin Laden
In a lecture delivered on 31 July 2008 on Peace TV, Naik commented on the attacks of 11 September: "it is a blatant, open secret that this attack on the Twin Towers was done by George Bush himself". He also said that "even a fool will know" that the 9/11 attacks were "an inside job" orchestrated by US President George W. Bush.
His opinions on 9/11 have been denounced by the United States and he has been denied entry into the United Kingdom and Canada for speaking engagements.
His views and statements on terrorism have been often criticised in the media. Speaking of Osama bin Laden, when Naik was asked whether the former was a terrorist, he stated that he did not have an opinion since had not met him, nor interrogated him, and is neither a friend nor an enemy. He believes in checking up information before passing it on to another person. However, Naik went on to say "If he is fighting enemies of Islam, I am for him. I don’t know him personally. If he is terrorizing America, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorizing a terrorist, he is following Islam."
Terrorism, killings and suicide bombing
Later in 2010, Naik said that he had been quoted out of context regarding the remarks on terrorism. "As far as terrorist is concerned", he said, "I tell the Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist.... What is the meaning of the word terrorist? Terrorist by definition means a person who terrorises. So in this context every Muslim should be a terrorist to each and every anti-social element. I'm aware that terrorist is more commonly used for a person who terrorises innocent human beings. So in this context no Muslim should ever terrorise a single innocent human being."
Naik stated that Hitler, "who was not a Muslim, is the biggest terrorist in the world as he incinerated 46 million [sic.] Jews."
When asked about his views on killings, Naik said "the Quran says so - if anyone kills an innocent human being, Muslim or non-Muslim, it is as though he has killed the whole humanity, So how can any Muslim kill innocent human being?". It was only permissible, he said, to kill a person who "has killed someone else ... or created corruption in the land." He also criticized the media for "picking up verses of the Quran or hadiths and quoting them out of context to mislabel Islam as a religion that promotes violence and killing". He said that "critics of Islam quotes Verse 5/9 which reads: 'Wherever you find a non-Muslim, kill him' out of context to malign Islam though it was an order in a battlefield, and Islam always promotes peace as better option during war."
In a press conference via skype, when Naik was asked his opinion on suicide bombings he replied affirmatively saying it was permitted in Islam and said "it is haram if innocent people are being killed. But, if suicide bombing is used as a tactic of war, then it may be permitted. For example, in World War II, Japan used suicide bombing as a tactic of war."
Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American linked to Al-Qaeda who was found guilty in the 2009 New York City Subway and United Kingdom plot was an "admirer" of Naik's sermons. When Time hinted that his preachings could have inspired Najibullah Zazi's terrorist activities, Naik insisted: "I have always condemned terrorism, because according to the glorious Koran, if you kill one innocent person, then you have killed the whole of humanity."
Naik called Islamic State of Iraq and Syria the "anti-Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" and said that, the enemies of Islam are promoting ISIS. He also added that, "the Quran says so - if anyone kills an innocent human being, Muslim or non-Muslim, it is as though he has killed the whole humanity. So how can any Muslim kill innocent human being? .. We should not say ISIS, we should say AISIS. Because they are anti-Islamic. I request all the muslims of the world, as well as the muslim media, please don't help the enemies of Islam in attacking Islam." He further added that, "If you verify you will know that I am totally against terrorism. I am totally against killing innocent human being." He expressed his view on the move by the United States government to launch an attack on the ISIS in Syria and Iraq that, he strongly condemns the act by the Islamic State group, but he is also not equally supporting the move by the Americans to launch the attack. In another lecture in Dubai, he stated, It is, therefore not correct to say ISIS or Islamic State has killed Syrian or Iraqi innocents. He said, "We should say anti-Islamic state kills them as Quran affirms that whoever kills an innocent person is as if he kills all humanity, and he who saves a single person - disregard his religion, is like saving all humanity."
Zakir criticized the media for "linking Islam" with the Orlando attack. He accused the media of a "double-standard strategy" saying, "the same (double-standard strategy) is happening with a man related by nothing to Islam but by his name who killed over 50 gays in Orlando."
Reception, awards, titles, and honors
Naik was ranked 89 on The Indian Express's list of the "100 Most Powerful Indians in 2010". He was ranked 82 in the 2009 edition. According to Praveen Swami, Naik is "perhaps the most influential Salafi ideologue in India".Sanjiv Buttoo says he is acknowledged as an authority on Islam, but is known for making negative remarks about other religions.Sadanand Dhume writes that Naik has a "carefully crafted image of moderation", because of his gentle demeanour, his wearing of a suit and tie, and his quoting of scriptures of other religions. He is also listed in the book The 500 Most Influential Muslims under honourable mention, in the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013/2014  editions.
- In July 2013, Naik was named as the Islamic Personality of the Year, announced by the 17th Dubai International Holy Quran Award (DIHQA). The award was presented by Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Minister of Finance and Industry of the United Arab Emirates.
- On 5 November 2013, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia conferred a Ma'al Hijrah Distinguished Personality award to Naik. In a ceremony at the Putrajaya International Convention Centre, the award was presented by Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Malaysia's head of state.
- On 2 February 2015, he was awarded the King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam.
- He was listed in the book The 500 Most Influential Muslims under honourable mention, in the 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013/2014 editions.
|Year of award or honour||Name of award or honour||Awarding organisation or government|
|2013||Sharjah Award for Voluntary Work 2013||Sultan bin Muhammad Al-Qasimi Crown Prince and Deputy Ruler of Sharjah|
|2014||The Insignia of the Commander of the National Order of the Republic of The Gambia||Yahya Jammeh President of the Gambia|
|2014||'Doctor of Humane Letters' (Honoris Causa)||University of The Gambia|
Criticism and controversy
Several researchers have investigated the link between Naik and terrorism. Author Praveen Swami considers Naik to be a part of the ideological infrastructure created to feed "Tempered Jihad", which he defines as Jihad calibrated to advance Islamist political objectives. Swami argued that some of Naik's teachings are similar to those of organizations advocating violence, although Naik himself emphatically rejects terrorism. According to Swami, Naik's IRF has proved to be a "magnet" for figures linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba, while his message has mesmerised violent Islamists, and his works "help make sense of the motivations of Indian recruits to the jihad".New York City based Gatestone Institute also had stated that Naik "is not directly involved in terrorism," but "he has reportedly inspired many to take to terrorism through his preachings.
The Times of India published a profile of Naik entitled "The controversial preacher" after he was banned from the United Kingdom. According to The Times, "the fact is that barring the band of Muslims whose bruised egos Naik suitably massages through his Islam supremacist talks, most rational Muslims and non-Muslims find his brand of Islam a travesty of the faith". The Times also claimed that "the Wahabi-Salafist brand of Islam, bankrolled by petro-rich Saudi Arabia and propagated by preachers like Naik, does not appreciate the idea of pluralism." The article quotes Muslim scholar Wahiduddin Khan: "Dawah, which Naik also claims to be engaged in, is to make people aware of the creation plan of God, not to peddle some provocative, dubious ideas as Naik does." He adds: "The wave of Islamophobia in the aftermath of 9/11 and the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan have only added to the Muslims' sense of injury. In such a situation, when a debater like Zakir Naik, in eloquent English, takes on preachers of other faiths and defeats them during debates, the Muslims' chests puff with pride. A community nursing a huge sense of betrayal and injustice naturally lionises anyone who gives it a sense of pride. Never mind if it's false pride."
In The Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume criticised Naik for recommending the death penalty for homosexuals and for apostasy from the faith. He also criticised him for calling for India to be ruled by Shariah law. He added that, according to Naik, Jews "control America" and are the "strongest in enmity to Muslims." He maintained that Naik supports a ban on the construction of non-Muslim places of worship in Muslim lands as well as the Taliban's bombing of the Buddhas of Bamiyan. Dhume argues that people reportedly drawn to Naik's message include Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American arrested for planning suicide attacks on the New York subway; Rahil Sheikh, accused of involvement in a series of train bombings in Mumbai in 2006; and Kafeel Ahmed, the Bangalore man fatally injured in a failed suicide attack on Glasgow airport in 2007. He also stated that "unless Indians find the ability to criticise such a radical Islamic preacher as robustly as they would a Hindu equivalent, the ideal of Indian secularism would remain deeply flawed."
Indian journalist Khushwant Singh says he "disagree[s] with almost everything [Naik] has to say about misconceptions about Islam". Singh argues that Naik's pronouncements are "juvenile", and said "they seldom rise above the level of undergraduate college debates, where contestants vie with each other to score brownie points." Singh also says Naik's audiences "listen to him with rapt attention and often explode in enthusiastic applause when he rubbishes other religious texts".
Torkel Brekke, a professor of religious history in Norway, calls Naik a "very controversial figure" because of his rhetorical attack on other religions and other varieties of Islam. He writes that Naik is "strongly disliked" by many members of the Indian ulema for ignoring their authority and stating that anybody can interpret the Quran. Conservative Deobandi mullahs have accused Naik of "destroying Islam" by driving Muslims away from the correct religious authorities.
Pakistani analyst Khaled Ahmed criticised Naik for "indirectly support[ing]" al-Qaeda by referring to Osama bin Laden as a "soldier of Islam". In 2008, an Islamic scholar in Lucknow, shahar qazi Mufti Abul Irfan Mian Firangi Mahali, issued a fatwa against Naik, saying that he supported Osama bin Laden, and that his teachings were un-Islamic. Naik claims his speeches were being taken out of context.
In 2007, reports claimed that Darul Uloom considered him a self-styled preacher unattached to any of the four orthodox Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence (fiqh) and therefore has issued many fatwas against Zakir Naik, rejecting him as being amongst the ghair muqallidin (a term used in Islam to describe someone who does not relate with the four madhabs viz. Hanafi, Hanbali, Sha’afi and Maliki) thereby appealing towards Muslims to avoid listening to his sermons. In 2016, a Darul Uloom spokesman clarified reports that although a few fatwas had being issued by Darul Uloom against Naik on legal matters, these were being "deliberately highlighted" by the media. The deputy vice chancellor of Darul Uloom, Abdul Khaliq Madrasi, came out in his support, saying: "We have bad differences of opinion with Zakir Naik. But he is recognized as an Islamic scholar the world over. We don't believe that he could be connected with terrorism in any way." 
After revealing the investigations of the Dhaka Terror Attack in July 2016 published by The Daily Star that a terrorist involved in the brutal killings followed Zakir Naik's page on Facebook and was influenced by Naik's speeches, The terrorist had posted sermons of Zakir Naik on social media where Naik urged "all Muslims to be terrorists" Indian Union Minister of State for Home AffairsKiren Rijiju said, "Zakir Naik's speech is a matter of concern for us. Our agencies are working on this." He was then termed a controversial as well as a popular figure by the media. After 2 days in investigation, the Maharashtra State Intelligence Department|Maharashtra State Intelligence Department (SID) gave a clean chit to Zakir Naik and said that Naik would not and cannot be arrested on his return to India as the probe ordered by the Maharashtra government did not find any other strong evidence to link Naik to terror-related activities.The Daily Star apologized to Naik over the Dhaka Terror Attack controversy and stated that they never blamed him for the attack. The newspaper quoted that it only reported how youth were misinterpreting his speeches. However, soon thereafter the Bangladesh Government banned the broadcast of Naik's Peace TV channel.Hasanul Haq Inu, the Information Minister, and well known leftist politician, reasoned that "Peace TV is not consistent with Muslim society, the Quran, Sunnah, Hadith, Bangladesh's Constitution, our culture, customs and rituals"
When the National Investigation Agency arrested Mohammad Ibrahim Yazdani, the head of Islamic State's Hyderabad module in India, upon interrogation it was revealed that the operatives were influenced by Zakir Naik's sermons and wanted to establish Shariah law as in Islamic state
There have been media reports of Intelligence Agencies probing the alleged links between terror group Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), and Naik's IRF. The JuD website is said to be referring to Zakir Naik's sermons & preachings.
In 2016, he admitted that Rahil Sheikh, involved in 2006 Mumbai train bombings was working as a volunteer for his organization Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) but he did not know Rahil personally. However, Naik also claimed that Rahil was removed from his office. Nearly 200 people lost their lives in the bombing attack and investigation revealed the bombers were influenced by Naik's preachings.
Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen described Naik as “dangerous” because he “promotes 7th century Quranic texts on sex slaves, polygamy and wife beating in 21st century”. She said in a series of tweets that, “I listened to Zakir Naik's speeches. He cites Quranic texts and tries to justify. He's dangerous because it's dangerous to spread 7th century texts in the 21st century”. Referring to the deadly attacks in Bangladesh by terrorists, she said that “Many Bangladeshi would-be-terrorists are inspired by Zakir Naik. He is not having machetes in hands. But his followers are having machetes in hands". She added that, "I'm not against Zakir Naik's free speech but I am against him for inciting violence. Fatwabaz should be banned from issuing,”.
In Firstpost, reporter Sreemoy Talukdar wrote, "The smooth-talking televangelist's regressive and problematic teachings, throughly dissected and discussed threadbare, strike at the pluralist cultural component of our existence and promotes a version of Islam that is dreary and incompatible with the modern world."
In December 2017, Interpol refused the Indian Government's request to issue a red corner notice (RCN) against Naik. In January 2018, the Tribunal judge criticised the Enforcement Directorate for attaching Naik's properties without mentioning any offenses in the chargesheet. The judge added: "In the last 10 years, the ED has done nothing to attach Asaram's properties, but in the case of Naik, I can see the ED working with quite a bit of speed".
On 13 July 2016, Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi announced a reward of ₹50 lakh (US$77,000) to anyone willing to behead Zakir Naik. This came a day after a Shia group styling itself the "Hussaini Tigers" placed a ₹15 lakh (US$23,000) bounty on his head.
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