Apostasy and the Sinister Zakir Naik
If only George Orwell were alive to chronicle the age in which the owner of a channel called "Peace TV" speaks regularly of how ex-Muslims deserve to die.
It is normal for Islamic literalists and chauvinists to pervert language to try to present their poison as honey. Zakir Naik exemplifies this perfectly.
However, sometimes the elephant in the room does get pointed out. Recently, the British broadcasting regulator OFCOM ruled against Peace TV and Zakir Naik after he broadcast the following words:"One group of scholars, they say that if a Muslim, if he becomes a non-Muslim [inaudible] he should be put to death. There is another group of scholars who say that if a Muslim becomes a non-Muslim and propagates his new faith against Islam then he should be put to death. I tend to agree more with the second group of scholars, who say that a Muslim, if he becomes a non-Muslim and propagates his new faith against Islam, that is the time this penalty is applied."
The elephant in the room was also pointed out earlier, by Home Secretary Theresa May, who banned Zakir Naik from entering Britain on the grounds of his hate preaching. This preaching has included statements of solidarity with Osama bin Laden and disquisitions on the fate of critics and apostates of Islam. Naik stated that under sharia law it is appropriate to crucify, dismember or exile those who "wage war against Allah
", and that it is correct to kill former Muslims who "propagate his new faith against Islam
Ex-Muslims must be grateful for these small mercies from OFCOM and Theresa May. Apostates from Islam are the only group in British society of whom it can be stated openly that they deserve to be killed, and there is so little reaction or condemnation of such hate speech.
Even though Naik himself has been banned from Britain, his media machine, which is Saudi funded and peddles a literalist, Wahaabi version of Islam saturated with bigotry, misogyny, intolerance of non-Wahaabi Muslims, and all non Muslims broadcasts unimpeded in the UK. As a result, Naik's teachings, which disseminate a worldview hostile to science and liberal education, continue to gain popularity.
As recently as 2009, Zakir Naik was employed by the BBC to give a series of "Ramadan Reflections" on the Asian Network. Thankfully, his reflections on the BBC didn't include what elsewhere he has said should be done to apostates, but it is a dispiriting sign of his relative popularity among some Muslims that the BBC chose him to represent Islam.
Who will point out to Muslims the elephant in the room that is Zakir Naik?
Sadly, there are as of yet few signs that Zakir Naik and his formidable machine of evangelism faces any significant organised opposition. On the contrary, dissent is relatively muted, and his lectures and ideas are increasingly finding currency amongst Muslims in Britain.
One of the problems is that as horrific as you may find his attitude towards ex-Muslims, he is expressing mainstream Islam's scripturally-based discourse regarding apostasy.
For a Muslim to criticise Naik's attitude would open that person to claims that he is criticising the religion itself which, in one of the grimmest Catch 22 aspects of Islam, could make the Muslim vulnerable to accusations of being one of the disbelievers (or "Kuffar
"), and thus subject to the very same demonisations and threats that are thrown at apostates.
There is much we will be saying about the teaching on apostasy in Islam in the future. A recent comment from our forum touches on one of the main apologia that is made for the "death to ex-Muslims" rhetoric that Zakir Naik asserts as a reasonable and righteous teaching of Islam.
The "apostasy = treason" rhetoric begs the question: Is Islam intrinsically a political entity first and foremost? Muslims like to say that Islam is not inherently political but has been "misinterpreted" or used that way. Yet when they support the death penalty for apostasy (which, to be fair, not all Muslims do) it is implicit in that stance that Islam is firstly a political state, not a religion which does not necessarily have to be political or state-based, but a set of personal beliefs.
Perhaps it is understandable that many Muslims do not want to discuss the issue of apostasy in Islam. Doing so means having to confront the ethical flaws and contradictions within Islamic teachings. For many Muslims, this is too expensive a cost, but for ex-Muslims it is a cost we will see and pay in full. We cannot afford not to. We will continue to point out the elephant in the room until only the most willfully blind and obtuse refuse to acknowledge it.