"Oh, you don't know Dr Naik? He's the best!" Said some of my friends. "You will hear him give a speech and immediately a dozen people will convert on stage."
I am not a keen proponent of people converting on stage (religion, to me, should be private and in my opinion new converts should not be a prop). Still, I remember attending his talk and seeing it as very entertaining. There is no debate that he is a highly effective public speaker. Yet ... something wasn't right.
Later, I reflected on what he said. There are two posts in the past on this blog where I recalled his speeches. One is "No Fun Please, We Are Muslims". The other topic was "Music and Its Power".
I had the opportunity to hear him speak on a few occasions. Today, I can see some sugar coating by some of his ardent supporters but to me there remained no doubt that he has very rigid opinions on what Islam is and what Muslims can do. He would not allow non-Muslims living in a Muslim country to spread their own religion because "they are wrong". Music is something that should almost be banned. I didn't witness the famous excerpt where he is alleged to have said homosexuals and those leaving from Islam should be killed, but my impression was that his attitude wouldn't be the friendliest to them.
Clearly he said a woman's lack of modest clothing would lead to her getting raped. He cited some statistics about how many women are getting raped in the USA and Canada all the time. Women who are of age and not married to a husband would become "public property", said Dr Naik. I remember hearing the word "public property" in that context. And no one, not even the women, got outraged.
People loved him for being able to cite verse numbers and chapter numbers of various holy books of all religions to underscore a point he was making. To me, the conclusions he were drawing seemed quite far fetched, yet people got offended when I pointed them out. How can he, I said, for example, ban a Jewish guy from spreading the Torah in a Muslim country when the Prophet Muhammad himself did no such thing? According to Muslims the Prophet was the perfect man leading the perfect state, yet in his state there was singing in the wedding and women were not prohibited to ride on camels and graves were not destroyed and Jews/Christians/Idolaters were free to spread their religion, and yet, are we today more pious than the Prophet?
To me, Dr Naik may be right on some things, but he was also wrong on a lot of others. To me, his views are not something I can identify with as a Western Muslim.
Is that why did Canada banned him? I can shed no tears on his ban, and if the argument is that his views are incompatible with Canadians then it's a fact.
Yet ... in another Toronto Star article it is stated he is banned (in Britain) for "unacceptable behaviour".
I was there at his "Every Muslim should be a terrorist" speech. He is being totally misquoted out of context for that one. To even cite that as a reason is being intellectually dishonest. As for the other statements, I agree then he does not espouse pro-Western views, and perhaps promote (indirectly or directly) hatred against certain groups or religions.
Then, why is Ann Coulter then allowed entry to Canada? Here's some of her quotes:
"I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo."Here is someone who has expressed hatred towards a religion (Islam), a group (gays/democrats/liberals), a Western country (Canada) and yet she is allowed entry to Canada. I could go on about other similar examples but it seems the ban on Dr Zakir Naik is hypocritical to say the least.
"Not all Muslims may be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims."
"I don't know if [former U.S. President Bill Clinton is] gay. But [former U.S. Vice President] Al Gore - total fag."
"[Canadians] better hope the United States does not roll over one night and crush them. They are lucky we allow them to exist on the same continent."
I agree that entry to Canada is a privilege for foreigners. But there should be a consistent fair set of standards applied when preventing entry. This is why I cannot support the ban on Dr Zakir Naik. He is no more gay-bashing anti-Canadian-values person than Ann Coulter.
I hope Muslims in Canada can use the ban as a positive development and turn this into an opportunity to develop home grown imams who espouse both Canadian and Islamic values (which are perfectly compatible - except, er, beer contests). Then we wouldn't need a faulty foreign role model.