By Tasneem Faridi
June 15-21, 2012
Tasneem Faridi has been listening to the popular TV preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who supports polygamy and seems to know a lot about women's menstrual cycles...
Zakir Naik, a medical doctor by profession is renowned for his dynamic oratory skills on Islamic teachings and Comparative Religion. He is the president of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai, which serves the purpose of clarifying Islamic viewpoints and misconceptions about Islam. The research team is a self-proclaimed user of the Qur'an, authentic Hadith and other religious scriptures as a basis, in conjunction with reason, logic and scientific facts, for a wide range of commentaries.
In the last 15 years, Naik has delivered more than 1500 public talks in the U.S.A., Canada, U.K., Italy, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, U.A.E., Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Botswana, Malaysia and Singapore. These are in addition to his numerous televised public talks in India. Naik is 46 years old and has been popular for his critical analysis and convincing answers to challenging questions posed by audiences at the ends of his public talks. To his devoted fans, he is an epitome of Islamic knowledge; others might know him as the Islamic scholar who makes negative remarks about other religions. To many of us, he is a walking, talking example of a human memory drive that can, at an instant's notice, recall selective quotes from a deep and vast store of scripture.
But the moment we take our minds away from his stardom and magic memory, we have to reckon with the fact that he has little formal education in Islamic theology and history. He is basically a media phenomenon who uses his medium to reach millions of people worldwide through international satellite TV channels, cable TV networks, the Internet and the print media. The trouble is that no one seems to be hitting the pause button while Naik is talking in order to check a statistic or verse that Naik has just quoted.
According to Indian journalist Rishi Majumder, Naik's visa was revoked in 2010 by UK and Canada for misrepresenting facts and figures. Naik responded with, "But I am not a scholar or cleric, I am a mere student of Islam who wishes to spread its message as I learn." Naik is on record for saying that Islam is the only correct religion in the world, and he supports banning the construction of non-Muslim houses of worship in Muslim lands.
"But I am not a scholar or cleric; I am a mere student of Islam..."
Naik has repeatedly convinced many Muslims around the world that the world's female population is more than its male population. But according to globally-accepted sources like Wikipedia and the World Factbook, there are nearly 40 million more men on earth than women. Naik also correlates the wearing (or not wearing) of hijab to incidence of sexual molestation and harassment. He asserts that hijab prevents rape and sexual molestation. He explains that the high rate of rape in the USA can be minimized if Shariah laws are implemented there. However, anyone familiar with the cultures of Asia and the West will acknowledge that the law's need for eyewitnesses and the high Asian emphasis on maintaining the family reputation causes the majority of rapes in Asian countries to go unreported and thus undocumented in surveys. (A report from the UN Refugee Agency in collaboration with the Egyptian Interior Ministry revealed that on average about 55 women are raped every day in Egypt. Another report by the Egyptian Centre For Women's Rights uncovered that more than 70% of rape victims interviewed said they were wearing a headscarf at the time of the rape.)
Naik's defence of polygamy (as prescribed, in his view, by Islam itself) is based on the notion that man is more polygamous by nature than woman. This implies that man is sinful by nature; but Dr Naik has no time for implications. He goes on to explain that Islam prohibits a woman from polyandry (whereby a woman can have more than one husband) because, a woman undergoes several psychological and behavioural changes due to different phases of the menstrual cycle. Naik supplements this "fact" with another: women have a higher chance of acquiring venereal or sexually transmitted diseases.
Ever the good Muslim, Naik ends the discussion by admitting to his own (manly) ignorance: "There are probably many more reasons why Allah, in His Infinite Wisdom, has prohibited polyandry."