The Trouble With Naik

Co-authored with Jyoti Rahman for Forum (February 2011)

Zakir Naik is a doctor by training. But that’s not what he is known for. It’s actually hard to describe him. His acolytes would call him a scholar of Islam — an aleem. But the traditional ulema, from both his native India as well as from elsewhere, don’t consider his scholarly bona fides. And in the way he uses the television and the English language, he isn’t like any traditional aleem either. One might say he is the closest thing in the subcontinent resembling an American televangelist. He says his mission is to reconvert the Muslim youth to the path of faith — not dissimilar to the American preachers seeking to create born again Christians.

Dr. Naik visited Dhaka in early December, giving a series of lectures. The reader would recall, that was a time when the hartal politics seemed to have made a return. It was also a time when the Indian film star Shah Rukh Khan’s Dhaka concert captured the attention of Dhakaites. Naik’s visit was overshadowed by these events. And yet, Naik’s visit may be portent of things to come in a more significant way than most other recent developments. Continue reading “The Trouble With Naik”