Saturday, May 12, 2012

Are you kidding Dr. Zakir Naik?

Few weeks back while surfing on the net, I came across few YouTube videos of Dr. Zakir Naik's seminars and Q&A sessions. I heard him long ago when I was in India on cable TV and was impressed by his sharp memory and accuracy but not with the content of his talks, surprisingly after almost a decade his style and contents are still same. During his seminars he continuously throws verse numbers, page numbers, book names, and many other details for all lines (or verses) which he quotes from ancient scriptures of major religions of world. He became very popular and influential figure among Indian Muslims and even started his own channel to propagate his views. He claims to do comparative religious study, which according to him is to compare every other religion with Islam and try to prove how Islam is best compared to them (aren't most fundamentalist do the same thing?). His style sounds very impressive in the beginning (you get impressed by his memory) but then he overdoes this thing so much that after sometime his speech becomes irritating, monotonous and utterly boring with so many page numbers and verse numbers in them, all you remember from his speech is 'this guy has sharp memory' nothing else. His speeches are rich in quotes, literature citations (bibliography) but mostly poor in contents. If one want to know who wrote what, particular lines are from which book, then his speeches are good source to know it, but now one can find all these things easily online so why to tolerate his torture? He does a good job in translating verses but many times his justifications, comparisons and interpretations are totally without any logic (or he uses his own logic most of the times). One thing which I don't like is when he tries to intimidate questioners especially from other faiths by ridiculing their belief, questioning their knowledge about their own faith by throwing lot of bibliographic information and verses (no doubt that he knows lot of them). He tries to prove his superiority over them. It seems he draws lot of pleasure in scoring brownie points against them and feels satisfaction in humiliating the questioner, he doesn't even try to listen to their point of view but it seems his only intention is to force his opinion down to their throat. 

This post is not about Islam or Qur'an, their mention is only in context with Zakir Naik's this particular talk which I want to discuss. Recently I heard part of his speech where he tried to justify polygamy allowed in Islam (ref. 1).  One should watch that video to see how pathetic was his attempt to justify something which is totally outdated in today's world. According to him it seems that whatever is written in Qur'an is law and then he takes the task of justifying them. No doubt Qur'an is wonderful and very well respected book. It's basis of one of the popular religions of the modern world. According to me there is very specific reason why polygamy was allowed in Qur'an, I think social and political situation at that time resulted in huge difference in male to female ratio (in favor of females) and to maintain social balance polygamy was permitted. All religious scriptures were written in certain era, they all have many things which are still relevant today and we should study them for our own benefit, but at the same time we should also understand that most of them have many things which are out dated now and are not relevant in today's world. It's surprising to see that many people expect us to take these scriptures verbatim, and follow each and everything mentioned in them

He justifies the practice of polygamy first by citing the verse from Qur'an which says 'marry women of your choice in 2s, 3s or 4s but if you can't do justice then marry only once' (ref. 1). He also claims that only Qur'an tells person (male) to marry once (if possible) rest all scriptures from other religions doesn't say anything like this about marriage (marry once, if possible!!) and it seems allow as many marriages as man wants (no one is giving females any option here). He further claims that even though at birth male to female ratio is equal, it seems female infant is stronger than male!! and according to him because of this there are more deaths of male child compared to female child (I don't know on what basis he draws this conclusion). So, according to him in children it self male to female ratio is in favor of females (which is not true, check the table below and in ref. 2). Female survival rate is more because of so many reasons males die in larger number compared to females (alcohol, accidents, war, stress, etc.) which is true but if we look at the table still ratio is in favor of males in most of countries for age group 15-65, it shifts heavily in favor of females only after age 65. Then he further claims that due to all this there are more females in the world compared to males except in few third world countries like India (but now we know the exact reason behind this). He does a good job in criticizing female feticide and infanticide in India which affected this ratio, good to see that he  speaks against it. Then he continues his argument and puts one hypothetical scenario where because of more females than men, particularly he takes example of USA, if all males select their female partners then there will be still some females left without any male partners. Here he conveniently ignores gay and lesbian couples. These poor females are now in a world or city without any bachelor males (as they are all already  engaged, wow fiction at its best!!). It seems now they have only two options, one is to marry with already married male (become a second wife) or become a 'Public Property'. I don't know what he means by 'public property'. Also notice how he puts that women questioner in awkward position and tries to force her to accept his logic, even if he want to justify polygamy I think he can do better job than this.

Now lets see whether his argument contains any truth or its all crap. If you look at the list of countries by sex ratio (ref. 2), it's very clear that in most of the countries male to female ratio is greater than 1 for most of age groups (that is more males compared to females) except for the group above age 65, in this age group (65 and above) in most countries females are in much larger number compared to males. We all know that mortality rate is higher in males compared to females in later stages of life (after 65) due to various reasons. Lot of research has been already dome in this area and there is lot of literature available about this for any one who is interested in reasons behind it. So, this argument of Dr. Naik about being more females per male in world and specially in developed countries doesn't stand rather its totally opposite scenario (in 15-64 age group).  Even if we take example of some Islamic countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE we can see in all age groups (except age group above 65) M/F ration is greater than 1 (in UAE it's 2.74 for age group of 15-64). Let's have a look at data for some selected countries from ref. 2. 
 
Country/region
at birth
(CIA estimate)
under 15
15–64
over 65
total
at birth
WDB estimate)

Afghanistan
1.05
1.05
1.05
0.92
1.05
1.06
Brazil
1.05
1.04
0.98
0.73
0.98
1.05
Canada
1.056
1.05
1.02
0.78
0.98
1.05
India
1.12
1.13
1.07
0.9
1.08
1.08
Iran
1.05
1.05
1.02
0.92
1.02
1.05
Pakistan
1.10
1.06
1.05
0.88
1.09
1.05
Saudi Arabia
1.05
1.04
1.29
1.06
1.18
1.03
United States
1.05
1.04
1.00
0.75
0.97
1.05
UAE
1.05
1.05
2.74
1.82
2.19
1.05
UK
1.05
1.05
1.03
0.76
0.98
1.05

Now after looking at this table who has possibility of becoming 'public property' by his logic, male or female? And based on this logic will he support polyandry (one female marrying more than one males) to maintain social harmony? I don't understand what is his aim behind misguiding people like this? Why he is doing this? If he wants to preach Islam or spread teachings of Qur'an, there is nothing wrong in it, but why he intends to show that other religions or scriptures are inferior compared to his own? What he want to achieve by doing that? He claims to study comparative religion, but comparison for what? Do we need to compare them? There are many people who do similar things (compare their own beliefs with others to show how theirs is better and best) and Dr. Naik is also one of them. I don't know why people like him believe that they have to prove all others wrong to show that they are right. He is using all his talent or knowledge for wrong purpose, sooner he understands this it is better for him. Millions of Muslims follow him, he can use his influence to do something better than trying to convert people from other faiths to Islam.

Lot of research has been done in the area of anthropology and social science. Many marriage systems (like polygamy, polyandry, group marriage, monogamy, etc) have been studied and researched, based on all this research it's is clear that with experience our society evolved from polygamy (or polyandry in some cases) to monogamy (one spouse at any one time), scriptures or books have nothing to do with that. In modern world every country and society has laws to control these things and it should be respected. Everything in our life can not be controlled by any single book. Scriptures are valuable and they are very good guiding tools but they should not dictate what we should do in our bedrooms, what we should eat or wear, common sense is enough for this. Scriptures are for spiritual guidance and should be used for that.

Thanks for reading and please share your views.

References:
3. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_sex_ratio

(Copyright: Vinay Thakur. Please contact the author for re-posting or publishing) 

15 comments:

  1. I remember coming across this guy some years ago on YouTube or something, and my take on this guy is same as yours. Interestingly the specific issue you are raising, that of polyandry, he has an argument against that too. His logic is that in case of polygamy the parentage of the child is not ambiguous (obviously he is assuming a completely "faithful" marriage, in the sense that the man can sleep with four women, but heaven forbid that any of the women sleep with anyone other than their legally wed husband), but in case of polyandry one can never be sure as to who the father is. This he says can raise problems, for example in case of a divorce, determining the custody of the child would become a huge problem. Which is why polyandry is not allowed according to him. Of course even if this argument was true, with modern technology like DNA analysis this should no longer be a problem. Of course he neglects to mention that. Even if for some reason DNA analysis was not available (I don't know why, let's say due to economic reasons or some obscure religious scripture he interprets to serve his purpose which no doubt he will), even then, based on your data, the practice of polygamy should be forsaken at least in countries where the gender ratio is in favor of men, as it happens to be India, in order that some men don't become "public property" due to further exacerbation of the problem due to polygamy. Somehow I don't think this chap will advocate that position, and I'm sure he will have another 15 or so verses to justify his position. The problem is that you are trying to fight his "beliefs" with your logic, that approach hardly ever works, even though your opponent pretends that his/her beliefs have a logical basis to them. The point is, what may have been logical 1400 years ago, might not be logical now (as you have correctly pointed out), fundamentalists (of any religion) frequently fail to realize that. It's best to ignore these demagogues and not give them any publicity.

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  2. Thanks a lot Suv for your comment. I totally agree with your opinion when you say that its best to ignore these people and not to give them any publicity. I did the same thing when I heard his talk for the first time in India almost more than a decade ago. After that his influence grew in India, he became very popular figure and was also featured in some talk shows where he expressed his views. I was surprised to see that he is still trying to spread the same message of superiority of his religion. This is the reason I decided to discuss and analyze one of his talks with available data so that his followers and other people also can decide themselves what is the truth.

    According to me, since it became available only DNA test is the most reliable method to solve parental claims, today one cannot rely totally on mother's statement (imagine people with multiple sexual partners, how can they decide?). Technique used in these cases has to be with minimum scope for human errors to be reliable and useful. I wish I can get a chance to discuss with him some of the issues he talks in his seminar...:) it will be definitely interesting experience. Please post the link about his talk on polyandry if you can find it. Thanks again.

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    1. I did a cursory Google search and here is what I found:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oa55QrMhjDk

      In all fairness he does say that "today it is possible with DNA technology", something he hadn't said in earlier videos I saw. This one seems to be a comparatively newer video. No doubt people had brought up DNA evidence and he has since modified his arguments. However even then he says polygamy is allowed and polygamy is not because "the rules are for all time". I don't even understand what that means, if the paternity is the issue, and if that has been solved with modern technology a fair and logical system would take that into account. No doubt he understands that too.... hence he gives some other bullcrap reasons (which he hadn't made in previous videos as far as I remember). I won't spoil the entertainment value by stating his other arguments and would encourage you to see the video in its entirety. All I will say is that it will amaze you with shear ad hoc proclamations and made up "science". I will only say one thing to disprove his "modern scientific" arguments against polyandry. It is a well known fact that lesbians have historically had the fewest incidences of sexually transmitted diseases. That is all. If you see the video you will know which specific argument of his I'm referring to.

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    2. boy...the link you posted is amazing...I cant believe that he studied medicine and even managed to get a degree also...please watch the video mentioned in Suv's reply and just see how he fools and misguides his audiences..even women sitting in his audience are hypnotized and listen to insulting remarks quietly...we need to confront people like him before they become unstoppable...thanks Suv for sharing it.

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    3. After your blogpost I looked more closely into this fellow and his beliefs. In my first reply I had said that we just need to ignore this chap. Upon further research, I think you are on the right track by exposing him. Many years ago, he appeared to me as just another nut job, and hence I had said that we just need to ignore him. However, after further research, I agree with you, he does need to be confronted. Even though he dresses up in a suit and pretends to be progressive, it is all a veneer, a veneer behind which a much more hateful reality exists. I will point to Cyril's comments below, and as it turns out he is 100% right. I myself am an atheist, and even though atheists are one of the most marginalized communities in the world, I for one do not take lightly when other peoples religious freedoms are at risk. This guy pretends to be a knowledgeable and progressive guy, but in reality his whole message is "my religion is right, and your religion is wrong". He even goes on to say in some other interviews (easily found by Googling) that it is perfectly okay for some Islamic republics to deny other religions to practice their faith (in which he makes a bogus analogy with arithmetic, as if religious beliefs are as fundamentally obvious as arithmetic) while at the same time raising a hew and cry about his own free speech rights and arguing against his banishment form UK and Canada by the same token. This sort of hypocracy cannot be condoned in a civilized world. I am surprised that the Indian government which is so quick to cancel Salman Rushdie's talks in book fairs, has turned a blind eye to so many things this guy has said. I too am not a big fan of censorship, but fairness must be upheld by our government. Having found out more about this guy, I commend you Vinay, for at least exposing his false logic and dogma. Rational people must stand up and call him out on his BS, turning a blind eye will only help further legitimize his falsehoods, at the very least the masses should have access to criticism of his faulty logic.

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    4. Thanks again Suv for your comment. I know that he uses example of 2+2=4 to show how his religion cracked the secret code about God and others got wrong (he claims that others claim 2+2=5)..but he forgot that 3-1, 5-3, 1+3 and many many combinations like this can give the same answer and all are right...Atheism is growing fast and I think its attractive alternative for people who are totally disappointed with organized religion and its activities..people mistake them as religion haters where as they try to help religion to reform and show its shortcomings...they were and are important pillars society...

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  3. Logically for me it was plain convenience for the male to make this law of many (multiple) wives!
    The Religion of Islam was born in the desert as was Christianity!
    Both religions allow multiple marriages but more so in Islam.
    This requirement was born out of necessity(so felt)as travel and distances between places in desserts were far and way between!To control sexual desires was difficult or you had to opt for the camels..which many did!
    This is a mere male chauvinistic law of self justification!

    ...well there are many points but to mention one specific one!

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  4. Zakir Naik is not just full of air and hyperbole, he's also a hate monger who can say things like 'All muslims should be terrorists'. His message is that of hate and death. In his influence I've seen liberal muslims turn into dadi-toting hardliners.

    He's from the same breed as that of zawahiri and osama, and one day he will cause major destruction in India if he's not reigned in.

    He's already banned in UK, Europe and the US for his hateful and incendiary speech.

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    1. Thanks a lot Cyril for your remark. I wonder Indian government who is normally very sensitive about such remarks ignored this fellow and his activities???

      As Suv already mentioned he tries to project him as progressive but his views and ideas are about taking whole society backwards and we all need to fight these type of people from any religion or organization...I don't have any problem people preaching their religion or explaining their scriptures but spreading such a wrong information and hatred should not be allowed at any cost.

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  5. Can the petition be filed against this guy? Specially because his speeches are clearly shown to be of hatred towards other religions. Such people should definitely be banned from giving hatred speeches in public.

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    1. There are many people like him in all religions...so if we have to file petition we have to do for all of them... singling out this fellow will make him hero...we should confront him logically wherever possible and try to expose his lies...

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  6. This Dr. Zakir Naik computer memory device says women should not mingle with men, what about women physicians and nurses? he doesn't think of separate multi-speciality hospitals for women and men is not practically realzable...

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    1. Thanks Kishore for your reply, your questions are very valid but when someone decides to follow someone or some religion or some book blindly then such questions and doubts don't even come to their mind...even if they come they justify them by using some lines from the book or something else. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.

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  7. @Vinay, Dr. Zakir Naik, makes his religion better by defaming other religious faith and the people who follow his words encourage these things, a good preacher will never defame other religious faith. He takes advantage of the crowd who are listening to him, as because these people enjoy criticizing other religious faith.

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  8. thanks a lot Kishore for your comment, I agree with you that Dr. Naik loves to demean other religion to prove that his religion is better than others, this approach widens rift which is already present between people following different faiths, it seems rather than bridging the gaps he is interested in breaking the bridges and we all need to oppose these type of attempts, no matter who is doing this, let's keep opposing such views wherever we come across them, at least we can do this much to stop them from ruining our society. Thanks again for sharing your opinion.

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