Debate: Islam and the 21st Century
- Public Debate: The Oxford Union, UK
(Oxford, UK, 12th Feb. 2011)

Question & Answer Session

Duration: 36 minutes

 

James Langman: Okay ladies and gentleman, I will now like to ask some of you signal your intention to ask questions to Dr. Naik. The way in which we are going to this is if you will signal your intention to me, we will then try and get up to the microphone up to the podium in groups of five. Please stand at the podium, deliver your question and wait at the podium until you have received your answer, then return to your seat. So the first five, come here… … please stand, stand up for those three queuing, signal your intention and add to the queue after they come down.

 

Questioner: Dr. Naik, thank you for coming here we really do appreciate it and thank you for your complimentary words of his Union being a basting of free speech. With that same principle of free speech in mind, don’t you think that I or any one should therefore should have the right to go a Muslim country and proclaim the Christian Gospel of Jesus Christ, the son of God?

 

Dr. Zakir: Brother asked the question, that same right of freedom of speech doesn’t he have the right to proclaim the Christian Bible in any Muslim country. Brother as we know today all the Muslim countries per se do not follow Quran and the Hadith in the true sense. There are many Muslim countries some may be close to Islam, some may not be close to Islam, depending upon each country they may have their own law. So what you have to do, you have to ask that particular country which does not permit you to preach your gospel what is the reason, that they don’t want you to preach your gospel.

 

Questioner: Dr. Naik thank you very much your talk, the question I had is, you profess to be a man of peace, you’ve spoken very eloquently about the idea of peace in Islam,  peace is written in front of your microphone as you stand there and I agree with you in many senses, but my question is why then is your message still seen as so controversial, why are there figures within the Islamic world, why are there fellow Islamic clerics who see your message and still believe that your are wrong? Why you claim that the Home Secretary has banned you from this country because of, sort of a media conspiracy, but why is that a broader sense is discontent with your message?

 

Dr. Zakir: The brother has asked a very good question that why if I am a man of peace, and I speak about peace some people are against me some Muslims, some non-Muslims, the Home Secretary. Brother you have to understand that any person who is popular, there are bound to be people who are against him irrespective whether the popular person is dong good work or bad work. And the best example I can give you, that today according to Michael H Hart he wrote a book saying “The Hundred Most Influential People in the World History” tough he is a Christian he put number one, most influential human being, as Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

 

Today do you know, though Muslims consider him to be the most important and the most influential person in history there are many non Muslims who think the same. But today if we analyze the maximum books written against any human being on the face of the earth it is Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). 

The second person he named in his list was Isaac Newton but because he is not a common man for common human being, he is a scientist.

The third person on his list was Jesus Christ (peace be upon him). If we analyze today the second person in human history, who has maximum number of books written against him, it is Jesus Christ (peace be upon him).

 

Based on this argument do I have to agree that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) they were not good? What we have to realize is when a person gets popular there are bound to be people against him. 

 

And according to the Home Department of UK, when I had come in the year 2009, I was informed by reliable sources that according to the Home Department of UK, the most popular Islamic satellite channel in the world is Peace TV and the most watched Islamic satellite channel in UK also is Peace TV. Not only is it watched by Muslims but also watched by non Muslims. The same report said that the most popular Islamic speaker in the world is Dr. Zakir Naik and the most popular Islamic speaker in UK is also Dr. Naik, that’s the reason the Home Department was requesting me that can I reach out to those Muslims which the UK government cannot. 

 

But now because of the change of government, what I feel that it was more of a political move rather than a legal move. And as maybe they wanted someone popular so that they could pass the message that we are tough against the Muslims and that is the reason what we feel that we have more faith in the judicial system rather than the political system. I think it was mainly because of popularity and it was mainly a political move rather than the legal move and, InshaAllah, God willing, we feel that this exclusion order will be reversed by the Court of Appeal, hopefully. Thank you.

 

Questioner: Hi. … Solace is my name. I am a lawyer, a historian and also a theologian. You gave a very excellent exposition of the Quran and Islam but Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all Abrahamic faiths. A Jew could have said the same things or almost the same thing as you said by quoting the Quran.. sorry quoting the Torah, the Talmud. A Christian have said almost everything you said by quoting both the Old Testament and the New Testament and I do not know whether we should be trying to say one religion is superior or more truthful than another and if you do go down that line whether that’s what led to the crusades said their thing. You mentioned about justice and peace, of course, the Christian Bible mentions more… more verses about justice and peace then there are by the Holy Sprit and of course Christians were pacifists until 313… So what is the difference between what you are saying and Judaism and Christianity and what would that lead to? 

 

Dr. Zakir: The brother asked a very good question and I do agree with him that if you read the Torah, the books of Judaism, the books of Christianity, you will find verses of peace. Never in my lecture ever did I say that any religion is against peace or any religion is in favor of terrorism. I always said all religions are against terrorism. What I made one statement in my speech that verse of the Quran ch 5 verse no. 32, this verse which is so emphatic I do not find a similar verse in any other scripture because I’m a student of comparative religion saying 

“If you kill one innocent human being it is as though you have killed the whole of humanity and if you save one innocent human being it is as though you have saved the whole of humanity”

 

It was only one verse otherwise generally I do agree that most of the religions almost all they speak about peace that’s the reason Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) if you read the 

 

Gospel of Luke ch. No 24 verse no. 6 

 

When he goes to the upper room when he says he wishes the apostle ‘Sholom Alekum’ which means same, peace be upon you, in Hebrew. So the greetings of Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) too when he met the people was ‘Sholom Alekum’ which meant same in Arabic ‘Assaalmu Alaikum’, may peace be on you.

 

Regarding you saying that one religion is superior to the other religion, I believe, All Mighty God sent only one religion; He has not sent different religions. What the Quran says He has made human beings into different tribes, different colors, different languages so that they may recognize each other not that they might despite each other. The only religion that God has sent to all His Messengers whether it be Moses, whether it be Jesus (peace be upon him), Moses (peace be upon him), Muhammad (peace be upon him) it was to submit their will to All Mighty God. So I believe all these messengers right from Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, peace be upon them all, all of them brought the same message that believe in one God and worship Him alone and only Him and submit your will to that All Mighty God. Hope that answers the question.

 

Questioner: Good afternoon Dr. Naik…my name is Eziwespree, I’m a secretary here at the Oxford Union, I have a very short question to ask ….umm …you talked about the Hijaab being something to serve to protect a woman surely it’s extremely patronizing and degrading to prevent a women from making that decision for herself...how could you answer that?

 

Dr. Zakir: What’s your question sister? Can you repeat the question?

 

Questioner: I said in your speech you talked about the Hijaab being something that serves to protect a woman but how is it not extremely patronizing, degrading and not allowing the women to make that decision herself.

 

Dr. Zakir: Sister has posed a very good question that when I say that Hijaab is required for a woman isn’t it not degrading for the woman to patronize it, isn’t it degrading?

 

If you read the Qur’an.. the Qur’an and Islam has prescribed Hijaab that means the women should be covered the only part that can be seen are the face and the hands up to the wrist. This is for the modesty and it is not only mentioned in the Qur’an it is also mentioned in the Bible. 

 

If you read the Bible in the 1st Timothy ch. No 2 verse no. 9 it says that 

Women should be dressed up with shamefacedness. They should be dressed up with sobriety and should not wear braded hair of gold or pearls. 

 

It’s further mentioned in the 

1st Corinthians ch. No. 5 verse no. 7 to 11 

“The women that does not cover her hair…head then she dishonors her head, her head should be shaved off”

 

Anyway I don’t agree with this I’m just quoting you from the Bible. 

 

Same way if you go to the Vedas, it says that the women should cover their head. So all the religious scriptures they talk about the women covering their head. It is for modesty it is not to degrade the women. 

 

And if we analyze there was an allegation made against me saying the Dr. Zakir Naik says that if they don’t wear Hijaab, you know, that if you wear western clothes there are chances the women will be raped. It is a misquotation again, what I said if women wear revealing clothes they have more chances of being raped, what I was doing… the same news paper Sunday Times which spoke against me, 1 year before on the March of 9th 2009 Sunday Times carried an article “In Britain one out of seven feel that the women who wear sexy revealing clothes, she should be hit” 

I’m sorry I don’t agree with it, this is the statistics that was given in the Sunday Times on the 9th of March 2009 that in Britain one out of seven Britishers believe that the women who wear revealing and sexy clothes should be hit. I disagree with this. 

 

Furthermore one more article came in 2005 in the same news paper Sunday Times it said that “26% of the Britishers, they feel that wearing revealing clothes is partially or totally responsible for the rape” 

 

So what I say that more modestly you are dressed up you are respected more. So Islam has prescribed the modest Hijaab for the woman not to degrade her but to uplift her.

 

I do agree there may be cultural differences, Islam cannot force anyone to adopt it, there are cultural differences for e.g. I’ll give you an e.g. 

 

That some…some societies what they feel that even looking at a woman is immodest, some societies feel looking is no problem but touching a woman is immodest, some of the societies feel shaking hands is no problem, some societies feel kissing no problem, some societies feels doing anything as long as both agree is no problem. Different societies and different cultures have got rules and regulations.

 

When I went to America while I was giving a talk one of the Americans told me “You eastern women, you are immodest” I was shocked! So I said why do you call the eastern women immodest? He told me you eastern woman you expose your belly. So in America, in western country exposing belly is immodest. In India exposing belly is not immodesty, wearing shorts is immodesty.

 

What you have to realize sister there is different culture, there is different system. Islam cannot force any one to adopt 

 

Islam clearly mentions in Surah Baqarah ch. No. 2 verse no. 256 

 

“La ikraha fid Deen” 

 

“There is no compulsion in religion”

 

But if some woman wants to adopt the Hijaab because they feel modest and they feel respected, I feel no other woman should disagree. And when I have been to UK, I have seen hundreds and thousands of women who do cover their hair and who feel that they are uplifted because of this modesty. Hope that answers the question.

 

Questioner: Good evening Dr. Zakir Naik. My name is Dr. Ramsee from Oxford. I am… of Universal Peace Federation and member of the…one of the member of the Muslim Council of Britain. I would like to say, you are doing an excellent job obviously. Now my question, Dr. Zakir Naik, in your opinion is Islamophobia a real phenomena and if so how do you suggest it can be tackled? Does the responsibility lies in the Muslim community or should western society be doing more to breach this barrier of fear. I am talking about the fear; all phobias are fear, fear of unknown. Thank you.

 

Dr. Zakir: The brother asked a very good question that is Islamophobia a real phenomena, how should it be tackled. Is it the responsibility of the Muslim community to do it. Yes there is Islamophobia especially in this 21st centaury and as I mentioned in my speech, I believe that one of the major reasons for this Islamophobia is the media. And I said in my speech that media spreads several misconceptions about this religion of Islam. I do agree that it is that duty of us Muslims that we should spread the true teachings of Islam. 

 

I am aware that there are black sheep in the Muslim community; I am not saying all Muslims are 100% pious, all are good. There are black sheeps in every community including Islam. What does the media do? They pick up the black sheep of the Muslim community and they portray in the media as though they are exemplary Muslims. What we have do is we have to portray the right teachings if the Quran and the sayings of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). And if any Muslim is involved in some act which are against the teachings of Islam which is… acts of terrorism, killing of innocent human beings, it is the duty of us Muslims that we should tell such people it is haraam. There are some people who are misguided and they are being brainwashed into saying that killing innocent human being is part of Islam, you will get reward. It is our duty as mainstream Muslims to try and convey the right message of Islam and prevent such Muslims from being misguided, that’s point no. 1. 

 

Point no. 2 its our duty to tell the government of the country in you are living that Islam is a peaceful religion and what I believe that Muslims should be part of the solution, they should not be part of the problem. The government should not think that Muslims are part of the problem; they should think Muslims are part of the solution. And that’s the advice I even give to the police of India and to the police of Bombay and I interact with the police force very often and I tell them that just for a few you should take the Muslims in confidence and the best is to have an interaction I have addressed many… many police officers from various different countries and we should try and have a question and answer session and remove the misconceptions in their mind and prove to them that Islam is the one of the most tolerant religion, its a peaceful religion and it if you know the teachings of Islam surely the least person that you’ll have to fear is fear a true Muslim. I’m not talking about the black sheeps of the Muslim community. Hope that answers the question. 

 

Questioner: Dr. Naik, I’m Yasmin and I’m a student at the University and my question is so related to the last question. And you talked about, you wanted to come to the UK because you wanted to reach out to Muslims, who you thought that the government was not able to reach out to. And I wondered why in your opinion you thought the government was failing its way to reach out to Muslims in Britain?

 

Dr. Zakir: Sister asked a question I wanted to come to UK to reach out to those Muslims who the government could not reach out. Sister there’s a slight confusion. I said, Charles Farr, the Director General of the Office of Security and Counter Terrorism felt that I could reach out those Muslims who the government could not reach out to. He felt that, not me. And I think, again, because the information which the Home Department has, that Peace TV is the most popular Islamic Satellite Channel in UK watched by the Muslims as well as the Non Muslims and the most popular speaker, according to the Home Department, not according to me, according to the Home Department is Dr. Zakir Naik. So I… I repeated what he thought. He thought that I could reach better, may be he thinks that my speeches have influence and he may have read my speeches in context that’s the reason he was not in favor of the Home Secretary, that she passed the exclusion order. Hope that answers the question.

 

Questioner: Do you think they have a point… do you think ah… in some sense the government failed reach out to Muslims. I want to know.

 

Dr. Zakir: Yes, if you ask my opinion, that do I agree with the thoughts of Charles Farr that the government is failing on, yes I do agree with him. I do agree because as I said in my earlier answer that the government should not think that Muslims are part of the problem, the government should think that Muslims are part of the solution, because a Muslim, there are many Muslims who are British citizens and it’s the duty of every Muslim to follow all the laws of the country he’s staying in as long as the law does not force him to do something which is prohibited in the religion or prevents him from doing something which is compulsory in the religion. 

 

As far as India is concerned, I do not know of any rule or any law in the constitution which forces a Muslim in India do something which is prohibited neither does it prevent me from doing something which is compulsory. So I am a practicing Muslim and I am proud to be an Indian. So I am proud to be an Indian Muslim.

 

Similarly there are many Britishers who I feel, may be feeling the same. They may be Muslims, and they may be following the laws of the country so they are British Muslims. 

 

So I feel that the government should take in confidence and what they should do that they should see to it that this maligning buy the media should stop. And the best example, best example is myself. I mean there are many, there are hundred million viewers of Peace TV and there are millions of people who… who tell that I am an ambassador for peace, they say I am a peaceful person. There are many heads of states of several foreign countries, many. They have called me as a State Guest so do you mean to say all these state guests of these countries, the president, the prime minister the King, the Shaikh, they meet me, they have dinner with me, do you mean to say that they are meeting a person who is promoting terrorism? A person who spreads hate? So what I am saying this is all again manipulated by the media. So the government should not fall a prey to the media and take any decision hastily. What they should do, they should give a chance for the person to clarify and then I am sure that most of the misconceptions will be removed and I’m sure that UK would be a more peaceful country to live in. Hope that answers the question. 

 

Questioner: Dr. Naik, hello and thank you. My name is John and I am a doctor of student here at Oxford and I am from the USA. My question has to do with prosecution specifically how former Muslims are sometimes killed if they had chosen to leave Islam deciding that another religion is more true for example my girlfriend is Turkish and she lives in Turkey. She used to be Muslim but decided become a Christian after understanding Jesus in a new way as god being flesh. She’d had fears in the past that she may be harmed or even killed for her decision in the light of the recent attention in that matter in Pakistan with Miss Bibi and the blasphemy laws. My question is this, what are you doing or what do you plan to do to educate Muslims that if someone chooses to leave Islam, that person should not be killed. 

 

Dr. Zakir: Brother asked a very important question and he said that what if a person who is practicing Islamic faith changes to any other faith, is it required that he should be killed? And all these articles ‘Preacher of Hate’ one of the point was that ‘Dr. Zakir prescribes death penalty for those Muslims who leave their faith and they profess any other faith’. Again these reports were out of context. They took up a portion of my speech where I said that “many scholars say that a Muslim who leaves his faith and professes any other religion, death penalty is the punishment but”, I went on to further say that “death penalty is not a standard punishment for any Muslim who leaves his faith and professes any other religion”. 

 

I gave the example that once during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) there was a Muslim who converted to another faith and had done some wrong deeds for which the Prophet had told that he should be put to death but later on when Hazrat Usman (may Allah be pleased with him), he approached the Prophet and said that the man should be forgiven, the Prophet pardoned him. 

 

This incidence proves that death penalty is not the standard rule for any Muslim who changes his faith. If he does some act which requires to be punished by death, depending upon the act he has done but according to Islam and according to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).. According to me death penalty is not the standard rule for any Muslim who changes his faith and professes any other religion. And that’s what I have told in my talks but unfortunately what they do they pick up a portion of my speech from the youtube and they show it to the Home Secretary and the Home Secretary believes it. What you have to see is in context.

 

I would like to give you…one more example I would like to give that the moment I was banned in UK, I was suppose to travel to Toronto, Canada. Immediately when the ban was effected even my Visa for Canada was cancelled, there also I had a 5 year visa and I heard on the Toronto News, it says ‘Hear this preacher of .. the Preacher of Hate’, “hear what he says” and then show my clipping that “when you beat your wife, don’t beat on the face, point no. 1.

When you beat you should not leave a mark on the body”, finish. 

 

Now they are showing a clipping, a portion of my answer. Anyone who hears these 2 statements when you beat your wife, don’t beat her on the face, when you beat, do not leave a mark on the body. It will.. a person would think that Zakir is showing how to beat your wife without leaving a mark. It was a portion of my answer when a non-Muslim asked the question that doesn’t the Quran say that you should beat your wife and I said that the Quran says in 

 

Surah Nisa ch. no. 4 verse no. 34, it says that 

When your wife is disloyal to you, first you admonish her, point no. 1

 

Admonish her first then you stop talking to her, then stop sharing her bed, then you can beat her lightly, the Arabic word is ‘Darabah’. 

 

And when someone asked Ibn Abbas (may Allah be pleased with him), the companion of the prophet, he said it means like beating with a tooth brush, and further the commentary says that the Prophet said, 

 

when you beat your wife you should not beat on the face point no. 1.

Beat in such a way that there is no mark left on the body. So this part was shown and I continued, Islam and Quran never suggests wife bashing. It means that you should beat with the tooth brush lightly in modern terminology I said beating with a handkerchief, just a symbolic beating such that you don’t beat her on the face, even a symbolic beating and don’t beat in a way in which there no mark left on the body. That means its an admonition, it’s just a symbolic beating. So they cut off all the portion and show only two sentences of mine and they promote that Zakir is a person who is against women. 

 

So these things were also done regarding the death penalty for a person who changes the faith from Islam but as I told you in Islam the standard rule is not death penalty for a Muslim who changes his faith to any other religion. Hope that answers the question.

 

Questioner: Fine but what are you going to do to continue to educate people so that Muslims around the world know that? 

 

Dr. Zakir: Brother, this I have mentioned in several of my speeches, now when you asked the question, I gave the reply. There are tens of millions of people watching this program on Peace TV, they are being educated that death penalty is not the standard rule but why will they believe in me? Because I have given the reference, I gave the reference of the sayings of the Prophet from Abu Dawood I am giving the reference for more authenticity 

Abu Dawood vol. no. 3 Hadith no 4345.

 

Now when I’m giving reference, Abu Dawood Vol. no. 3 Hadith no. 4345, anyone can go and checkup this Hadith, the sayings of the Prophet. The Prophet pardoned a person who was a Muslim and changed to another faith. Now the difference between my answer and other answers are the other people just say without giving the reference. Now when I give a reference, sayings of the Prophet 

 

Abu Dawood Vol. no. 3 Hadith no. 4345, you can go and checkup so this gives more authenticity and I am sure now there are millions of Muslims who will agree that death penalty is not the standard rule for any Muslim who changes his faith to any other religion. Hope that answers the question.

 

James Langman: That’s all for this evening due to the limitation of the satellite link. However I would ask you now to join with me in thanking Dr. Naik for his speech and pass it back to Peace TV to finish the evening. And with that Ladies and Gentlemen I remain, James Langman, and your President, thank you.

 

Dr. Zakir: I would like to thank the Oxford Union, especially the President of the Oxford Union, Mr. James Langman, for making this event possible and I really appreciate with the way they invited me for this talk and at least now the people of UK can really see a live telecast that I’m a person who gives the message of peace. In a live telecast there is no editing, there is no manipulation you can have more faith in these live telecast rather than clippings from YouTube which can be manipulated. I would like to thank the members of the Oxford Union once again and I hope very shortly once the exclusion order is reversed I would like to personally come to the Oxford Union and meet the members of the Oxford Union. Thank you very much. 

 

Wa Aakhiru Da’waana Anil Hamdu Lillaahi Rabbil Aalameen!

 

Mohammed Naik: Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh. For the viewers of Peace TV, may I just give a background briefing for those who have joined in later on. We just heard before us a very enlightening talk by Dr. Zakir Naik addressing the Oxford Union, UK on the topic, ‘Islam and the 21st Century’. This was an opportunity to present not only to UK and the people of United Kingdom, but at the global level, because Oxford Union is not merely famous for presenting the views or concerns at the Oxford University itself but on a wider level, throughout the world of issues which are of global concern. 

 

Today we have Islam being analyzed, being criticized, being appreciated, it is in the forefront of being understood sometimes for the right reasons, sometimes for the wrong reasons. Today, the Oxford Union has provided us this opportunity to put before the world, the views of what Islam stands for, through the person of Dr. Zakir Naik, one of the leading orators on Islam and Comparative Religion in the world and its our pleasure that we could hear the different questions and viewpoints and, InshaAllah, we hope to have such programs in other places on the world where opportunities could be availed of and spread the message of peace further and further to every corner of the world, InshaAllah. We thank all of you’ll for being with us and sharing these historic moments of this unique debate at the Oxford Union. Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh!