Tag Archives: Islam

The Qur’an and why I am not Impressed

When talking to friends, if the topic of why I am no longer a Muslim ever pop up, I usually reply saying that I don’t have any reason to believe in Islam, and that it has failed to produce the evidence needed to back up its claims. This is when they whip out the Qur’an and present if as if it were some sort of divine trump card able to magically obliterate all doubt and skepticism. The following is a list of reasons why I reject the Qur’an as evidence. Please note that by doing so I am expressing my freedom of speech and I do not intend to offend anyone. If you are likely to find this offensive, or to preach, proselytize and condemn, please move along. As always, criticism (of all sorts) is more than welcome.

1) I am not convinced that the most important message that I am ever to receive, the most important message bar none, was revealed privately to an individual who lived 1400 years ago, in a culture that I am not familiar with and in a language that I do not even speak. When most of these barriers are removed, i.e. when it is translated and annotated by both Muslim and Non-Muslim scholars throughout the ages, it still fails to make any logical sense or appeal to my sense or morality. This will be further elaborated upon in the following points.

2) I cannot accept the premises that this book is everlasting and unchanging. Reading translations or commentaries made by scholars such as Yusuf Ali disrupts the transmission between the author (supposedly God) and its intended recipient (me, in this case) as they (the translators and interpreters) are human, therefore are neither infallible nor immune to bias (not to mention corruptible by Satan, but that’s a different story). Even if the book’s scriptural characters were preserved for 14 centuries (which is highly doubtful considering recent archaeological evidence and historical narration of how the book was originally compiled), the meaning of the contained verses are dynamic further adding to my disbelief. The fact that controversial verses have more than one interpretation clearly illustrates this point.

3) If I were to suspend my disbelief for a moment and accept the author of the book as God, then He strikes me as an unjust, immoral, cruel and petty being, far removed from what my expectations of an immortal, omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient & omnibenevolent entity that genuinely cares about it’s creation. This being, who claims to have authored the Qur’an, relishes in flawed human emotions such as jealousy and anger, filling page after page of the book with boastful tales of how He destroyed entire nations for their impiety and not to mention His intentions of torturing those who disobey Him for all eternity. Which incidentally brings me to ask yet another question… since when did Humans ever exhibit the best qualities of their nature while cowering in fear? On a side note, I know that my expectations does not hold any weight in the face of reality, but they are inspired by the existing body of knowledge in my mind so I cannot modify them in the absence of reasonable evidence. The Qur’an is NOT that evidence for the simple reason that this would create a logical fallacy of a circular argument.

4) I am skeptical of the book’s claim to be inerrant. It contains various contradictions (and not all of them arise due to flawed translations) within its pages and I shall focus on one of my favorite: what did God use to create Man? Was it water, blood clots, mud, dust, fluid drops or nothing? Of course, being the unabashed polishers of turds, Muslim Apologists don’t shy away from making up excuses for God’s sloppy copy-editing. They claim that all of the references mentioned above are all scientifically proven to be part of the “recipe” to make Man. Zakir Naik asserted that this contradistinction, not contradiction and made the analogy of the ingredients needed for a cup of tea. My only contention is that no competent person would include an ingredient list to produce a cup of tea (let alone a human being) scattered across pages 13, 29, 53, 68 ,87, 93 and 145 of a book he was writing. It is also important to note that these apologists gleefully claim that modern science has revealed dust to contain all the elemental ingredients of Man, they categorically reject anything else in modern science that is in conflict with their precious scripture, which means they are selectively accepting hard-earned knowledge that only conforms with their introverted ideologies. This is the reason behind my wholesale rejection of all scientific miracles claimed by these contemptible charlatans. The Qur’an is poetry and its verses are open to deeper interpretation that can yield basically anything the reader desires. Modern scientific facts can even be claimed from literature that doesn’t have anything to do with it as demonstrated in this video.

5) While I am not altogether entirely skeptical about the Qur’an’s inimitability or uniqueness, I do doubt its (i.e. its inimitability) significance. I could argue (and I am sure literary experts will agree) that the works of Shakespeare, Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Dante’s Divina Commedia or Milton’s Paradise Lost are unique and inimitable in their own right but this does not prove that their origins are divine, no more than the Qur’an’s does, despite its insistence.

Stripped of its cover of being the last and final testament of God, I perceive the Qur’an as yet another construct of humans to control mankind. It’s authors (who are very likely to be anything but divine) can at this point be accused of plagiarism as it extensively borrowed from existing Judeo-Christian traditions, which can only be for political reasons. And not surprising, when you consider the early political climate of Arabia. For example, possibly in order to placate the Jews, Muslims were first required to pray facing Jerusalem when eventually fed-up, Muhammad changed it to Mecca. Christians and Jews shouldn’t probably feel too comfortable. Modern archeology has found that historical variants of biblical stories (such as the Genesis account of Adam & Eve) in numerous cultures that far, far predate the whole concept of monotheism (i.e. older than 3,000 BCE).

I can’t tell anyone else what to believe and what not to, but I acknowledge that there are many, many holy scriptures that humanity has produced under the pretense of divine revelations or authorship (or even inspiration) and they can be traced back possibly to the very invention of writing. (See Ancient Sumerian Hymn from the c. 2,000 BCE). As an end note, think about why there are no traces of the God of Abraham beyond 5,000 years of history when the human race has existed for over 200,000 years.

So what if I am wrong about God, the Qur’an and Islam? Well…

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Muhammad and Zainab

One of the more interesting (and startling) things I came across when reading the Qur’an was the revelation unto Muhammad permitting him to marry his own divorced daughter-in-law. It is important to note that this particular episode dealt with Muhammad’s adopted son, the freedman Zaid bin Muhammad and his wife Zainab (also Muhammad’s first cousin). Up until the revelation of this particular verse (Chapter 33, Verse 37) it was forbidden unto Muslims to marry their sons and daughters-in-laws regardless of them being biological parents or not (as was customary in Arabia at the time):

Behold! Thou didst say to one who had received the grace of God and thy favour: “Retain thou (in wedlock) thy wife, and fear God.” But thou didst hide in thy heart that which God was about to make manifest: thou didst fear the people, but it is more fitting that thou shouldst fear God. Then when Zaid had dissolved (his marriage) with her, with the necessary (formality), We joined her in marriage to thee: in order that (in future) there may be no difficulty to the Believers in (the matter of) marriage with the wives of their adopted sons, when the latter have dissolved with the necessary (formality) (their marriage) with them. And God’s command must be fulfilled

Even with Yusuf Ali’s meticulous bracketed polishing of the verse, the account still disgusts me. Not just because a man is being commanded by God Himself to marry his own daughter-in-law but also because of the seemingly self-serving nature of the Qur’an. This theme is repeated in several verses and seem to benefit Muhammad in a variety of ways ranging from being allotted spoils (of war) to prohibiting too much questioning to not bothering him at home.
I found the following comic which graphically (and somewhat irreverently) tells the story and also delves into certain other oddities in the Quranic narration. Devout Muslims should proceed with caution.

Click to read the comicClick to read the entire comic. WARNING: Depictions of Muhammad

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My Journey to Disbelief

I still remember those middle school Islam classes where teachers adamantly proclaimed that the very existence of the heavens is irrefutable testament to God’s everlasting presence and how an “atheist” is analogous to a ship without a rudder (i.e. purposeless, morally bankrupt). What I don’t remember is whether I was skeptical to any of this or not. I used to be quite religious and when I was taught Evolution in biology lessons I tried to reconcile it with my faith by thinking that “monkeys came from man, like it says in the Qur’an, not the other way around”.

By the time I was in my mid teens I had grown very uncomfortable with certain aspects of the religion that my parents had faithfully brought me up in (when I came back home from school, my mom sometimes made me perform the midday prayer before she served lunch). I began to question the applicability of divine law, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of sexuality and status of women in Islam among many other things that are too numerous (and foggy in memory) to recall here. I used to share these ideas with my de facto best friend, H, and he was like-minded enough not to recoil in horror but we bounced them off of one another and this perhaps brewed up a healthy level of religious skepticism between the two of us.

A few years down the line, I was in my late teens by then, I met my friend through work who shall be called C. A bigger skeptic than I was (or still am), he played the devil’s advocate and teased my ‘radical’ beliefs almost mercilessly for my reluctance to embrace the orthodox version of Islam. He also didn’t shy away from pointing it out that with beliefs such as mine, I had strayed away from the path of Islam and can no longer call myself a ‘Muslim’. Until then I had never doubted that I was not a Muslim and needless to say, I felt deeply hurt and rejected but now I appreciate C for his honest criticism.

Around the same time I met N on an internet website and his biggest contribution to helping me freeing up my mind was introducing me to the works of Carl Sagan, particularly Cosmos: A Personal Voyage. The 13-part TV series with its outdated graphics from the 80s opened my eyes to the real grandeur of the planet Earth, the Solar System, the vastness of the Milky Way, the existence billions of galaxies, various mind-boggling cosmic phenomena and the seemingly infinite vastness of the broader Universe. It gave me a whole new outlook on life and what it means to be alive in this universe, “… on this tiny mote of dust suspended in a beam of sunlight…” in the words of the great cosmologist himself. Given the incalculable improbability of our very existence from the beginning of the creation of the cosmos, it made painfully clear to me that life cannot simply be an excuse for a Creator to put us here just so we could worship Him. And furthermore, it made me question the motives of the Creator Himself… how could He have managed the creation of the cosmos, both in the macro and micro scales, commanded forces ranging from universal gravitation affecting entire galaxies to strong/weak nuclear forces at the subatomic level, be so petty and petulant to demand that we, humans, worship Him and Him alone or else face eternal damnation in the form of the most sadistic, cruel punishment imaginable for all eternity?!? Try as I might have, I couldn’t wrap my mind around this.

I discussed some of these ideas with N and he helped me set up a blog through which I used to communicate them further, while (trying to) remain respectful to Islam. I dabbled in themes such as the nature of the divine, Islamic xenophobia and victim mentality, predestination, morality, mortality, misery, ethics of homosexuality and freedom of religion. The comments were interesting (some supporting, others condescendingly antagonizing) and they greatly helped to shape the person who I am today. One such comment left by my friend W blatantly (but apologetically) accused me of cherry-picking, that is choosing aspects of religion that I like and jettisoning that I didn’t. He was quite right to point that out and it helped me face the somewhat daunting consequences of such thinking.

This was 3 years ago. I was still desperately trying to cling on to the self-deceiving idea that I was a Muslim despite all my contradictory thinking when I found myself stuck in Southern India for a few days. Not having access to neither television nor internet, I begged my host to take me to a bookstore where I could find something to read and this is where I found Richard Dawkins. His book “The God Delusion” was a godsend (if you can pardon the expression) as it led me to embrace my godlessness. It was thrilling to learn that atheism can lead to a happy, balanced and moral life, where a person was not required to abandon intellectual skepticism, but rather nourished it. It opened my eyes to morality being independent from religion (although the latter sometimes inspire the former) and how there was no logical evidence that demonstrably proves God’s existence. I have great respect for Richard and since then, have read “A Selfish Gene” which shows how prolific a science writer he truly is, able to explain the most complicated concepts of gene-centered evolutionary biology with relative ease, although I do not share some of his ideas on religion such as that it is an inherently evil force that drives us, and that humanity is better off without it.

After Dawkins, I began to read into theology, religion and critical analysis of Islam and other religions. To this end, I have even recently finished reading the Qur’an with commentary from Yusuf Ali nonetheless (It is the most sleep inducing book I have ever read and its choke full of contradictions and the rantings of an insanely narcissistic excuse of a deity. No wonder most Muslims never bother to read it. This is the subject of a future post). I debated with friends like C, whose confidence of the superiority or Islam (actually, disguised bigotry) has slowly diminished and ironically enough, he is finding himself in the same position I was in, a few years ago when I first met him. I don’t take comfort in my confident stance on religion and his contrastingly shaky faith, and have on occasion advised him that he should try to relax and not exhaust himself with it. Like myself just a couple of years ago, he is worried about the apparent meaninglessness and vacuousness of life when confronted with our eventual mortality sans an omnipotent creator. I explained to him that even if God does not exist, and by extension, if the afterlife is just a fanciful figment of human imagination, we should feel privileged to be alive at all, again referring back to the astronomical improbability of the universe and its governing laws. I have told him that we can never be certain of such supernatural nonsense that we are indoctrinated into believing unquestioningly from early childhood, but part of being human is to nourish and nurture our inherent inquisitiveness, to know more about ourselves and our surrounding, which offers too many distractions in the form of discoveries that one lifetime cannot possibly fathom. I told him that I find meaning in life through science and the pursuit of knowledge.

Another point that we had discussed was human misery; the seeming injustice of life, some being born into abject poverty or disease or conflict and contrasted by our own relatively luxuriant lives, in which we are still thrust into heart-rending sorrow at the thought of never again holding a loved one who recently passed. I told him that I have consoled myself believing that my misery and sadness shall only exist as long as I do. That I seek solace in my own mortality.

Life maybe full of heartache and pain and suffering but I have never forgotten my blessings. I was born into a middle class family to doting parents who didn’t get me everything but never made me feel that I was lacking anything. I got the chance to study what I really wanted; science, all the way to higher education. I have a limited number of friends who I trust completely and can be myself around them. But above all, what I truly cherish in life are parents who loves me unconditionally. I do not have to hide who I really am around them and freely discuss my frustrations with them and often they would agree with me. I have rebuked dad for chiming in with the anti-Semitic rhetoric and mom for believing in irrational practices on countless occasions. Of course, this has led to a few heated arguments with particularly my mom but we have never let our disagreements come between us. What I really like about my parents are that they are not as close-minded as most of their generation, as proved by a recent conversation in which mom admitted that she would only accept a hadith that appealed to her sense of morality and logic. A few months ago, my mom asked me if I believed in God (dad was there too) and I flatly told them that I didn’t have any reason to do so, which is the honest to goodness truth. I don’t know, and seriously, at this stage of my life, I simply don’t care whether He exists or not. I answered this truthfully because I was confident that they would understand me and not betray our trust by bringing in a Mullah like some other parents have done with their ‘wayward’ kids. Also because I had earlier challenged my mom to prove that she loves God more than she does me (she failed). Having parents like this makes me feel even more privileged, especially having met friends like W who claimed one of his parents broke down in front of him when he came out. I feel sorry for the guy who still has to go to the Friday prayers with its mind-numbing sermons in order to keep up the charade.

Having said all of this, I am forced to come back to the reality in which I am sitting here typing away. The most recently amended constitution does not respect individual human rights or even human dignity for that matter and the Nazim incident of earlier this year demonstrates that the current socio-political climate of the Maldives does not provide a very accommodating setting for people such as myself but in fact is downright hostile. A person now stands to lose his life for defiance where it used to be merely his citizenship. The situation is further exacerbated by certain factions of the population that has vowed to demonize secularism and to taint any liberal idea with Islamophobia or anti-Islamism. I am a pessimistic person and I don’t foresee how we could dig ourselves out of the country’s spiraling demise to become an eventual theocratic hellhole that mirrors the so-called Islamic cultural masters, Saudi Arabia. My friend C thinks “… the majority of people shall rule whether you like it not, whether its fair or not. If you suddenly find yourself in a situation where you cannot live with the extant ideals or customs of a country, whether its your own or foreign, just pack up and seek refuge elsewhere, where you feel welcome. Non-Muslim Maldivians should say adieu just like the women in France who insist on wearing the headscarf should consider living in Iran“. The way I figure it, its either this or stand and fight. I haven’t decided just yet.

Another young man who couldn’t cope with the pressure of a society that was increasingly becoming more and more radicalized, took the easy way out and committed suicide. I cannot imagine myself in his shoes for I do not express myself around strangers or even relatives so I cannot really fathom the hostility that he felt, nor the disappointment of his parents that would have surely burdened his heart. But I would have liked to tell him that this life that we have right here, regardless of whether God exists or not, is the only life that we are absolutely certain to have. I would have told him to “try until your very last fighting breath not to squander it“.

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Science Saved My Soul

This video reminded me of the reason why I love and value science above everything else.

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Thoughts on Maldives’ first Non-Muslim

Last night was historic… for the first time since our nation embraced Islam, we were greeted to a man who first claimed to be Maldivian, who then proceeded to publicly announce that he was a non-muslim on national TV in front of an audience that was more than 10,000. I heard the news with a sense of shock and genuine concern for the safety of this guy, who has shown a characteristic that very well blurs the line between bravery and stupidity.

The shocking revelation came when a visiting scholar of comparative religion, Dr. Zakir Naik (about whom, I’ve written before) allowed his attending audience to pose questions to him after a lecture. I felt sorry for the timid-looking man who asked what I consider to be an idiotic question, which essentially boils down to … what is the penalty for apostasy in Islam? Asking this question in public denotes that he is either an individual who lacks any conviction of his faith (or lack of) or is intending to sensationalize the barbaric reaction of the locals to such an expression.

Now I don’t profess to know what his intentions were, but for whichever reason, whether he felt intimidated or is just plain stupid, his original question was absurd as everyone knows the answer to it. It is alright to keep un-Islamic thoughts safely locked up in your head (as if you were harboring an unutterably wicked thought) but if you start to propagate your un-Islamic faith, then you are to be put to death. As simple as that.

The guy’s courage to stand up to the uncivilized attitudes of his countrymen is… well, beyond worldly praise, but I wasn’t impressed with his part in the ensuing dialogue. Initially, Naik asked the guy if he disagreed with the logic of anything that he (Naik) said during his lecture and the guy replied “what you said convincing a robber that there is an afterlife”. Naik responded by asking him how to prove to the robber that robbery is bad and the guy replied that he didn’t know. This is a very simple question which demands a simple answer. Even without the knowledge of a personal god, afterlife, heaven and hell, human beings are equipped with a mind which is capable of a cognitive process called morality, which is the ability to tell right from wrong. We are different from other animals because of this particular ability, without which, there would be nothing spectacularly distinguishable between us and wild beasts. I guess its probably a good thing that people like Naik is religious, otherwise, according to him, he would plunder, rape and pillage.

The second question posed by Naik to the guy (which is odd considering this is a Q&A where Naik As the Q part) when the guy admitted that he needed to find a reason to believe that he needed religion in the first place. Naik, in a display of truly asinine logic, asked the guy why he didn’t check all types of food to find out which is best for him before consuming. At this point during this little debate, any respect I had for the intelligence of the Maldivian people dropped for applauding him. Food is something humans do out of a biological necessity, and cannot exist without it. If Naik ever studied medicine in his life, he is expected to know a thing or two about how living creatures obtain nourishment. Even so, there still is a parallel between faith and food. We don’t devour the closest edible thing near us but instead look for food which is the most nourishing and appetizing, based on individual needs. We are not content with just the food that is presented to us by our parents as children and consequentially, start exploring other types of food as soon as we are old enough to do so.

It is a tragedy that people like Naik can lampoon such moronic nonsense as logic. Speaking of which, here is a little piece of often warped logic that Naik used a bit earlier during the same debate… all human beings are not born as Muslims (as per prophetic tradition) until they are old enough to embrace Islam or any other religion that they were born into. The reality is that they are born as atheists (their minds cannot simply understand the concept of god) and they continue to live and prosper until they are old enough to be brainwashed into thinking they belong to a particular faith that they were incidentally born into. Eternal damnation for a lifetime of good and bad deeds, most of which judged according to the faith you were born into. If this makes sense to anyone, perhaps I should consider them beyond reproach.

Earlier still, Naik presented his sad apologetic reasoning for the death penalty for apostates who propagate (not all scholars agree that propagation is compulsory for the execution). An apostate, who rejects his Islamic faith is apparently equal by deed to a general who betrays state secrets by act of treason. For someone who thinks rationally, this argument is flawed (putting it mildly) when considering the consequences of both actions. An apostate does what is universally considered his fundamental human right (also enshrined in the Quran by the way) compared to a treacherous morally bankrupt person who sold sensitive information of his own people to the highest bidder disregarding his nation’s sovereignty and happiness of its people.

I always knew that Naik was a bigot whose only real talent is manipulating arguments using false analogies, rhetoric, fabricated science and twisted logic and this incidence, closer to my home, convinced me that I was not wrong. At the end of the day, Naik is a foreigner screeching acceptance of regressive 7th century Bedouin desert dweller culture and I really don’t care about him. But the violent, bloodthirsty, barbaric way the Maldivians reacted to the guy, who was merely exercising his right to freedom of speech, the subject of this post, disheartens me endlessly.

I implore the conservatively, moderately and liberally religious, the non-religious, the atheistic, the agnostic, the deistic and all other believers and non-believers of our country to acknowledge that we are all inherently different and our beliefs are shaped by a lifetime of experiences and exposures. I beseech them to accept that individual freedom of religion is an inalienable human right and we should never do anything to oppress anyone regardless of a particular system of belief. Please… embrace progress and love for our common humanity.

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Who the Hell is calling?!?

The concept of Hell in Islam is a central one and my discussions with friends and family has given me the impression that fear of winding up in there (for all eternity nonetheless) is the chief concern of most people, who are reluctant to even consider admitting that there might be something wrong with their world view.

When you view videos of people like the infamous Naraka Fareed, you can’t help feeling a little darned depressed at how gullible and paranoid our countrymen are…


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Thoughts on his holiness Zakir Naik

I confess not knowing much about this so-called religious maverick of Dr. Zakir Naik from our neighboring lands to the north, and to change that I have started viewing a few videos of him on YouTube and I can tell (from a million miles away) that there is nothing exceptional about him. He presents himself as a super-devout muslim and a master of comparative religion, often parroting verses from scriptures as diverse as the Hindu Vedas to the Old Testament. Again, nothing spectacular about that as there should be untold thousands if not millions with a similar kind of bland penchant for mindlessly memorizing nonsense. He also likes to flaunt his medical credentials which turns out to be an MBBS that he earned a few decades ago. Of course, none of his audience ever seems to have summoned up the courage to ask him about the relevance of this, especially seeing that the guy hasn’t practiced medicine for years. I suppose a lot of people doesn’t know that the a non-practicing medical doctor is essentially worthless, as the profession requires constant revision and reference, not to mention the actual practice. Moving on…

A local fanboy of the good doctor had published a transcript of one of Naik’s miraculous atheist-converting-on-the-spot speeches and I couldn’t help myself but to laugh at the feebleness of both the attempt and the mind of its writer. He talks as if an atheist is someone who wakes up one fine morning and decide that he doesn’t believe in the supernatural without any contemplation on his existence, reality or the deeper meaning of life. He chants the age old argument of creation by design, perhaps because he has never encountered a real life atheist who would immediately ask him “the machine was made by an engineer, alright, but we’ve got proof of that. Show me how exactly this ethereal being, god, made you, me and the universe now”. And then he goes on and on about scientific miracles in the Koran, all of which, conveniently remained hidden well inside the dusty volumes until the opportunistic moment where a real, hardworking scientist discovered it and subsequently, a mullah who has a fledgling understanding of science chances upon a poetic, dreamy reference, inextricably sandwiched between divine mentions of how martyrs will have ancient Rome style orgies. This is the point where proponents of scripture’s divine origins, such as Naik, will essentially hijack real science and, gracious and meek as they are, claim all the credit for god. Of course, they will never mention any of the passages that contradict modern science such as how the earth is flat (perfectly in line with 7th century geology) or how we were all created from magic dirt resulting in man, woman, children, and a whole lot of incest that followed. Which brings me to my next point of contention.

Evolution. Dr. Naik seems to be under the impression that evolution is “just a theory” and apparently he has never encountered to it being referred to as “the fact of evolution”. Anyone who has completed an undergraduate course in science (or even a good high school science student) would be able to answer this ignoramus, who incidentally, flashed his doctor credentials as if this adds any weight to his idiotic understanding of fact, theory, science or the scientific method. Again, I kept wishing some delightfully intelligent person from his audience would stand up and point out that the average medical doctor has the same likelihood of knowing evolution, universally accepted amongst biologists, as a mechanic or lawyer does.

Even considering the little I’ve been able to glean from his online presence, there is not a single redeeming quality about this “scholar” that the Maldivians seem so eager to welcome to their sandy shores. For all I care, he is just another egoistical, fanatical, apologetic, sanctimonious, religious bigot, and frankly, he makes Akon seem like a very wise man indeed.

Take a  look at this video featuring Naik and Shri Shri Ravi Shankar discuss the concepts of God in Hinduism & Islam. I am not a fan of organised religion per se, but at gun point, I’d choose the former. Peace out!

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