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.