None of the people I asked to join me was keen; finally, a strapping Iranian teen agreed to take me along.
There was one problem. Clothes. I had nothing ‘decent’ to wear. There was no way I was going shopping for this man. Finally, rummaging through the suitcase, at the bottom of it I found one white salwaar kameez and lace dupatta. I think I had been told before I left Mumbai that there may be some function where one might dress up a bit. Ah well, I decided this was the occasion.
My young friend arrived. I went out and he started his motorcycle. I was overjoyed and instead of sitting ladylike, I climbed astride as I would on a horse. We reached the venue and he screeched to a halt. Several mouths opened, eyes went wide. I adjusted my dupatta, which I had wrapped round my waist and tried as demurely as possible to ‘unbike’ myself. If I lifted my right leg, there were people; on the left there were people. So I slid backwards and did something which might make an acrobat proud. Y went to park and as I waited a group of women with scarves and veils approached me to “please come inside, sister”. A gentleman wanted details. “Sister, here, write down address”.
When Y returned, they asked us to go through separate entrances – ladies and gents, like we were queuing up for the loo. I said I wanted to sit with my friend. They looked at me, shocked. Y was a teenager but he was tall and well-built; he even had a stubble.
Seeing that I was determined, they let me sit with him; they were more concerned about the other men and if they’d be uncomfortable. I turned to those in that particular section and asked if they were okay with me. They nodded their heads.
Then Zakir Naik came on stage and there was loud applause. He sat with a few people, including some “foreign dignitaries”. He is a fiery speaker and said some utterly stupid things. The Q & A began and Y had told me to keep quiet and not ask anything. However, as a practising Shia he got very angry and got up to ask some question. Dr. Naik gave some chicken soup for the soul reply.
We left soon after because Y was angry. He made a lot of noise starting the bike. We headed to where I was invited. And this young man who was cross about the Shia faith being insulted guzzled up three large pints of beer in 30 minutes! And I, the religious ignoramus, was thinking about all those words nursing a neembu-paani…okay, a Breezer.
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Anyhow, why am I thinking of Zakir Naik today?
Apparently he has got into trouble. I was secretly thrilled.
A year ago he had said that Allah’s blessings be upon Yazid, the killer of Prophet Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hussein. This time he told a TV channel that Allah alone should be approached for help and not even the Prophet.
Instead of relenting, he stated, “I stand by what I said. And I didn’t commit any sacrilege. The majority of Muslims across the world believe that Allah is the almighty and help should be sought only from him.”
I do not wish to get into a religious twist, but the role of the Messenger in Islam is too sacred. Yet, it is a fact that there are segments that are persecuted because they are branded cults because they believe in one thing and not another. Whatever be his motivation, he is expressing a point of view. Muslims should be happy that in some ways he is unifying them.
It is surprising that Sunnis are against him for this. And so are the Shias.
A Lucknow-based mufti issued a fatwa against him for allegedly supporting Osama bin Laden. Said Naik:
“I never supported Osama. I have always been saying that all those who kill innocents are terrorists. So if the USA kills innocents, it doesn’t have the right to call Osama a terrorist unless it owns up its own crime.”
Again, can we quarrel with this?
I am beginning to think that the white salwaar-kameez was not wasted on him…