Banning Dr Zakir Naik

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The Express Tribune website recently ran an online poll with the question:

“Should an individual be banned from a country for making controversial statements?”

To which 55 per cent of voters responded yes, while 45 per cent responded no.

The result of this poll was quite interesting in itself, as was the issue which drove the question.

Background

The poll was created as a follow-up to the story Britain bans Dr Zakir Naik, which has seen a huge influx of traffic – attaining 92 comments and 316 Facebook ‘likes’ in just two days. Needless to say, the issue was an important one for Tribune visitors, and one which the web team felt compelled to address via an online poll. However, framing the question was not a simple task.

The real issue

At the time of framing the question, the team faced a dilemma as to what would be the best way to word the question to such a sensitive issue. Team members offered their opinions, and similar to the comments seen on the story, we ran straight into our own convoluted microcosm of the larger debate.

Some of the ideas we encountered and traversed are presented below, via the words of our commenters who captured the various strands of the issue.

Freedom of speech?

Balal Naeem:

That shows their conservative minds. And they call themselves advocates of freedom of speech. Huh!

Shahid:

UK banned Geert Wilders, Mike Guzovsky, Michael Savage, Don Black and Fred Phelps as well in addition to Imams deemed to be terrorism apologists. How many complaining about this supported such a decision? Or are judgments and morality selective only?

Javed Afridi:

Political asylum to Suleman Rushdei and ban on Niak, what a joke.

Usman Ahmad:

Freedom of Speech??? People, Naik is talking about killing, spilling blood, praising the ones who carry out such practices and encouraging violence.

Shazia:

Would Pakistan give a right-wing Christian televangelist a visa?

Threat to the state?

Syed A. Mateen:

It is the prerogative of the British Government to give visa to a person whom the British Government may think that he or she may become a nuisance during his or her visit in the United Kingdom. The government of Pakistan should learn a lesson of the recent action of the British Government and exclude all those who may become a threat for Pakistan.

Encouraging terrorism?

Hamza:

Why is no one shocked by what Dr. Zakir Naik has actually said? Can’t we all agree that his comments are unacceptable? Can’t we all agree that he’s inciting hatred with these comments? This man has a following and he’s telling his followers that it is okay to be a terrorist! That’s pretty dangerous. I for one can understand why the British government banned him.

Suhaib:

islam is against terrorism. zakir naik is being quoted out of context. the true context is….if a Muslim sees a rapist, the rapist should get terrified, if a robber sees a Muslim he should get terrified. in this sense every Muslim should be a terrorist who terrorizes the anti-social elements of the society. for example when a robber sees a police man, he gets terrified, for the robber the policeman is a terrorist!

The inevitable clash of civilisations?

Rizwan Ahmed:

Another great Example of double standards, Muslims should understand that there are no territorial boundaries now, only muslims and non muslims is the main dividing line.

Freedom’n’Justice:

Blab Blab Freedom of Speech blab blab Human Rights Blab Blab that is all what I hear when some moron trying to convince me about the superiority of western culture. When it comes to Muslims West have double standards, get over it.

M K Abbas:

Great call on part of the british government. Zakir Naik and other such charlatans polarize their own community and promote religious segregation. His comments about terrorism, minorities, other sects are well known. People should not look at this as a Muslim vs Non-muslim thing.

One question

At times like these, asking one question seems almost infantile. What is the real issue behind banning Dr Zakir Naik?

Is it the question of freedom of speech, or is it really about a clash of uncompromising cultures?

Is it about a man blatantly encouraging terrorism, or about someone saying he truly does not know what to believe because he does not trust the mass media.

If we can condemn Naik being refused entry to the UK, will we then condemn a fatwa being issued against Salman Rushdie, or is there a difference between the two? What about a piece of art juxtaposing Benazir Bhutto with Zia-ul-Haq?

Is Naik really a threat to the UK, or is the threat really the power of nightmares leading humanity to make their fantasies come to life?

Our team chose to tackle the issue of freedom of speech, and in order to make it hard for even ourselves to answer, we presented it not in the light of Dr Zakir Naik’s case specifically, but under the context of banning an individual for stepping into a country with a set of controversial ideas.

Which leaves me wondering, If our visitors were given the choice to design the poll, what is the one question they would have asked?

Published in Tribune Blogs.

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