Zakir Naik must ease the pressure

OF late, the issue related to Dr Zakir Naik has come to a boil so much so it is putting additional pressure on Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

Mahathir has just turned 93 and all Malaysians are grateful for this given that he is much needed to place Malaysia where it rightfully belongs. He has enough on his plate.

Among Muslim countries, Malaysia has even more things to do as the world watches to gauge how Islam is regarded as ad-din – a way of life, and not just "religion" of rituals, the way it is perceived to be, at times with several cross-purposes.

Therefore we stand at a point of history to explore all available opportunities to be exemplary in planning and reconstructing our way forward. Let us not squander this.

Be mindful too that there are still gaps to be filled (recall the well-received short and impactful speech by Nik Omar, son of the late Nik Aziz, at Putrajaya before the general election) that many are looking forward to.

So not everything goes any more. We have a new benchmark now. What with the many misconceptions and stereotyped thinking among certain segments of Malaysians, once again it represents an opportunity of a lifetime which is literally God-sent (think of the odds that we have overcome) without any form of violence that Islam abhors and prohibits.

It only means that there must be even more concerted effort and conscious ones to ensure that various issues are appropriately handled in the spirit of openness and mutual respect without sacrificing the ultimate outcome for justice and peaceful co-existence. This is what Islam teaches and promotes as the way of life. This is the endpoint come what may both externally, more so internally (spiritually).

Under the circumstances we need all hands on deck including that of Zakir Naik.

Foremost as a "preacher" of Islam, I do believe he has a wealth of knowledge (and expertise – although I do not subscribe to such a thing) that could be marshalled to bring out the "right" message, let alone attitude, of Islam as the way of life.

Sometimes the "message" is "right" but not the attitude which I discern would be the case. Being a multi-dimensional society, Malaysians proudly and rightly want to live up to what Islam (literally means "peace") prescribes by playing a prominent role in preserving and rooting diversity as a vital code of living that is in a sense divine.

This involves all living creatures and goes beyond mere rhetoric as observed in the many examples of the prophets, not just Muhammad (pbuh) as narrated in the hadith, but also that of Isa (Jesus) and Musa (Moses). Some would even argue of Buddha (also Confucius) who are deemed as prophets by some serious (Muslim) scholars.

In other words, Islam has so much "connectivity" (to use the current lingo) that must be revitalised for it to be fully understood, what is more lived, by connecting all the available relevant dots.

It is therefore incumbent upon Zakir to contemplate his role now that he is being put under intense spotlight internationally. It is irresponsible of him to do the same to the prime minister by forcing him into a predicament (read appearing publicly in the media especially now) if it only means to heap even more pressure on him to "solve" yet another problem when it could be easily done by Zakir himself.

Indeed this is to be expected of him, after all Malaysia has been generous enough to extend permanent residence to him (by the previous government). And like all good Muslims, returning a favour is a duty in demonstrating the true value of what Islam stands for so that others are able to comprehend and appreciate the Muslim way of life.

Short of this Zakir may have to think of other ways of easing the pressure on the prime minister by doing the right thing before the issue paints him as a "negative" poster boy for the world to see.

At least as an academic, he is compelled to come out in public to "answer" some of the pressing queries that are now fast distracting Malaysians from the task of building a unified, peace-promoting and balanced community (daulah) that Islam inspires.

He must bear in mind that Malaysia as a multi-dimensional society with tremendous potential that must be optimally leveraged within its own nuances. The ball is in his court. Hopefully, he will score the winning goal for all Malaysians to rejoice as part of the journey to capture the world's imagination. God bless.

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