KUALA LUMPUR (March 14): Controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik admitted at the High Court on Monday (March 14) that he partially speaks Arabic, reads a little Sanskrit but does not know Aramaic, the original language of the bible, and said that one does not need to master those languages to be an expert in comparative religion.
In colourful and at times heated exchanges with Penang deputy chief minister Dr P Ramasamy's counsel, Razlan Hadri Zulkifli, the medical doctor agreed that he does not have academic credentials on comparative religion from Manchester University, International Islamic University here, Al Azhar University in Egypt, Al Madinah University in Saudi Arabia or George Washington University in the US.
However, he maintained that he does deliver lectures on comparative religion at Al Azhar University, as he is an “autodidact” — a self-taught person.
“It is not necessary to embark on a study before lecturing others on comparative religion,” he added.
When asked whether he had formal education on comparative religion in Islam, Hinduism or Christianity, Dr Zakir said he was not required to.
Razlan: However, don't you think that you have to at least undergo some kind of courses in comparative religion before you speak on other religions than Islam?
Zakir: Not for me, others maybe.
Razlan: So you say that you have no formal [academic] qualifications in comparative religion, that is learning Islam, Hinduism and Christianity?
Zakir: I am an autodidact.
When asked by the counsel, the preacher admitted that he partially speaks Arabic, but said he is not required to talk in Arabic when delivering lectures on Islam.
Razlan: Would you accept a person who has no knowledge [of] Arabic to be an expert in Islam?
He further claimed that he has acquired extensive knowledge from the Holy Quran and hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad).
Zakir also admitted to having very little knowledge of Sanskrit — the original language used by the Hindus.
“There are thousands of people who do not speak Sanskrit,” he added.
The preacher is aware that the original language of Christianity is Aramaic, with their texts later translated to ancient Greek, but agreed that he did not speak or understand either Aramaic or Greek. Despite this, Zakir claimed he read most of the translated versions of the bible, including the King James version.
Zakir said despite not having such qualifications, he is recognised as an expert in comparative religion due to multiple awards he received.
He named the King Feisal International Prize I, the Dubai International Islamic award and the tokoh Maal Hijrah award given by Malaysia as some of the recognition given to him.
The India-born preacher who has a permanent resident status was testifying in his defamation suit against Ramasamy of the DAP. Zakir is suing Ramasamy for four alleged defamatory statements that were issued on April 10, 2016; Oct 1, 2017; Aug 11, 2019; and Aug 20, 2019.
He said Ramasamy’s statements have also damaged his mission of peace as an Islamic preacher and had sown distrust among his many non-Muslim followers, adding that Ramasamy had taken his words out of context and shared them.
When asked about his permanent resident status, Zakir said it was given to him by the Malaysian government in 2016.
He added he recognised that there are many Malaysians who have different religions and, among them, the majority Kadazan, who are indigenous in Sabah, are mostly Christians.
Zakir agreed that within Malaysia’s multi-racial and multi-religious society, he recognised there are fault lines and fissures that could cause death and damage to the country, similar to what had occurred in India.
When asked by Razlan Hadri, he replied that he knew of the May 13, 1969 racial riots incident but admitted he did not know about the Kampung Medan incident in the 1990s.
When asked about his lectures in comparative religion, Dr Zakir claimed they were widely accepted without any problems, as he had performed surveys about them.
“I would do the survey myself and the results are known to me,” he added.
He denied that his statements had caused resentment in multi-racial Malaysia and even described the 115 police reports lodged against him as an amount he considered low.
“The 115 reports against me are few for me,” he said.
When the counsel cited excerpts of his lectures, Zakir said some of the transcripts read are not accurate and were taken out of context.
Zakir further denied deriding other religions when comparing Hinduism and Christianity with Islam. He maintained that Ramasamy calling him “satan” was defamatory and objectionable.
When asked about his money laundering and terrorism charges in India, Zakir replied they were partially correct, saying that the charges levelled against him are, however, not recognised by Interpol.
The hearing continues on Wednesday (March 16).