IS DR ZAKIR NAIK CONTROVERSIAL? RELIGIOUS LEADERS AND POLITICAL LEADERS

Religious leaders are supposed to guide their congregations on how to acquire knowledge and practice their faith. As citizens of a sovereign Republic, they are to respect and uphold the fundamental rights of all citizens. Hence in promoting their faith, they should seek not to misrepresent and castigate the faith of others. This is what promotes religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence of faith groups.

Political leaders swear when assuming office to defend constitutions. Their religion, ethno-linguistic origin and gender should not matter.

In the Gambia, Muslims do not expect women to be Imams in mosques. In the Catholic Church one does not expect a woman to become Pope. On the side of the state, one cannot prevent any woman or member of any religion from being President, Vice President or Minister, Member of Parliament or Judge.

Therefore, the state needs to rise above the personal beliefs of the leaders and serve the National interest. In short, the role of the executive is to formulate and implement policies to promote liberty and prosperity. The personal beliefs of a President, Vice President, Minister, Parliamentarian or Judge, being   male or female, Christian or Muslim   should be his or her own private matter and should not affect how he or she performs his or her public duty, in words and deeds.

As for Dr Naik, he should be seen as an Islamic scholar whose duty is to defend Islam as his perfect and true religion. A Christian scholar may also wish to defend Christianity as his or her perfect and true religion. A scholar should be sensitive to the nature of one’s audience. Speech should vary according to audience. A scholar who delivers a lecture in a state where both Christian and Muslim prayers were delivered on a state occasion and where Muslims and Christians go to each other’s functions should be mindful in saying anything that would breed disharmony. Anything which undermines peaceful co-existence is not in line with peace and any religion based on peace.