As an athiest it's always fascinated me that there are some people who believe in a book like The Bible, The Quran or The Torah as, for want of a better word 'gospel' truth. I spend more time than is normal picking at the scab of religion by watching bonkers channels such as God TV, Revelation TV, Peace TV, The Islam Channel, etc. Peace TV is particularly fun because in my opinion it's by far the most agressive and outrageous of them all. One of their preachers is called Zakir Naik. He's a good, charismatic speaker who takes questions from his audience and then responds with quotes and mantras such as "we're more Christian than the Christians". My conversations with taxi drivers and friends of mine who are Islamic lead me to believe he's a pretty big name here in the UK although you may not have heard of him.
I was therefore quite surprised to see him described as a "hate monger" in The Times as well as other news papers. At the end of the article I was amazed that I'd consumed so much 'hate' without even realising. I was also a little skeptical of the article.
To read this coverage you'd think the bloke was some sort of cross eyed loon standing on a street corner ranting "death to the infidel" but the reality is more complex than that. Naik's views are not dramatically wide of those of most people I speak to who believe in the Quran as the word of God. Some of the quotes attributed to Naik in The Times, such as calling for the death penalty for changing your religion, are very unpleasant but they've not been invented by his crazy mind. They're in the book itself.
The difficulty we in this country have is that there's a lack of honesty regarding religion. People like me who don't believe in God seem to spend most of their time pretending they are in a majority (which we're not, by any stretch of the imagination) whereas people who do believe, for the most part, keep their crazier ideas to themselves. There's a sort of silence between us which stops everyone from realising how mad we all appear to each other. This silence is partly enforced by broadcasting laws and guidelines that mean you're always on dangerous ground if you bring it up for discussion in the media.
This silence, for me, is quite a tense one. Religion is becoming an elephant in the room where it should be a talking point. Think about it, if you're an athiest like me doesn't it blow your mind that some people believe this world was made by a super magic man who is invisible? Or, on the flip side, if you believe in God doesn't it amaze you that some people think yuo've swallowed a load of nonsense?
I think, Zakir Naik, may well be a loony tune but I do not think he should be banned from this country. There's no record of him attacking someone or inciting violence. He quotes from the Quran a lot but that's not a crime is it? Pop him on a few daytime TV shows and ask him about his views. His responses are, from what I've seen, always entertaining. His ideas may seem mad, to an unbeliever like me, but they become more exciting if they're banned by the Government. It's always better for people to talk to each other than not. Only by having religious beliefs out in the open will they ever be challenged. Or even thought about.
Meh - Hail Discordia!