In one of the most absurd recent exercises in self-deceptive propaganda by radical Islamists, an "International Peace Convention" has been announced for April 12 at the Dubai World Trade Center.
The event, which is the second of its kind, will be give a prominent place to Zakir Naik, an Indian Muslim televangelist whose "Peace TV" beams from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and Mumbai. Naik, an unapologetic adherent of the ultrafundamentalist Wahhabi sect of Islam, is barred from entry into Canada and Britain for exhorting Muslim youth to participate in terrorism. He has incited Muslims against non-Wahhabi observances and interpretations, including Sufism and Shiism, and loudly proclaims his alleged charisma in convincing Hindus, Christians, and other believers to become Muslims.
Naik was denounced as an apostate from Islam in 2008, by a leading Indian Muslim jurist, Maulana Mufti Abdul Irfan Qadvi, for supporting the late Osama Bin Laden. Maulana Qadvi appealed to the Indian government to ban "Peace TV," and to investigate Naik's financial backing. Tens of millions of Indian Muslims who follow the spiritual Sufi way were outraged when Naik proclaimed their devotions to be heresy – a remark the television preacher later recanted.
At the same time, however, Naik offended, with apparently deliberate intent, the Indian Sunni and Shia Muslims by praising the killer of Imam Husayn, the grandson of Muhammad. Mourning the death of Husayn is a central component in Shiism; his murder has been traditionally condemned by moderate Sunni Muslims.
The pretensions of Naik to standing as a Muslim scholar who can deliver fatwas [religious opinions] via his broadcasts have been repudiated by other established Indian Muslim authorities. Maulana Mehmood Daryabadi, general-secretary of the All India Ulema Council, has stated of Naik: "He is neither an 'aalim' (scholar) nor a 'mufti' (one who gives fatwa)… he should not issue fatwas from public platforms."
Naik's habit of proclaiming fatwas and offering Quranic interpretation, despite his lack of appropriate religious training, is typical of Wahhabis and their followers. Wahhabis claim that their improvisation of religious doctrine represents a "reform" of Islam and a revival of "ijtihad," or individual juristic reasoning. In practice, such "individual reasoning" has served as an excuse for Wahhabis to impose unjust punishments for alleged moral infractions, as well as to support acts of terror previously forbidden in Islam.
"Peace TV" has promoted indoctrination in fanaticism by such Wahhabis as the virulently radical and racist American Siraj Wahhaj, born Jeffrey Kearse, and a former follower of the spurious "Nation of Islam." Wahhaj is a past vice-president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), which was set up with the backing of the Saudi Wahhabi clerical establishment. Wahhaj was named in 1995 by U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White as an unindicted co-conspirator in the plot to blow up the World Trade Center in New York in 1993. He also testified in the defense of the convicted terrorist, the "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman.
Yet another luminary of "Peace TV" is Jamal Badawi, known for his association with the Muslim world's most prominent extremist media figure, Yusuf Al-Qaradawi. Badawi, who was born in Egypt and lives in Canada, serves on Al-Qaradawi's so-called "European Council for Fatwas and Research," which is chiefly distinguished by the scarcity of European Muslims in its ranks; most of its members are Arab or African.
Badawi is even better known, however, for his misogynistic interpretation of Islam. In his 1980 volume, The Status of Women in Islam, Badawi wrote to oppose the involvement of women in politics: "According to Islam, the head of the state is no mere figurehead. He leads people in the prayers, especially on Fridays and festivities; he is continuously engaged in the process of decision-making pertaining to the security and well-being of his people. This demanding position, or any similar one, such as the Commander of the Army, is generally inconsistent with the physiological and psychological make-up of woman in general. It is a medical fact that during their monthly periods and during their pregnancies, women undergo various physiological and psychological changes. Such changes may occur during an emergency situation, thus affecting her decision, without considering the excessive strain which is produced. Moreover, some decisions require a maximum of rationality and a minimum of emotionality – a requirement which does not coincide with the instinctive nature of women."
This line of argument conflicts with the experience of Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia, all leading Muslim countries which have included women among their political leaders. Even Saudi Arabia under King Abdullah has proclaimed reforms which, if they are fully adopted, will provide women the right to participate in public decision-making. By royal order, women will be free from the Wahhabi requirement for permission from a male relative to vote and stand as candidates in Saudi municipal elections scheduled for 2015.
On April 13, the second day of the convocation, the regular Friday preacher at the Grand Mosque (Haram) in Mecca, the Wahhabi sheikh Abdur Rahman Al-Sudais, will lead collective prayer at the Dubai affair.
Although Al-Sudais claims to be an apostle of interfaith dialogue, he has been barred from Canada and condemned by Saudi officials for his extremist rhetoric. He has supported previously-unknown restrictions on the participation of women in the hajj pilgrimage to Mecca. Most offensively to moderate Muslims, Al-Sudais demands that women who go on hajj be separated from men and required to put on the un-Islamic face veil (niqab). Such demeaning proposals have never before been articulated among Muslims, who believe that women living in Mecca and attending hajj are sufficient in their virtue, and require neither taking leave of men nor covering their faces.
Al-Sudais has also been an active adherent of anti-Islamic, anti-historical, and anti-cultural schemes for the desecration of Mecca by the construction of new high-rise buildings around the Ka'bah, the most sacred Islamic structure, to which all Muslims turn in prayer. Saudi Wahhabis, obsessed with a gigantism in construction reminiscent of Stalin's in Soviet Russia, have already erected a huge "royal clock tower" that overlooks the Ka'bah, and has a face even larger than the Ka'bah itself.
The message of Wahhabis such as Al-Sudais is: Saudi power transcends and dwarfs the whole of Islam.
Other well-known fundamentalist agitators advertised to appear at the Dubai "convention" include Yusuf Estes, who regularly appears on the fundamentalist Islam Channel, and who is a former Protestant believer of Anglo-Saxon heritage, chiefly distinguished by his thick American Southern accent.
Elements of peace-making, according to the agenda at the Dubai meeting, are vague. Dr. Hamad Al-Shaibani, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Award for World Peace, announced: "Peace is the ultimate goal for our Convention -- just as it is the ultimate goal of Islam itself."
Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, patron of this disgraceful spectacle, is prime minister and ruler of Dubai, and vice-president of the United Arab Emirates.
The "Dubai International Peace Convention," led by Naik and Al-Sudais, may well have been conceived last year when Al-Sudais visited India. Regardless of the details of its origin, a meeting in which radicals such as Naik and Al-Sudais are prominent will do nothing to advance the cause of peace or of interfaith cooperation. Rather, it will encourage extremist ideology and violence. The posture of the ruler of Dubai in presenting this Wahhabi performance as a factor for peace is alarming in its apparent revelation of the weakness of Dubai in the face of the money and influence wielded from Saudi Arabia by the Wahhabi clerical caste. Rather than welcoming and praising these zealots, Sheikh Al-Maktoum would be better served by following the counsel of the Indian cleric, Maulana Qadvi, expelling "Peace TV" and Naik from Dubai for good.
As for Al-Sudais, the trip from Dubai back to Saudi Arabia is a short one; his deportation would contribute more to peace and good interfaith relations than any elaborate media masterwork.