Burka “is [the] single most reprehensible cause for keeping Muslims backward … sooner it’s abolished, the better” – Khushwant Singh

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“In my view, shared by all my Muslim friends, burqa is the single most reprehensible cause for keeping Muslims backward (it is synonymous to jehalat — ignorance and backwardness). The sooner it is abolished, the better.”

KhushwantSinghNovember 3, 2007

Khushwant Singh
Hindustan Times

At the recent Book Fair in Delhi there was a stall selling Islamic literature. Friends who went round the stalls told me that among the hottest sellers was Answer to Non-Muslim Common Questions About Islam by Dr Zakir Naik (Madhur Sandesh Sangam).

The learned doctor, who has a phenomenal memory when it comes to quoting chapters, verses and lines of the scriptures, has chosen 20 questions, most often asked by non-believers: they include polygamy, burqa, drinking, eating pigmeat, afterlife, and kafirs.

I have heard Zakir Naik hold forth on these and other subjects several times on television before large receptive audiences, who hear him spellbound. I disagree with almost everything he has to say about misconceptions about Islam. Though by definition (a kafir), I don’t believe in God, satan, angels, devils, heaven or hell, I feel hurt and angry because I am emotionally and rationally bothered by the sorry plight of Muslims today.

I find Naik’s pronouncements somewhat juvenile. They seldom rise above the level of undergraduate college debates, where contestants vie with each other to score brownie points.

I will deal with only four of the twenty topics he deals with — two of minor and two of major importance.

Muslims and Pork

Why is eating pigmeat forbidden in Islam? Dr Naik tells us that the “pig is one of the filthiest animals on earth.”

Agreed, it eats garbage, including human and animal excreta. He further adds, “The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate” I admit I was not aware of this swinish aberration. He goes on to list 70 different types of diseases caused by eating pigmeat. He does not tell us why the vast majority of non-Muslims, non-vegetarians of the world relish pigmeat in different forms: ham, bacon, pork, sausages, salami etc.

Many Pacific island economies depend on breeding pigs. I for one have not heard of great epidemics caused by consumption of pig meat.

Muslims and Alcohol

Why is alcohol forbidden to Muslims? Actually, what is forbidden by the Quran is drunkenness, not drinking. However, Dr Naik construes it to be a sin.

He says, “Alcohol has been the scourge of human society, since time immemorial. It costs enormous human lives and terrible misery to millions throughout the world.”

He lists 19 diseases, including eczema, caused by intake of liquor. One does not have to quote the scriptures to prove that excessive drinking ruins one’s health, impoverishes families, leads to bad behaviour and crime. It is plain common sense.

People all over the world overdo it and suffer. Those who drink within limits enjoy it. I have been drinking for 70 years. I have not been drunk even once in my life, never fallen ill nor offended anyone.

I am 94 and still drink everyday. My role model is Asadullah Khan Ghalib. He drank every evening and alone. I look forward to my sundowners. For me and for millions of others, drinking has nothing to do with religion.

Let us see what Dr Naik has to say about two more serious subjects: polygamy and hijab (veil).

Muslims and Polygamy

“The Quran is the only religious book on the face of this earth that contains the phrase “marry only one,” he asserts. And explains the verse on the subject “marry women of your choice, two, three or four; but only fear that ye shall not be able to do justice (with them), then only one”.

And since “ye are never able to be fair and just as between women. Therefore, the verdict is in favour of one wife at a time. “Hindus are more polygamous than Muslims,” writes Dr Naik.

There are more women than men in the world; so what are women who can’t find unmarried men do except become co-wives of married men? Or become “public property?” So goes the learned doctor’s argument.

He does not deign to deal with the situation as it exists today. Every other religion other than Islam, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism now forbids men from having more than one wife at a time.

Muslims are the sole exception though only a miniscule minority, mainly Arabs, have multiple wives.

Apply for a visa to some country like Indonesia and Malaysia and you will have to fill a column naming up to four wives accompanying you. The answer to the problem of women out-numbering men is not polygamy, it is freedom to engage in extra-marital relation or have them staying single. It is better than having a harem.

Muslims and Burka

Dr Naik is in favour of women wearing burqas from head to foot, girls not going to mixed schools or colleges, nor going into professional institutions in which they have to expose their faces etc. This amounts to denying them, equal rights with men.

In my view, shared by all my Muslim friends, burqa is the single most reprehensible cause for keeping Muslims backward (it is synonymous to jehalat — ignorance and backwardness). The sooner it is abolished, the better.

He castigates the western society in no uncertain terms: “Western talk of women’s liberalisation is nothing but a disguised form of exploitation of her body, degradation of her soul and deprivation of her honour.

“Western society claims to have uplifted women. On the contrary, it has actually degraded them to the status of concubines, mistresses, and society butterflies who are mere tools in the hands of pleasure seekers and sex marketers….”

All I can say in reply is “Dr. Naik, you know next to nothing about the Western society and are talking through your skull cap. People like you are making the Muslims lag behind other communities.”

9 comments for “Burka “is [the] single most reprehensible cause for keeping Muslims backward … sooner it’s abolished, the better” – Khushwant Singh

  1. R.D Kuch
    December 1, 2014 at 2:44 PM

    What keeps muslims and islamic society from progressing are the over-arching compulsion towards submission and fatalistic nature of islam.
    In accordance with islam, everything is to submit to god’s will (and therefore no free will of your own) and all outcomes are in the hand of god…so why bother even trying…
    In the early 60’s pilots from NATO countries were involved in the training of Turkish pilots….but their enthusiam for converting Turkish pilots onto the new fast aircraft being deployed soon led to fear that every sortie would be their last….as the second something went wrong….the Turkish trainee would abdicate control and the hapless instructor in the back seat would follow him into the ground about 1/1000 of a second later…
    Often, the last thing heard was a submission to god’s will…that ubiquitous insidious, soul destroying phrase….Insh’allah!

    • Jason
      August 26, 2016 at 9:32 PM

      Lolololol lolololol lolololol

      That’s a racist statement, clearly a small mind.

  2. Arjun Suri
    January 3, 2015 at 12:41 PM

    30% of my friends are muslim but I’ve to say this that Zakir Naik is good in manipulating people’s mind and he and people like him shall be thrown out of India .

    P.S.- I’ll beat him debate

    • Gulbadan
      March 1, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      how did you come up with 30% ? why not 28%?

  3. Zahid
    October 14, 2015 at 5:58 AM

    There are debates amongst diff Islamic school of thoughts with regards to the extent of Burqa / Purdah or veil therefore it is never a surprise when non Muslims comment on such Islamic practices as experts.
    I always enjoyed reading late Khushwant Singh’s satire and humour but didn’t realise that he could be so biased, judgemental perhaps insane. He sees problems with burqa but does not have any issues with his own community’s hygiene habits & grooming norms.
    As far as Mr. Tarek Fatah is concerned, he wouldn’t let a single opportunity to mock Islam & Pakistan.

  4. Sagir yaesin
    February 15, 2017 at 12:54 PM

    Expectancy of life maximum 80 /90 yrs. why you don’t think you will be nowhere after 2/3 generation? do you believe present generations dont know Alexander,even Shakespeare.you are not countable before theses guys
    Pl shut your eyes for a while and think like as if you die
    Why you are always keep yourself busy in some negative work? think life after death.severe punishment is waiting..

  5. Mohinder singh
    February 15, 2017 at 1:21 PM

    Regarding the logic given for polygamy that “women outnumber men”…yes this is the fact but, women outnumber only in higher age brackets. Sex ratio at birth is in the favour of male child but since women tend to live more(higher life expectancy) there are more women then men…but those are mostly older women(less likely to marry). So, this logic does not justify polygamy.

  6. hindusthani
    January 13, 2018 at 1:06 AM

    abolish triple talaq,halala,polygomy,jihad,burkha etc etc.This list is endless and doesn’t work.it is like cutting the branches of a tree without cutting the root of the tree which will grow again.cutting the root of tree is the only solution as poisonous tree only produces poisonous fruit no matter how many times you cut its branches.better to abolish islam itself and let muslim choose any other faith of their choice and leave this stone age desert cult for world peace and for their own development and well being.

  7. July 1, 2018 at 6:18 AM

    I respected Khushwant but this comment has discouraged me. ‘ The answer to the problem of women out-numbering men is not polygamy, it is freedom to engage in extra-marital relation ‘ He claims to admire Muhammad(p) who never taught that. And, he does not have modern educated orthodox Muslim friends who love veil, he only has modernist Muslim friends, so modern educated Sikhs like him should seek modern educated orthodox Muslim friends to have an informed perspective.

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