Posts Tagged ‘ India ’

The Trouble with Dr. Zakir Naik

Sadanand Dhume for The Wall Street Journal

If you’re looking for a snapshot of India’s hapless response to radical Islam, then look no further than Bombay-based cleric Dr. Zakir Naik. In India, the 44-year-old Dr. Naik—a medical doctor by training and a televangelist by vocation—is a widely respected figure, feted by newspapers and gushed over by television anchors. The British, however, want no part of him. On Friday, the newly elected Conservative-led government announced that it would not allow Dr. Naik to enter Britain to deliver a series of lectures. According to Home Secretary Theresa May, the televangelist has made “numerous comments” that are evidence of his “unacceptable behavior.”

The good doctor’s views run the gamut from nutty to vile, so it’s hard to pinpoint which of them has landed him in trouble. For instance, though Dr. Naik has condemned terrorism, at times he also appears to condone it. “If he [Osama bin Laden] is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him,” he said in a widely watched 2007 YouTube diatribe. “If he is terrorizing the terrorists, if he is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”

Dr. Naik recommends the death penalty for homosexuals and for apostasy from the faith, which he likens to wartime treason. He calls for India to be ruled by the medieval tenets of Shariah law. He supports a ban on the construction of non-Muslim places of worship in Muslim lands and the Taliban’s bombing of the Bamiyan Buddhas. He says revealing clothes make Western women “more susceptible to rape.” Not surprisingly, Dr. Naik believes that Jews “control America” and are the “strongest in enmity to Muslims.”

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India’s Edge Over China: Soft Power

John Lee for Businessweek:

While China’s neighbors look at the country’s rise with a mixture of apprehension and admiration, the story of India’s reemergence as a regional power is more attractive to many states in the region. After all, unlike China, India has no history of invasion or domination in East and Southeast Asia and does not have competing claims in the South China Sea with other Asian states. Moreover, “in today’s world,” India’s then-Minister of State for External Affairs Shashi Tharoor said in a speech last November, “it is not the size of the army that wins but the country that tells the better story.” As the world’s largest democracy, with a vibrant press and thriving entertainment industry, India has huge soft power advantages over China and its state-controlled media. The implication is India can take advantage of that goodwill as Asia’s two giants battle for influence in the region and around the world.

Tharoor is correct to refer to India’s soft-power advantages. But goodwill towards India and the enormous potential of Indian soft power—the ability to influence the behavior of other states through attraction and cooptation rather than military force or economic inducement—does not arise simply from the growing popularity of Bollywood movies or the fact that Indian contestants (along with those from Venezuela) have won more Miss World contests than any other country. The fact that one likes Indian culture may not necessarily lead foreign governments to accede and acquiesce to Indian foreign policy objectives.

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