Feb 072009

When Television channels have 3 digit numbers it is possible to have several channels for every regional language and for every religion too. If you start scanning from channel 700 onwards, you will see several channels devoted to the Hindu, Christian and Moslem faiths. One of them is “Peace TV” whose slogan is “Solution for Humanity”. From the name you might assume that it doesn’t plug any particular faith — and you would be wrong. Whenever I channel-surf, “Peace TV” catches my attention especially when Dr. Zakir is on. This man is a human encyclopedia of not one religious text but two: Koran and the Bible; the first text as he a practicing Muslim and a scholar and the second, ostensibly, to ferret out all the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, contradictions so that he can show the Christian faith in poor light and  proclaim the superiority of Islam — so much for calling the channel Peace TV. I don’t think this is the way to bring about peace.

My comments and observations are based on 3 to 4 hours of watching this channel on 3 or 4 occasions over a period of a couple of months. So it is quite likely that the vast majority of their programming is not divisive.

A recent episode featured discussion/debate between the Christian and Islamic faiths followed by a Q&A session. On the Islamic corner, you had the extremely sharp and intelligent Dr. Zakir, who as I said earlier knows his Koran and Bible. On the Christian corner, you had Dr. Campbell. To say that it was not a match would be the understatement of the year. It was like a cricket match between Australia and Ireland or a basketball match between Dream-team-USA and Bangladesh. Dr. Campbell clearly did not do his homework.

How can you compete with a person who can quote from memory — at breakneck speed, like the guy in the Fedex commercial — chapter and verse from both the Koran (in Arabic) and the Bible?

A huge audience, predominantly Moslem, cheer wildly when Dr. Zakir, to prove his point, starts reciting from memory eight or nine chapter/section/page-numbers from the Koran or Bible in a few seconds. These chapter and verse numbers and other selected sentences from Dr. Zakir are displayed on the screen — this has to be post-processing and not live.

I didn’t watch the initial part of the debate and I don’t recall all that transpired. I am listing some of the points discussed. I am also mentioning Dr. Zakir’s comments made in a different episode. Note that I know very little of the Koran or the Bible.

Shape of the earth Koran says that the earth is spherical. In an different episode Dr. Zakir refined it further and said that the Koran describes the shape of the earth as being that of an Ostrich’s egg; he said that the Ostrich’s egg is not quite a sphere but is oblate just like the Earth. Dr. Zakir made fun of some passage in the Bible where it says that someone could see the whole of the earth and its people, from a height. Dr. Zakir said that no matter how tall the tree you cannot see the whole Earth as it is not flat.

Dr. Campbell countered feebly by quoting a passage where it says earth is like a ring. Dr. Zakir pounced on this and showed a coin to the audience — which laughed derisively — and said that a ring or a circle is not a sphere.

The Stacking Problem — Noah’s ark Dr. Zakir mocked and wondered how two of every kind of animal can fit inside a crate of a certain dimension and how they can eat and answer call of nature etc.

2000 year old counting mistake: Friday to Sunday doesn’t add up to 3 nights Dr. Zakir cited “For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth“.  Dr. Zakir continued and I paraphrase: Friday evening to Sunday morning doesn’t equal 3 nights; so Jesus didn’t fulfill Jonas; also, Jonas was alive inside the whale, but wasn’t Jesus dead when he was entombed?; yet another discrepancy. Dr. Zakir went on to say that Jesus wasn’t crucified. I am reasonably (but not 100%) certain that he said the previous sentence. This can be checked in the program video.

Dr. Campbell responded by saying that part of the day can be counted as a day. Dr. Zakir accepted that but said it doesn’t explain the third night. A simple Google search suggests one explanation for this ‘discrepancy’. When you have 2000 years to come up with an explanation, you can. A smarter or more knowledgeable man than Dr. Campbell would have come up with an answer to an age old question.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus is God Every time Dr. Zakir mentions Jesus Christ he adds “Peace be upon him”. He does this so often that the caption shows the abbreviation PTOH. Dr. Zakir asserted that nowhere in the Bible does it say that Jesus Christ PTOH is God or that Jesus Christ PTOH said that he was God. Dr. Campbell responded with some chapter and verse but Dr. Zakir quoted a few more chapters and verses to prove his point. I have seen him mention this point on other episodes and not just in this debate.

Discrepancy in age: Son is older than father Dr. Zakir quoted a few passages in the Bible where in one passage the age of a person is 42 and in another it was 22. Sorry, I don’t recall this person’s name. Then he deduced that the son is older the father. He said that Hollywood does a lot of magic but even they cannot make the son older than the father. I was reminded of a “Back to the Future” episode where this was the case, but let me not digress.

Proof by Definition An audience member who seems to be knowledgeable in Arabic asked Dr. Zakir to explain why there are over 20 grammatical mistakes in the Koran and started going into detail on the first of these errors. Dr. Zakir said “Are you talking about the book by xyz? I have read the book and I can explain all the 20 (cheers from the audience)”. Dr. Zakir went on to say that there are regional differences in Arabic and that the Arabic in the Koran is of the highest and purest form and it cannot be wrong. There are several meanings for many Arabic words and it is not at all an easy task to understand/translate. He went into some more detail here.

Evolution and Darwin’s theory There was a question regarding evolution and Darwin’s theory. Dr. Zakir said that it is just a theory and quoted some Scientist who said that it cannot possibly be true. Not very convincing and I could sense that Dr. Zakir was stalling for time (there was a time limit to answer a question)

Rasputin and his orgies A female member of the audience asked how Dr. Campbell can explain Rasputin (sp?) and his orgies. Campbell replied that he doesn’t need to respond/explain Rasputin’s behavior. I (blog author) don’t have any idea what this is about and neither do I want to learn about it.

Only Humans have visa problems. God doesn’t In an unrelated episode, Dr. Zakir took up the case of Rajneesh — the controversial guru and cult leader with 93 Rolls Royces. Zakir said that several countries refused to give a visa to Rajneesh; he said God doesn’t need a visa and ergo Rajneesh is not God.

When an audience member asked Dr. Campbell to answer a question (I don’t recall the question), he said and I paraphrase “I cannot explain everything in the Bible. But I believe everything in the Bible”

To some other question, Dr. Campbell said something like “We have 6 witnesses to Jesus; you have only one who came 600 years later”.

Imagine, for one moment, if someone made fun of the Islamic faith. There will be an outrage, especially from the fundamentalists; several fatwas will be issued. I assume that the Peace TV channel is not widely watched by people of Christian faith but even if it was it won’t spark the same level of outrage.

Making fun of another religion in a public forum can never be a recipe for peace. Dr. Zakir, please use your enormous intellect and memory to find and memorize passages from the Bible that convey the same message as that of the Koran. And let peace be upon everybody.

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