The (Non) Freedom of Religion

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Last week, during a two-day lecture tour through the Maldives, Dr Zakir Naik, Mumbai-based Islamic scholar and self-professed expert of comparative religions, caused quite a stir. During a Q&A session after one of his speeches, 37-year-old Maldivian Mohamed Nazim reportedly took the mike, and, proclaiming himself an atheist, said he was “struggling to believe in religions”. According to reports in Haveeru, the country’s oldest daily, Nazim said, “I am still struggling to believe in religion... My parents taught me the religion of Islam. They are good practitioners, actually... I have read a translation of The Quran. Yet, I still do not believe in a religion.” The constitution of the Maldives, however, states that its citizens must be Muslim, and saying what he did, Nazim was assaulted by some members of the religiously fervent audience and eventually led off by policemen. Naik, on his part, said the non-believer had “deviated from Islam” because he’d been reading the “wrong books” and was “oversmart”. Nazim, though, appears to have been put through a quick study session of the right books because on 1 June, at a press meet, he repented and declared himself a Muslim.