By S Banerjee: The Islamic Research and Development Foundation ( IRDF), Odisha organized a peace conference on the topic— “Is the Bible God’s Word?” at Jayadev Bhawan in Bhubaneswar on 24th March. The main speakers were Dr Shuaib Sayyad from Mumbai and Reverend (Dr) Charles Lakra from Bhubaneswar.
Though branded a ‘peace conference’, the hardline views of Shuaib Sayyad and his open lambasting of the Bible and the very religion of Christianity was totally against the spirit of the conference, which in turn angered and incited the Christians of Bhubaneswar who attended the same.
Formed in September’2012, the Islamic Research and Development Foundation (IRDF), Odisha , is based in Charampa, Bhadrak, Odisha. It is a non-profit Trust established with a mission to carry out research in Islamic mythology and development of Islamic culture .It envisages harmonious living and peaceful co-existence in a multicultural society. It works for the benefit of mankind especially for the economically and socially backward rural people of different communities.
Shuaib Sayyad is a member of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), Mumbai that promotes Islamic Dawah . Though a medical practitioner by profession,Dr. Shuaib Sayyad joined the IRF in February 1997 and is the Manager (Research, Comparative Religion) and also an Islamic orator at IRF . He has had delivered public talks across the country as well as in UK, Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, Hong Kong, Bahrain, Mauritius and Botswana. Apart from Islam, he is considered an expert on Christianity and has had a previous history of many debates with Christian missionaries at many places in the past.
In his Bhubaneswar lecture, Sayyad was armed with numerous versions and copies of the Bible. With their help and with his apparent mastery and research on the Bible and Christianity, he pointed out numerous flaws , misinterpretations and grave blunders in the Bible and was assertive in his opinion that the Bible, with its myriad loopholes and ambiguities, simply cannot be the word of the God. He opined that the Christians around the world have had been misled since time bygone by vested interests, who have painted an absolutely wrong image of God and his word. “The Bible is not the word of the Lord but just the interpretation of some vested men”, was his standpoint after giving numerous examples from different Bibles to drive this home.
Rev Charles Lakra( who was in the HRD position of NALCO and L&T before becoming a full-fledged pastor; now runs the ‘Centre for New Creation and Human Development’ in Bhubaneswar) didn’t dwell deeply into the Bible but was straight in pointing out that all true Christians are guided by the Bible, which is the “Book of Lord”. He said that believing in Christianity is to believe in Christ from the very heart. He asked Sayyad not to incite people but give them guidance for peace, brotherhood and religious tolerance. Lakra gave paramount importance to brotherhood between religious communities as well to accommodation and space for all religions in a free democratic society.
In the question and answer session that followed, rather than mellowing down, Sayyad was more blunt and offensive. To a question—“If you think that everything is a hoax , mistake and blur in Christianity and in the Bible, what do you suggest to the Christians around the world—to read Gita or Quran?”, Sayyad’s blunt answer was—“ Islam is the only true religion in this world. Many
Christians haven’t read the Bible cover to cover. They are only guided by what the pagans have directed them to see and believe. But lately some knowledgeable and intelligent amongst them have thoroughly studied and analysed the Bible and they have understood how hollow it is and they have converted to Islam. For other Christians too this is the only way out for salvation—-adopt Islam.
Christ’s lineage and genealogy is dubious and mired in controversy. There is also divided opinion about Christ being a man or God. Hence there is no standing of Christianity as a religion. It is just a painted creation of people like Paul who just for mere self-fame, entrusted on himself to recite the word of Christ in his own distorted manner and give rise to a hollow religion. I am actually saying all this for International brotherhood and oneness. There is one God and he is Allah. The Quran is the book of the Lord. This is the only truth.”
The Christians present at the Conference didn’t like the hardcore view of Sayyad one bit .They were much incited and they raised strong queries in protest. There was confusion, bedlam and heated exchanges at the end and the Moderator was compelled to announce the closure of the Conference.
Before leaving, talking to this Correspondent, Rev Lakra said—“They (the IRDF) invited me saying it was a ‘peace conference’ and healthy views will be exchanged keeping bonding and brotherhood in mind. But after the stance shown by Sayyad, how can one even think of brotherhood? Sayyad has done such wide research on Christianity. On face, his knowledge on the Bible and related matters is quite remarkable and more than even any Christian pastor. Yet his overall understanding of the ethos of the Bible and Christianity is superficial, shallow and confined to mere physical words. In Bible and Christianity many things are metaphorical and the understanding is quite different to the actual physical meaning. But this is beyond bigots like him.”
Hibzur Rehman of the IRDF managed the whole Conference. IRDF President, Saifur Rehman moderated the debate. The attempt to bridge two religious communities by IRDF was a very healthy attempt but the extreme views of Sayyad put a spanner to this good intent and left a bitter taste in the mouth. After all, religion is a delicate as well sensitive territory to tread on and sowing seeds of religious bigotry is not only dangerous for the society but unacceptable in any form. In future, the IRDF would do well to check out speakers and the kind of rhetoric to be voiced, if they are really interested to bring about peace and brotherhood in the society.