A two-day Ramadan lecture by a prominent Indian Muslim scholar is expected to attract 20,000 people to the Dubai Airport Expo Centre. People of all faiths, and those without religion, have been invited to the free lecture by Dr Zakir Naik, which begins on Thursday. Dr Naik, 43, owns the Mumbai-based free-to-air channel Peace TV. He has memorised the Quran and often debates with scholars of other religions before large audiences.
In February the Indian Express ranked him number 82 in its list of 100 Most Powerful Indians. The members of the audience have converted to Islam during his lectures. "I expect the same thing to happen in Dubai," said Arif Julfar, a member of the Dubai International Holy Quran Award (Dihqa) committee, which organised the lecture. "Especially because it is Ramadan and there will be more than 20,000 people."
The lecture will be in English. The first part, which starts at 10pm, is entitled "Dawah or Destruction". It will be followed by a question-and-answer session until 2am. Dawah ("making an invitation") is a duty upon Muslims to summon others to their religion. "This means either we should call people to Islam and save them from the destruction of this world and in the hereafter," said Mr Julfar. "If not, there will be destruction for the whole universe including Muslims. The role of the Prophet Mohammed was to save humanity and we have to play the same role."
Dr Naik's second appearance, on Friday at 10pm, will address misconceptions of Islam. "Because of events such as September 11, and the way the media portray Islam, some people are talking about the religion in the wrong way. They are harming Islam," said Mr Julfar. "They don't know the subjects and details of our religion. This is to clarify misunderstanding about Islam, and explain the real meaning behind terms such as jihad, for example."
The government-run Dihqa was given funding by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to bring noted scholars to the UAE and encourage people to learn about Islam. It has also arranged for Sheikh Yusuf Estes, an American convert to Islam, to speak on September 1 and 2 from 10pm until 2am at the same venue. Mr Estes was brought up in Houston, Texas, as a Christian. He worked in the music industry until he accepted Islam at 47.