In our research with young Bangladeshis, we have been repeatedly struck by the popularity of television, DVD and Internet material that offers a modernist, quasi-scientific defence of Islamic knowledge against both ‘western’ scientific criticisms and US fundamentalist Christians. The South Indian doctor Zakir Naik's programmes, broadcast on his own television channel (Peace TV) and also available widely on DVD, are very popular, and admired for their ‘logical’ and apparently even-handed approach. His Islamic Research Foundation propagates his and similar material on the Web. The Turkish scholar ‘Harun Yahya’ (Adnan Oktar) 's diatribes against Darwinism and other western scientific evils are widely available on the Internet as text, audio and video, and often referred to. Full-on conspiracy theory material such as ‘The Arrivals’ series of online videos also finds a ready audience. We ask why these apparently implausible attacks on western knowledge carry conviction among young Muslims, many of them students studying for western-style university degrees in Bangladesh or the United Kingdom. We also ask to what degree the views of men such as Naik and Yahya might provide the basis of an alternative modernity, and what the implications of their wide popularity might be in the political arena.
Contemporary South Asia Vol. 18, Issue 4, p. 427-441