MAHMOOD SANGLAY, investigating assault allegations against the late Ahmed Deedat, has discovered that these are unfounded.
The world renowned South African Muslim missionary Ahmed Deedat, who died in 2005, is alleged to have assaulted a member of the audience in 1985 at one of his public lectures in Malaysia. The allegation has been posted on social media for several months.
The source of the allegation is another missionary, the Christian evangelist, Ravi Zacharias, who died on May 19 this year at the age of 74 in Atlanta, Georgia. Zacharias was very influential and Vice President of the United States Mike Pence was among those who paid tribute to him at his memorial service.
The legacy of Zacharias and RZIM have been the subject of investigation since 2015 when an attorney in California, Steve Baughman, started uncovering a scandal involving exaggerations by Zacharias about his academic credentials as well as evidence that he was a sexual predator. Baughman published a book, Cover-Up in the Kingdom: Phone Sex, Lies, And God’s Great Apologist, Ravi Zacharias, in 2018. RZIM failed to respond to questions from Baughman.
The story of the assault is posted on at least three Youtube videos featuring Zacharias speaking at public events, one of them held in 2013. The victim of the alleged assault is Prof Living Lee Chai Peng, who was a lecturer of geology at University of Malaya at the time.
‘Professor Lee himself told me this story,’ says Zacharias at the 2013 event, held at the Veritas Forum, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, USA.
Zacharias adds that after Deedat’s talk in 1985 Prof Lee is said to have asked Deedat why he called Christianity ‘inconsistent and unlivable’. According to Zacharias Deedat then summoned the professor to the front of the lecture hall where he ‘gave him one heavy-handed slap on the face’.
Thereafter, says Zacharias, Deedat told Lee to turn the other cheek, but then changed his mind and asked him for his shirt, and then his pants. The professor complied and left the venue, humiliated by Deedat, according Zacharias.
Neither Deedat nor any of the members of his entourage at his international talks at the time are alive to respond to the allegation. The Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI) denies that Deedat had ever assaulted anyone, saying this is not consistent with his character and style of engaging with Christians.
However, Prof Lee, the alleged victim of the assault is alive and responded to questions from Muslim Views. Lee has since retired from his position as academic at University of Malaya. He categorically denies being assaulted by Deedat. He also denies telling Zacharias that Deedat had assaulted him. However, he affirms that Deedat had asked him for his shirt and then his pants.
In a detailed statement to Muslim Views Lee clarifies and provides vital context. He says Deedat was invited to University of Malaya to speak on the topic ‘Muhammad in the Bible’. In his lecture Deedat said that he had not found a single Christian willing to obey Jesus’s command in the Gospel (Matthew 5:39) to turn the other cheek.
Lee challenged Deedat after the talk and said to him, ‘Please strike me on my right cheek.’
Deedat instead referenced Matthew 5:40, ‘And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.’
Deedat asked for his shirt and Lee complied. Then Deedat asked for his pants and Lee complied again. This occurred in front of an audience of 400 people, including his students and colleagues. The professor managed to obtain someone’s jacket to cover himself and to explain to the audience that he complied with Deedat’s request in order to demonstrate that his faith in Jesus was true.
Lee adds that the incident disrupted the meeting, that the chairman returned his clothes to him and that Muslims approached him to express regret about the way Deedat had treated him.
This account of Lee is corroborated by Dato’ Ngeh Koo Ham, a Malaysian politician and lawyer who had been a student at the university in 1985, and a witness to the incident. Goolam Vahed, the author of Ahmed Deedat: The Man and His Mission, published in 2012, told Muslim Views he had not heard of Deedat’s encounter with Lee. However, a member of IPCI reports that the late Yusuf Deedat, the son of Ahmed Deedat, had confirmed that an incident of this nature had occurred.
Lee says he met Zacharias in 2006 at another public lecture at the university and told Zacharias about his encounter with Deedat. He adds that in 2014, when he discovered Zacharias ‘got some of the details wrong,’ Lee emailed him the correct account of events.
However, there is no record of Zacharias ever rectifying what appears to be a fabrication of the story of the assault. There is gross discrepancy between version of Lee and that of Zacharias, in respect of both major and minor details. It is reasonable to infer that Zacharias had knowingly fabricated the story of the assault and narrated it to audiences over the world in order to impair the reputation of Deedat.
Muslim Views also contacted RZIM, the evangelical ministry founded by Zacharias in 1984, to inquire if the organisation will apologise for the false narrative and withdraw the videos concerned. Ruth Malhotra, the public relations manager of RZIM, initially welcomed media inquiries, but failed to respond to any questions from Muslim Views.
- This article was first published in the October 2020 print edition of Muslim Views.