The evening started at 5pm with typical evangelical sessions - one Indian Christian convert, one Chinese Buddhist convert and Fariq Naik (Dr Zakir Naik's son) gave a 30-minute speech on why they converted to Islam and why they think Islam is the only religion that God approves.
There was absolutely nothing new in their speeches and so I was hardly convinced, despite their exhortations to a frenzied crowd.
Now that I've spent some nine hours (yes, through heavy rain and technical glitches with the sound system) with first-hand experience, I can confidently provide my verdict on this evangelist, Dr Zakir Naik, as I was there till 2am the following day.
First the pros:
1) He appears very well read in Islam and Christianity, and quite knowledgeable in Hinduism and Jewism;
2) He is a very charismatic speaker who appeals to the masses, especially to the less initiated who probably don't possess a historical bend;
3) He claims to be a man of science and indeed, his knowledge of science, history and astronomy is very impressive;
4) I swear he has a photographic memory as he was able to spew phrases from the Quran, Bible, Torah and Vedas at ease. I guess his confidence leads no one to counter-check as the person who spotted his 25 factual errors in five minutes and posted it on Youtube;
5) Zakir has a lot of stamina (he was on stage for almost five hours) and did not show any sign of fatigue at all; and
6) He is very persuasive in his arguments and can easily convince those who are in the "half-way" line. For example, he asked all the questioners if they believed that (a) there is one God and (b) if the Prophet Muhammad was the last messenger. When they answered "yes" to both, he declared them as Muslim even though clearly, they were not and had no intention to convert. I believe a few told him this outright when further goaded.
Now the cons:
1) There is no doubt that his lectures are a blatant attempt to convert. Indeed, there were four "instant converts" (an Indian Hindu, a Sarawakian Catholic, a local Catholic and a local Buddhist) during his session. Although these four swore that they were converting freely, their "spontaneity" was a little questionable. In fact, after each question session, Zakir will subtly goad his questioner to convert. Although he openly declared that he is not out there to convert, clearly he aims to do so and Zaid Ibrahim was dead right about his real motive;