Why is Fr. Zakaria so loved—and hated? For starters, as a native Arabic-speaker, he takes his message straight to the heart of the Islamic world; as a man of God, he takes his message straight to the heart of Muslims—something the Western approach cannot achieve.
As much as the problem with Islam is political, social, and religious, it is fundamentally a spiritual problem. As St. Paul said, our struggle is ultimately not against flesh and blood, but against spiritual evil. It is from spiritual evil that political, social, religious, and other worldly evils arise. This is something important for defenders of the remnants of Christendom to remember.
You see, while Western critics are limited to making secular arguments against specific aspects of Islam—for instance, that it is illiberal, intolerant, sexist—he makes spiritual arguments against the very foundations of the religion.
This is not to say that Western polemics are not beneficial; they are, in that they awaken Western peoples to the nature of Islam. However, arguing or even proving that Islam falls short of Western/secular standards has little impact on Muslims—except perhaps to make them more tenacious of their faith (the inevitable result of comparing apples and oranges).
But an attack on the veracity of the religion itself—an attack articulated through a spiritual as opposed to a secular paradigm—must be confronted by Muslims.
In short, Fr. Zakaria’s success rests in the fact that he fights fire with fire; that he speaks the same language Muslims do—not just literally, Arabic, but more importantly, figuratively, the language of religion and faith, the language of God. He cannot simply be ignored.
For example, during this, his first episode, he discussed Sheikh Huwaini’s recent assertions that Islam advocates plundering, enslaving, buying, and selling infidels. Many have written about this anecdote either to show that Islam is intrinsically violent, or that “radical Islamism” is spreading, or that Islamic teachings are incompatible with the West.
But Fr. Zakaria takes it a step further—takes it right to the heart of the matter. After asserting that “God created mankind in his image,” he sincerely addressed his Muslim viewers: “Would God truly want you to kill your neighbor, to enslave him? Would the Almighty truly want believers to buy and sell other human beings like animals? Think people! Use your minds, listen to your hearts—for your souls are at stake!”