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Does India have enough evidence to prove Zakir Naik guilty?

Zakir Naik, a preacher who has influenced many minds is wanted in India. But he is not willing to return here as he feels there is a threat to his life. On July 13, 2016, Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh ($75,000) to anyone willing to behead Zakir Naik. This came a day after a Shia group styling itself the “Hussaini Tigers” placed a Rs 15 lakh ($22,000) bounty on his head. In the recent past, he is subjected to many brutalities and abuses.

While he appreciates that people of other religions allow Muslims to freely propagate Islam in their country, Naik preaches that the diffusion of other religions within an Islamic state must be forbidden because he believes that other faiths are incorrect, so their propagation is wrong.

Ever since the ISIS-claimed attack on an upmarket Dhaka cafe, the Modi government has said it will examine Zakir Naik’s speeches for remarks that can foment terror and religious strife. Anyway, Naik is not the only preachers who propagate violence in the name of religion.

In the recent past, many spiritual leaders of other community tried creating unrest and hateful atmosphere in the country. This is the same government that looks the other way when leaders like Yogi Adityanath, Sanjeev Balyan, and Sakshi Maharaj among others, have issued worse statements. The electronic media’s campaign against Zakir Naik on the ‘Peace TV’ at the instance of the Home Ministry and intelligence agencies despite Maharashtra’s State Intelligence Department (SID) finding not enough evidence to book him has promoted several Muslim organisations to come out in open to support him and condemn his media trial. Not only in India but also across the globe he enjoys goodwill and support. Many Muslim leaders believe that the present controversy involving Dr Naik as a small part of the larger plan of dogmatic division among the Muslims. Many commentators in the Muslim media have termed the controversy as an attempt to move from Hindu-Muslim to Muslim-Muslim strife.

Dr Zakir Naik is the founder of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), he is under the scanner following disclosures that two of the five young militants who butchered 20 hostages, including an Indian, at a popular cafe in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka on July 1, drew their inspiration from his speeches. There is a conflict among the Muslims these days; Shia and Sunni are bloodthirsty for each other. Muslims killing Muslims is on the rise. Deoband is acknowledged as ‘the epicenter of terrorism’ and all other schools like Wahabi (Ahl-e-Hadis), Jama ‘t-e-Islami and Tableeghi Jama’ are linked with terrorism. The Sufi Muslims have taken sides with BJP impressed that they were the only faithful and patriotic group among the Muslims in India, and others are linked to terrorism and extremism. But in nutshell, all leading Muslim organisations, including Jamaat-e-Islami Hind, Markazi Jamiat-e-Ahle Hadees Hind, All India Milli Council, Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI), Urdu Journalist Forum and a host of top clerics and Muslim scholars and community leaders have extended support to Dr Zakir Naik, with some even suggesting that the vilification media campaign against him is an attempt to bully Indian Muslims as a whole. Meanwhile, even if India succeeds in deporting him, how are they going to prove him guilty? He will remain an under trial in city jails like Abu Salem and others. They are dreaded gangsters, this man is a preacher and there is no evidence that he has misguided the youth.

Zakir Abdul Karim Naik is an Indian Islamic preacher and also the founder of the Peace TV channel through which he reaches a reported 200 million viewers. He has been called an “authority on comparative religion”, perhaps the most influential Salafi ideologue in India. Naik is the rock star of tele-evangelism and a proponent of modern Islam. Unlike many Islamic preachers, his lectures are colloquial, given in English, not Urdu or Arabic and he usually wears a suit and tie. He equally has in-depth knowledge of Ramayana, Geeta, and Bible. Before becoming a public speaker, he trained as a physician. He has published booklet versions of lectures on Islam and comparative religion. Although he has disclaimed sectarianism in Islam, he is regarded as an exponent of the Salafi ideology, and as a radical Islamic televangelist propagating Wahhabism. His preaching is currently banned in India, Bangladesh, Canada and the United Kingdom. Several researchers have investigated the link between Naik and terrorism. In 2007, reports claimed that Darul Uloom considered him a self-styled preacher unattached to any of the four orthodox Sunni Islamic schools of jurisprudence (fiqh) and therefore, has issued many fatwas against Zakir Naik, rejecting him as being amongst the Ghair Muqallideen (a term used in Islam to describe someone who does not relate with the four madhabs viz. Hanafi, Hanbali, Sha’afi and Maliki) thereby appealing towards Muslims to avoid listening to his sermons. In 2016, a Darul Uloom spokesman clarified reports that although a few fatwas had been issued by Darul Uloom against Naik on legal matters, these were being “deliberately highlighted” by the media.

The Maharashtra government did not find any other strong evidence to link Naik to terror-related activities. However, soon thereafter the Bangladesh Government banned the broadcast of Naik’s Peace TV channel.

In 2016, he admitted that Rahil Sheikh, involved in 2006 Mumbai train bombings, was working as a volunteer for his organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) but he did not know Rahil personally. However, Naik also claimed that Rahil was removed from his office. Nearly 200 people lost their lives in the bombing and investigation revealed that the bombers were influenced by Naik’s preachings. In December 2017, the Interpol refused the Indian government’s request to issue a red corner notice (RCN) against Naik. In January 2018, the Tribunal judge criticised the Enforcement Directorate for attaching Naik’s properties without mentioning any offences in the charge sheet. Anyway, Naik’s returning to India is a fake news and its media trial, in reality he issued a video statement on YouTube and clarified that he is not returning to India.

(Any suggestions, comments or dispute with regards to this article send us on [email protected])

Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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