Zakir Naik again hit the headlines as some Muslim countries called him for preaching Islam in their country. Zakir-run channels, Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu are already banned in several countries, including India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Canada and the United Kingdom. Naik is accused of influencing through his speeches perpetrators of the 2016 Dhaka bombing at the Holey Artisan Bakery that killed 20, and the Easter bombings in Sri Lanka that killed over 250 in 2019. He fled to Malaysia in 2016, just before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) started a probe against the religious preacher. However, in Malaysia, he is banned from giving public speeches anywhere in Malaysia.
Naik is wanted in India as he faces money-laundering charges, and is also linked to alleged terror-related activities. 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 13 July 2016, Vishva Hindu Parishad leader Sadhvi Prachi announced a reward of ₹50 lakh (US$75,000) to anyone willing to behead Zakir Naik. This came a day after a Shia group styling itself the “Hussaini Tigers” placed a ₹15 lakh (US$22,000) bounty on his head. In the recent past, he has been 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 as 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. Anyways, Naik is not the only preacher who propagates violence in the name of religion.
Many Muslim leaders believe that the present controversy involving Dr Naik is a small part of the larger plan of dogmatic division among 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 conflict among Muslims these days; Shia and Sunni are bloodthirsty for each other. Muslims killing Muslims is on the rise. Deoband is acknowledged as ‘the epicentre 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 in an attempt to bully Indian Muslims as a whole.
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. 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 muqallidin (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.