On 12 July, Firstpost wrote about the need to investigate the affairs of Islamic International School (IIS) in Mumbai's Mazagaon, conceptualised and run by controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in the backdrop of the alleged charges and ongoing investigations against him. This website argued that if the government is indeed convinced that there is a problem to the secular fabric of the country on account of the ideas disseminated by Naik through his speeches and the activities of his institution Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), there is certainly a case to probe the functioning, curriculum and the religious learning of the educational institution conceptualised and operated by Naik for young children.
An investigation report by the Mumbai Police on Naik, submitted last week and forwarded to the home ministry for further examination, supports arguments raised by the Firstpost piece. According to the Mumbai Police report, the state police has raised "serious concerns" on the nature of education given to students of IIS and has said that the school is 'brainwashing' students, urging parents to keep kids away from an 'un-Islamic environment'. The 71-page Mumbai Police report further quotes from the school's literature to highlight how it aimed to 'insulate' students.
"Societal influences upon a child should be analysed critically. An un-Islamic environment can result in the corruption of a virtuous Muslim's Islamic understanding, upbringing and values. It is therefore recommended that Muslim parents educate their children in an Islamic school to prevent them from falling prey to the bad influences and immorality prevalent in society," the report quotes the school's literature as saying.
The point here is this: If the Indian government has identified Naik’s speeches both, through the TV and outside, as a threat to religious harmony and a threat to country’s secular fabric, caution is also warranted on the operations of the school. Naik is the chairman of the IRF Educational Trust and president of the IRF. The IIS website says Naik has visited several ‘Islamic’ and ‘other’ educational institutions worldwide and interacted with many experts on school and university education to grasp their approach to Islamic orientation, teaching methodology, curriculum implementation and management.
“The pragmatic insights gained from these meetings and latest research and learning on effective education strategies help in the continuous improvement and development of IIS, to be contemporary and Islamic... to fulfil the students’ educational needs for this ‘duniya’ (world) and the ‘aakhirah’ (hereafter).”
The school also has a branch in Chennai.
Naik found himself in trouble when evidence emerged that the Islamic State terrorists involved in the Dhaka blast and those operating out of Hyderabad (a module arrested by NIA), were inspired by Naik's preaching. The preacher, who is currently abroad, has all along denied the allegations but has refused to return to India to face the charges. There is a common pattern seen in Naik’s speeches. He enchants the crowds with his skills to recollect the chapters and versus of religious scriptures and connects these lines to establish his fundamental idea that Islam is the only true religion and the rest are either false or impure.
In one of his videos, Naik aggressively exhorted his ‘fans’ to take on the enemies of Islam and proclaimed that he would side with anyone, including Osama bin Laden, if the fight is against the enemies of Islam like the America, "the biggest terrorist".
"If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam," Naik says.
But, in the same breath Naik distances himself from potential trouble and says things like, "Whether he is or not, I don’t know. Now don’t go around outside saying Zakir Naik is for Osama bin Laden” and “I don’t know him personally. I don’t know what he is. I cannot base my judgment only on news. But, you as Muslims, without checking up laying allegations are also wrong."
Naik has been extremely tactful in his speeches to avoid getting into legal troubles. One can question how the preacher concluded that America is the ‘biggest terrorist’, since Naik’s knowledge of that country is presumably also through the news media. There is no evidence so far that Naik met George W Bush, Barack Obama or any US authorities in person and was personally convinced that they were ‘terrorists’. But, the point here is that an Indian sleuth, who sits down to examine the video and contemplates using this as evidence before the court of law, will be disappointed to see these contradictory statements. Most of his talks have a similar pattern.
This is where the investigators walk into a cul de sac and Naik has the last laugh. To be sure, Naik vows that he never asked anyone to kill innocent people and the Bangladesh daily — that reported that Naik inspired the terrorists — has backtracked from that statement. But, the fact is that his speeches often amount to encouraging religious fundamentalism. This is something even leaders within the Islamic community have pointed out. The Indian government and the NIA have taken cognisance of the issue and have taken certain actions against Peace TV and the NGO run by Naik, sensing potential danger.
The subsequent arrests of two of Naik’s alleged aides add to the troubles for Naik.