Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, whose NGO Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was banned by the Narendra Modi-government for five years, has alleged that the ban was timed to the demonetisation announcement to divert media attention. In an open letter released on Friday, Naik termed the ban on IRF as an attack against 'Muslims' and has threatened to take legal action against the Modi-government against the move. Naik's NGO was banned last week for allegedly aiding terror activities. This is the second open letter Naik is writing ever since Naik got into trouble and faced a series of investigations post the Dhaka attacks.
In the letter "to India", Naik yet again sought to play the 'muslim card' saying IRF and himself were "set up for a ban." Not very different from his first letter, Naik says the ban imposed on IRF is communal in nature. The radical preacher severely criticised the Modi government for banning the organisation and dubbed it a knee-jerk reaction.
"Like the demonetization fiasco, the Modi government’s IRF ban and its modus operandi has been distraught with senseless decisions and knee jerk actions. After having said that the Islamic International School will not be affected, the government goes ahead and freezes the School’s bank account. How will a school survive without its day-to-day expenses being met? We’re talking about the future of hundreds of school children here."
Naik and IRF came under the government's scanner after reports emerged that some of the terrorists behind the Dhaka restaurant attack were inspired by his speeches. Naik, in his letter, claims that the Modi government has absolutely no grounds for the banning. Naik has been banned by a few other countries including United Kingdom and Canada for his speeches that advocates the supremacy of Islam over other religions.
In his letter, Naik alleges that Modi-government had decided to ban IRF even before investigators submitted the reports on IRF:
"Before investigations were done, even before reports submitted, the ban was already decided. IRF was to be banned. Whether it was owing to my religion or some other reason, does not matter."
Investigators had found evidence for IRF's alleged links to terror activties. Recently, National Investigation Agency (NIA) said that IRF funded at least 300 people, some of whom travelled to the Islamic State areas of Syria and Iraq.
This came into light after the NIA carried out searches for three days at 20 premises during which records related to bank accounts and other financial activities linked with Naik and IRF were seized. NIA also plan to prepare a list of IRF members based abroad to track the money trail, reported DNA.
In addition to it, NIA has handed over a list of over 12 people, including Naik, his family members, close friends and organisations, to all 72 scheduled commercial banks to check whether these people had any account in these financial institutions. According to the above report which has quoted official sources, NIA has sent notices to three private banks to freeze the accounts of Naik and others, which were found to be in operation during the three-day search by it that ended last night, till further orders. In both the letters, NIA has cited Section 43 of Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act for executing such action.
Further in his letter, Naik claims that this "unique ban" was imposed without anyone questioning him. Since the Dhaka attacks, investigating agencies have been scrutinising Naik's speeches.Like this article in Firstpost argues, preachers like Zakir Naik "...typically play mind games with the enchanted listeners, often selectively quoting (rather twisting) the lines from sacred scriptures, to impose the ultimate idea of religious supremacy in the audience's psyche and ultimately establish why one should embrace that particular religion. This is arguably the trade technique of televangelists..."
Naik has defended himself claiming that many times that his speeches have always dealt with communal harmony, and he has never supported terrorism. Naik claims himself as an expert on comparative religion and often quotes lines from religious texts in his speeches.
Further in his letter, Naik reiterates that he is "one of the few" who have openly spoken against state-sponsored violence and terrorism. Naik's arguments, "rather ignorance", about the relation between religion and the idea of a secular nation are flawed but it is clear why it would convince those who believe in a religion's supremacy over others. In a February 2012 video (removed from YouTube), addressing a large crowd, Naik implored Muslims to 'fight for Islam' and 'disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator'. Saying "Vande Mataram," Naik said, "is not desirable not just Muslims, even Hindus. Why? Because, Hinduism," Naik says, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land."
The hypocrisy of Naik is glaring in the end of the letter, where the preacher, who throughout blamed the government for being communal, plays the communal card himself.
"Don’t such statements and many more by fanatics like Sadhvi Prachi and Yogi Adityanath require them to be arrested and tried under UAPA? Leave aside legal action, the government has neither condemned their actions nor reprimanded them. Is this draconian law mainly meant for Muslims? Muslims who’ve been practicing and propagating their religion peacefully and well within the constitutional framework? Does the UAPA now exist mainly to silence minority groups? I urge my Muslim brothers and sisters in India to rely on Allah alone, unafraid of this vicious campaign against them. Allah says, 'And if you are patient and fear Allah, their plot will not harm you at all.' (Al-Qur’an 3:120)"
You can read his full letter here:
Naik also threatens the government of legal action and says that the government is misusing their authority on people and "It needs to change for the future of every one of us." Naik's letter is explosive in the way it targets "Indian Muslims" as the preacher goes on to say that the Modi government will fail in its plans and adds that even though the government of India is misusing law to "scare the Indian Muslims", he will strive harder to spread the message peace, "till my last breath."