The ‘Open Letter’ of Zakir Naik to the Indian Muslims as well as the government has reopened opinions on the controversial Salafi Islamist preacher. A Firstpost article explored how this open letter as ‘an attempt to communalise Muslims’ and a ‘veiled threat to the country and the government’.
According to the latest media reports, Zakir Naik's Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) has been banned from directly receiving foreign funds in India. The Home Ministry has asked the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to seek prior permission from it before releasing any money to the IRF.
More interestingly, a confession has been published in The Times of India in which it is clearly stated that there had been Rs 50 lakh donation from the IRF to the to Rajiv Gandhi Foundation in 2011. The Congress party that owns the foundation admitted to accepting the donation. However, it claims that it was returned to IRF some months ago. The newspaper claims to have checked with the foundation on the Rs 50 lakh contribution from IRF on Tuesday. It further says that, “but on Thursday, it denied having received the donation”. Furthermore, the Party spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi tried to emphasise that the donation was made at a time when neither Naik, nor his foundation were under scrutiny.
In the backdrop of the violation of the FCRA, financial irregularities and other ongoing issues that the IRF has met, Zakir Naik has written an open letter to the Indian Muslims appealing to them to stand by his ‘peace activism’ in the country. In the two initial paragraphs of his letter, Naik writes:
“For someone who has spent 25 years in promoting peace, spreading greater awareness of Islam and talking about similarities between religions and condemning injustices, the last two months have been a rude shock to me….. I’m alarmed at the murder of democracy and strangulation of fundamental rights and the precedence it is setting for times to come….. Let’s not be gullible enough to assume that there isn’t a deeper agenda behind this vicious campaign…..This is not just an attack on me, it’s an attack against Indian Muslims. And it’s an attack against peace, democracy and justice.”
But much against this tall claim, when the Indian government launched a probe into the activities of the IRF and hate speeches of Zakir Naik, it took the matter into consideration as a serious threat to the national integration, communal harmony and internal security of the country. The chief minister of Maharashtra who confirmed the submission of a report by Mumbai Police Commissioner, himself had pointed out that there were ‘several unlawful activities perpetrated by the Mumbai-based Islamist televangelist and his organization, the IRF.
In fact, the Indian government booked Zakir Naik and his IRF as an organization under the purview of UAPA (the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967). Inevitably, the Ministry of Home Affairs also issued an inspection notice to Islamic Research Foundation for alleged FCRA violations. This legal inspection was the first step towards suspending or revoking registration of Naik’s organisation under UAPA and FCRA.
But in his open letter, Zakir Naik sees to all this legal procedure with an ill-designed conspiracy theory. He calls the imminent ban on him and his IRF as “the killing of peace and harmony” and “the biggest jolt to the country’s democracy of recent times”. The biggest Salafist televangelist of India writes:
“The message is clear: it’s not a question of whether I’ve committed is a crime or not. It’s a question of using desperate measures to kill peace and harmony. And a ban is now imminent. It may happen in days or weeks but the writing is clear on the wall. IRF and I have been set up for a ban. Unless of course, better sense prevails and the ban machinery set in motion is stopped….And if IRF and I are banned, it will be the biggest jolt to the country’s democracy of recent times.”
But it is a common knowledge now that Zakir Naik and his IRF have been under the government's scanner, only after Bangladesh raised the grave charges against him for inspiring the terrorists behind the Dhaka restaurant attack. If India plans to ban the radical televangelism of Zakir Naik, it would not be the first country doing so. Naik is already banned in several pluralistic and democratic nations including the UK, Canada for his venomous speeches deriding other religions. The democratic ethos of the Muslim countries like Bangladesh and Malaysia also could not reconcile with pseudo ‘peace activism’. Therefore, Zakir Naik is officially banned in Malaysia along with other 16 Salafist Islamist preachers. In Bangladesh, through his Peace TV is still popular because of being aired in the local languages, but the mainstream Muslim thinkers and even the clergy of all Muslim sects call for the blackout ban on his Saudi-sponsored ideological mission which misleads the common Muslims, as also reported by News 18.
An earlier article on Firstpost candidly exposed how Zakir Naik misled the Indian Muslims misinterpreting Islam based on his intolerant, xenophobic, extremist and misogynist views. The article produces glaring examples of how brazenly Zakir Naik misinterprets various rulings and injunctions of Islam, out of context, and preaches the suicide bombing as ‘war tactic’, female sex slavery, death penalty of apostasy, child marriage and other pre-Islamic nefarious chauvinistic practices. He openly extolled Osama-bin-Laden, exhorting Muslims for terrorism, reviled the propagation of other religions and justified the destruction of cultural and religious structures such as the holy Islamic tombs in Makkan and Madina (the two holiest cities of Islam in Saudi Arabia) and Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan.
The Islamic Research Foundation (the IRF), conceived and founded by Zakir Naik, extensively featured on the website of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the chief religious and political organisation of the notorious Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). A link to Zakir Naik's IRF website can be clearly seen in this screenshot of Hafeez Saeed's Jamat-ud-Dawa website (dated 24 December, 2008).
Naik’s sympathy for the terrorist outfits such as Al Qaeda and Taliban has gone public, after he repeatedly questioned the validity of branding Osama Bin Laden, the founder-ideologue of Al Qaeda, as terrorist. Al Qaeda is a globally known terrorist network under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967. But, going copletly against this law, Zakir Naik is on record saying that he is not sure if Osama Bin Laden and Talibani fighters are terrorists, as reported in the NDTV.
Despite the plethora of evidences that are more than sufficient to question and ban the unlawful and anti-pluralism activities of Zakir Naik, he avers in his latest ‘open letter’:
“From what I understand, IRF and I have been set up for a ban. Never mind the fact that the legal agencies have found no wrongdoing – financial or otherwise. Never mind the lack of evidence (although I am not guilty of any wrong-doing, much less any offence whatsoever)”.
This letter is completely misleading and untenable. But Naik, as usual, misuses the Quranic verses in his letter in his crazy bid to convince the Indian Muslims calling this legal action “an attack against the whole religion”. In the conclusion of his letter, he has quoted a Quranic verse: For Allah says, 'They plot and plan, and Allah too plans. And the best of planners is Allah’. (Al Quran 3:54)
Nevertheless, the mainstream Indian Muslims are not so naïve and gullible to let this clear misuse of the religious texts and brazen violation of democratic rights go unchallenged. They are imbued with the Indian values of pluralism, democracy, secularism and justice in full conformity with the core teachings of Islam.
The author is a scholar of Comparative Religion, Classical Arabic and Islamic sciences, cultural analyst and researcher in Media and Communication Studies. Views are personal. He tweets at @GRDehlvi. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org