Ever since the radical Islamic preacher, Zakir Naik, landed in serious trouble after reports emerged that his speeches inspired Islamic terrorists, the suave, English-speaking televangelist has tried hard to dissociate himself from the terror tangle and stay out of legal trouble.
Probably, as part of this exercise, Naik termed the Islamic State (IS) as anti-Islamic, denied any connection with terrorists of any order and began quoting versus from Quran that despises killing of innocents to counter questions of his allegiance to Islamic terror.
Naik recently showered praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi for visiting ‘so many Muslim countries’ and strengthening their relation with India, even as the National Investigative Agency (NIA) is investigating Naik’s past speeches and a joint Maharashtra-Kerala police team just nabbed one of his ‘aides’ for allegedly radicalising Kerala-IS recruits.
"If his (PM Modi’s) intention is to maintain unity between Hindus and Muslims and between India and other Muslim countries, I am totally for him," Naik said in an interview with The Economic Times.
The problem with Naik’s 'Ifs' is that whenever he has made statements beginning with 'Ifs', he has ultimately refused to commit to what he says. Take for instance one of Naik’s old statements where he endorsed Osama Bin Ladan conditionally. "If he (Osama Bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I’m for him. I don’t now what he is doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. I read newspapers. If he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I’m with him."
Now don’t these sentences ring a bell? The only difference is Naik is not saying he doesn’t know Modi personally and his information about him is only from newspapers. The point of making this comparison here is that Naik’s intention appears to be appeasing the Narendra Modi government and be in its good books rather than a spontaneous expression of happiness seeing Hindu-Muslim harmony taking firm hold internationally at the initiative of the PM.
Why should Naik be doing that? Things are getting so worse for him back home in Mumbai with one of the persons associated with his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), Arshid Qureshi, getting arrested by a joint team of Kerala police and Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for allegedly radicalising and recruiting youths from Kerala for IS after converting them from other religions. Qureshi is the ‘guest relations officer’ of IRF. According to reports, the Mumbai Police is examining the role of three more staff of Naik’s IRF for alleged wrongdoings. Clearly, once their unlawful activities and links with IRF are established by cops, naturally fingers will be pointed out at Naik who is touring abroad.
Qureshi’s role in Kerala-IS episode itself is a major setback for Naik. As per the police statement, Ebin, brother of one of the recruits, had said that Qureshi insisted him to embrace Islam and join IS.
"It was Bestin who compelled Ebin to come to Mumbai and meet Qureshi," Ernakulam ACP KV Vijayan, the investigating officer, had said.
Ebin's statement said that he was taken to Mumbai by Bestin (another accused), who had been indoctrinated, in 2014. As many as 19 youths missing from Kerala have allegedly joined IS. Reports, quoting Kerala police said that at Qureshi's house in Mumbai, Ebin was taken to a library. Qureshi also made a comparison of all the religions. Ebin was told that Islam was superior to all other religions and that people in India were not leading a righteous life. But, Ebin didn’t fall for the talk and returned home. If Qureshi’s involvement in IS-recruitment operations proved beyond doubt, it is only logic that questions will be raised on IRF and Naik too, though they have disassociated with Qureshi already.
The main allegation against Naik is he is inspiring youth to believe Islam’s supremacy over other religions and encouraging them to fight against the ‘enemies of Islam’. The Indian Constitution and the country’s secular set-up allow every citizen to practice and preach his religion but certainly not project it as supreme over other religions, which is wrong. If one goes through Naik’s past speeches, it is obvious that his speeches are devoted to establish how Islam is one true religion and the rest are not, rather than to appreciate country’s secular society and promote religious harmony.
In his speeches, Naik implies that everyone should embrace the ‘one true religion’ and come to the path of righteousness. The trick he employs is that he says this with carefully crafted words but putting his message across to the listener’s psyche. The IRF’s website too seemingly advocates the idea of Islam’s supremacy. An introductory note to Islam on the IRF website ends thus. "The scriptures of all major religions exhort mankind to follow that which is good and eschew that which is evil. All scriptures remind mankind that good will not go unrewarded and evil will not go unpunished. The question we need to address is, which of these (religion’s) scriptures provides us with the correct ‘instruction manual’ that we need to regulate our individual and collective lives? I hope and pray that Allah guides all of us towards the Truth (Aameen)."
In another video, Naik asks both the Hindus and Muslims not to say ‘Vande Matram’ (the beginning words of India’s national song written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1882 and a song that figured prominently during India’s independence struggle. In another video, Naik implored Muslims to 'fight for Islam' and 'disobey the law of the land if it goes against the law of the creator'. Saying "Vante Mataram', Naik said, is not desirable not just Muslims, even Hindus because even Hinduism, Naik said, speaks against the concept of idol worship and hence, it is wrong to bow to the land. A Muslim is only obliged to bow to the 'creator', Naik said. In another speech, Naik says, "We only bow the creator. We (Muslims) are not ready to worship the country", and "Muslims are for the country as long as the law of the land does not go against the law of the creator."
Naik’s love for his religion is way above his love for the nation. It's okay as long as he confines that idea to himself, but not okay when he inspires millions to follow the same. There is also a problem of how Naik defines 'the enemy of Islam'. But the bottomline here is this: The preacher realises the size of the problem he is currently in and is scared to face the law (probably the reason why he is not returning to the country and sticks to video appearances).