The endgame seems to be nearing for controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
According to reports, the investigators have identified several cases where Naik’s speeches have allegedly inspired terrorist groups including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Indian Mujahideen. In all, security agencies have come up with a list of 55 terror-accused who got "inspired" by Naik. The televangelist is not a terrorist but is an "inspiration" for many in that genre to take up arms and kill innocent lives.
Investigative agencies, including the National Investigation Agency (NIA) seem to be convinced with the fact that terrorist groups became inspired by Naik’s speeches, as pointed out in the earlier reports — some of them date back to 2005. Moreover, the recent arrest of Arshid Qureshi, the guest relation officer of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and reports that Feroze Deshmukh, a former IRF employee who was arrested and released by the Maharashtra ATS for his alleged role in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case, remained in touch with Abu Jundal, shows there is a serious problem here with IRF and Naik.
Now, these problems didn’t happen overnight. IRF’s and Naik’s alleged roles in abetting and inspiring terrorist elements date back to a decade. How come no government or political party or police force paid serious attention to this problem and took action against them? If the allegations of abetting and inspiring terrorists are true, timely clampdown on these elements could have helped to give crucial insights to the operations of terror groups both in India and abroad. Why it took the Dhaka terrorist attack that claimed 20 lives to alert India about the problem called Zakir Naik? Naik isn’t some unreachable forbidden Salafist ideologue giving video lectures from a godforsaken land and Dongri isn’t an Islamic State village in Afghanistan or Syria. All this happened under our nose — in the sovereign Indian republic. What went wrong?
Surely, it’s not that the Congress and BJP were unaware about the potential problem caused by radical preachers by Naik. As Firstpost reported, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was alerted about this problem, which he passed on to the Ministry of Home Affairs. After that, no one knows what happened to that communication.
Similarly, when the NDA took over in May 2014, the government and the security establishment knew very well what figures as the problematic areas and where to act to take preventive measures against possible act of terrorism to save the common man from the deadly bites of blind, rabid dogs propagating religious fundamentalism and the false notion of religious supremacy. Why did the Modi-government act in the beginning? Here again, did it take a Dhaka newspaper report (which later backtracked its statement) to make the government understand the gravity of the problem? It can’t be that simple.
The real issue, perhaps, lies in the community vote bank politics of both Congress and the BJP. Both of them wanted Muslim votes, especially considering that crucial Uttar Pradesh polls are bound in mid-2017 — a state with a significant chunk of the electorate belonging to the Muslim population. The Congress too chose to live in blissful ignorance about the problem since it too wanted a share of the Muslim votes. Any action against the popular Islamic preacher would have been termed as an attack on ‘Muslim minority’ and would backfire in the elections. No politician wanted to risk that chance. The safer way was to pretend ignorance till the time media jump into the issue and leave no options for the government and the Opposition to wake up and speak up.
The success of Zakir Naik and his biggest defence is his own community. Naik often links the actions against the Peace TV and IRF to his identity as a Muslim and has rightly invoked his Muslim status to seek shelter from his enemies.
“I, Dr Zakir Naik, Call upon all my Muslim Brothers & Sisters to Support me against the “Media Trials” and Let Justice Prevail (sic),” Naik tweeted some time back. The reason is simple. If you link anything with your religion and community and redirect the actions against you to that community, you are safe. The whole game changes to a majority-minority battle. Precisely, that’s what the preacher seems to have in mind. And that’s where the real challenge lies for the investigators — to not let Naik play the community card.