Understanding the controversy surrounding Zakir Naik

The preacher was caught in a controversy following a claim that a terrorist involved in the terror attack in Dhaka was his follower

July 09, 2016 04:40 pm | Updated November 17, 2021 05:08 am IST

File photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

File photo: V. Sreenivasa Murthy

Who is Zakir Naik? Why is he in the news?

Zakir Naik has been under the scanner of Indian law enforcement authorities ever since Bangladesh asked for an investigation into his speeches and his writing, following a claim that a >terrorist involved in the recent terror attack in Dhaka was his follower who was inspired by his speeches.

Mr. Naik's speeches are aired on ‘Peace TV’, run by his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation. Britain and Canada have banned Mr. Naik from visiting their countries several years ago while Malaysia banned his lectures fearing that they could instigate inter-racial tensions.

Born in October 1965 in Mumbai, Dr. Naik attended the Kishinchand Chellaram College in Churchgate, and later studied medicine at Topiwala National Medical College, and BYL Nair Charitable Hospital.

In 1991, he began Da’wah, which literally means proselytising of Islam. Dr. Naik then founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) inspired by Ahmed Deedat, an Islamic preacher who met him in 1987.

The 50-year-old is known for his almost-eidetic memory, which allows him to quote chapter and verse from the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible. He has often debated preachers and experts from other religions on his TV shows, and impressed them with his knowledge of Hindu and Christian scriptures.

Dr. Naik’s Islamic teachings and speeches have not gone unnoticed in the Muslim world. His critics often point out how his speeches have disparaged the Shia and Ahamadi sects of Islam. The Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, which is considered the cradle of the extremist Wahabist theology, awarded him the King Faisal International Prize in March 2015 for “service to Islam.”

How has Dr. Naik defended his speeches?

Facing heat over his “hate speech”, Dr. Naik said his statement “urging all Muslims to become terrorists” had been taken out of context and that he is totally against terrorism and the killing of innocent humans.

“Many of the news channels in India are showing a clipping where I am saying that every Muslim should be a terrorist. Whenever anyone wants to malign me, they show the clipping."

“This clipping, yes it is me saying it but it is out of context. I said a terrorist is a person who terrorises someone. I also gave an example that a policeman terrorises a robber. So, for a robber a policeman is a terrorist. In this context, every Muslim should be a terrorist to the anti-social element,” Dr. Naik said.

Rubbishing a report in Bangladeshi newspaper Daily Star that he inspired one of the perpetrators of the Dhaka carnage to go on a killing spree, Dr. Naik sought to put the blame on “other speakers” who misguide Muslims in the name of Islam.

“Regarding me being shocked that a Bangladeshi was inspired by me, I would say no I wasn’t shocked... I agree I do inspire people close to Islam but every fan may not follow everything I say. Once a person comes close to Islam, there are possibilities he starts hearing other speakers,” he said.

“Today, as we are aware, there are some people who misguide Muslims and in the name of Islam, they encourage them to kill innocent people, which is totally against the Quran. I totally disagree that I inspired this act of killing innocent people. There is not a single talk of mine where I encouraged one to kill another, whether Muslim or non-Muslim,” he added.

How did the present controversy get political?

As Dr. Naik came under the scanner, senior >Congress leader Digivjaya Singh was in the BJP’s line of fire after a 2012 video — showing him praising praising Dr. Naik at an event to promote communal harmony — surfaced. The video in which Dr. Singh said Dr. Naik is a “man of peace” triggered a slugfest between the BJP and the Congress.

>Security personnel were deployed outside Dr. Naik’s IRF office at Dongri area in South Mumbai as a precautionary measure in the wake of the escalating row over his alleged hate speeches.

Separatist leader Yasin Malik, on Friday, >came out in support of Dr. Naik , saying Muslims in Jammu and Kashmir stand with him and claimed an “unwanted and ugly campaign” had been initiated against the controversial Islamic preacher.

“It is a deliberate attempt of witchhunt to suppress Muslims and Islamic institutions in India. This vicious campaign against a peaceful Muslim scholar is actually vindicating our point of view that Muslims in India are no longer safe and secured,” the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front chairman claimed.

Has the govt. intervened?

Dr. Naik’s IRF has come under the scanner of the Home Ministry, amidst allegations that funds from abroad received by it have been spent on political activities and inspiring people towards radical views.

A senior Home Ministry official said an >investigation has been ordered into the activities of IRF , which was registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). An online petition has been filed with the Home Ministry, listing all the allegations against IRF as well as its chief, Zakir Naik.

Has the govt. found evidence suggesting his speeches incite violence?

An official has claimed that an intelligence report had indicated that the content of Peace TV, in which Dr. Naik regularly appears and gives sermons, is “not conducive” to the security environment in the country and poses “security hazard." New Information and Broadcasting Minister, M. Venkaiah Naidu, had called Dr. Naik’s speeches, as being reported in the media, highly objectionable.

Any past controversies?

Some of his speeches have been controversial. In 2008, in a broadcast on Peace TV, he claimed that the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 in America were an “inside job.” In 2010, the U.K. barred him entry for his alleged “unacceptable behaviour.” Peace TV is banned in India, but several local cable operators continue to show it.

Dr. Naik’s lawyers claim there is no offence to be made out. “If he has talked about Osama bin Laden in one of the speeches that in itself does not constitute a charge or offence against him. If one bomber [in Bangladesh] says he was inspired by Dr. Naik’s speeches, how can he be held accountable,” said Dr. Naik’s lawyer Mubin Solkar of Solkar & Associates.

Top News Today


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.