The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe into the speeches of televangelist Zakir Naik in the wake of claims that two Dhaka attackers had followed his programmes and got inspired by it.
As pressure mounted on the Centre to ban the Mumbai-based Naik and his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was sucked into the controversy with television channels airing footage of a programme where he shared the stage with the preacher.
Naik today said his statement “urging all Muslims to become terrorists” had been taken out of context and that he was totally against terrorism and the killing of innocent people.
Union information and broadcasting minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said the home ministry would look into the matter and take proper action. “The kind of language being used by him is objectionable,” he said.
Simultaneously, the I&B ministry plans to send a list of licensed channels to all district administrators and superintendents of police so that they can act against those cable operators who air television networks that are not authorised to be shown in India.
Some officials claimed that Naik’s Peace TV does not have the required clearances to downlink in India. It is registered in Dubai and some cable operators offer it as part of their bouquet of channels.
Amid the uproar, Naik said, “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.”
Rubbishing a Bangladeshi newspaper report that he inspired one of the Dhaka carnage perpetrators to go on a killing spree, Naik 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.”
While BJP national general secretary P. Muralidhar Rao began the day early with a tweet stating that “Zakir Naik and his establishments should be banned”, East Delhi MP Maheish Girri wrote a letter to Union home minister Rajnath Singh and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, demanding action against him and those operators who show Peace TV.
“I have asked the Mumbai police commissioner to conduct a probe and submit a report,” Fadnavis said in Mumbai. Naik’s speeches, his social media accounts and sources of funding will be scrutinised, the Maharashtra chief minister added.
Digvijaya posted a series of tweets by way of clarification. “My speech at conference organised by Zakir Naik is being shown. I spoke against religious fundamentalism and appealed for communal harmony. The conference was for communal harmony and against terrorism. Also to explain that Islam is against innocents being killed. If Government of India or the Government of Bangladesh has any evidence against Zakir Naik’s involvement with ISIS, they should take action against him.”
While the Congress in Delhi left it to Singh to clarify, the party’s Maharashtra secretary and civil rights activist Shehzad Poonawalla sought to counter the campaign against the former chief minister with the question whether Prime Minister Narendra Modi would also be considered guilty by the same token since he had shared the stage with Asaram Bapu who is in jail for sexual assault.