A day after Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik defended himself in an interview with Kuwait TV, Muslim groups and intellectuals slammed the BJP government for targeting the renowned Islamic televangelist by hosting false cases on him
Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily
NEW DELHI — A day after renowned Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik mounted a detailed self-defense in an exclusive interview with Kuwait TV, prominent Muslim organizations, leaders and scholars have flayed the Modi government and right-wing media for mounting “false cases” and the vilification campaign against the preacher. Calling it a dangerous trend, they said the Modi government has even no little concern about Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya who ran away from the country after looting Indian money and living cozy life in abroad.
Reacting to Dr Naik’s latest interview with KTV Al Majlis, a TV channel run by state-owned Kuwait Television KTV, they said Dr Naik has taken right decision of not returning to India as the country is in the grip of “Hindutva vigilantism” and cautioned that “if he returns, he would be broken down”.
In the interview, Dr Naik has spoken about the controversies that surround him, and how the Indian government, with the help of Indian media tried to project him as a “demon figure” after the terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh last year. Interestingly, this “demon” was invited by the Government of India to give lecture on religion in the National Police Academy of Hyderabad.
Naik spoke at length about how the Indian government tried to pin him down and his organization after the terrorist attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh last year. He demanded if he had been planning or inciting terrorism through his videos, which have been online for the last 10 or 15 years, why the government has raked up the issue now.
He said, “It is shocking that many times, the Indian government had invited me to give lecture on religion in National Academy of Hyderabad. Sometimes, I was even put under the pressure to give a talk in the National academy.”
Eminent scholar and former President of All India Muslim Majlis-e- Mushawarat, Dr Zafarul Islam Khan said the purpose of the whole episode seems to be to humiliate Dr Naik and thereby denigrate Indian Muslims.
Dr Naik has been unnecessarily targeted as all security related agencies have been now after him as he is like a “hardcore criminal” while by using the media propaganda, Muslims are being discourged to take dawah work in the country.
Talking to Caravan Daily, Dr Khan, who also edits Milli Gazette journal, said in the current wave of Hindutva vigilantism, Dr Naik is correct not to return to India as he will be thrown into the hell that is the Indian prisons.
“I watched this whole interview earlier. Dr Zakir Naik was very eloquent, candid and relaxed. Dr Naik, in fact, supported my earlier analysis, which I said and wrote that he mistook the freedom of speech and religion in India. These freedoms, especially the freedom of religion, do not apply to Muslims. The only operative freedom of religion in India for the last 2-3 decades is to convert Muslims and Christians to Hinduism.”
Dr Khan further underlined that when the Indian authorities realized that terrorism charge would not stand against Dr Naik in a court of law, they changed the tack and started accusing him of money-laundering and tax evasion.
“This government is least concerned about the likes of Lalit Modi and Vijay Mallya who are enjoying life in foreign countries after looting Indian money”, he said and adding that the same government is so much concerned about Dr Naik although he has looted no Indian money and the charges against him will fall by the wayside in a court of law.
Pointing towards the “malice” in the criminal justice system, Dr Khan justified Dr Naik’s stay abroad stating that “by the time he comes out exonerated he would be broken, which is what the present government wants to do — make an example of him for others who dare to take the message of Islam to Hindus or convert them”.
Social Democratic Party of India (SDPI) President A Sayeed alleged that it is a conspiracy hatched up by the saffron brigade supported by its cohorts in the media to malign Dr. Naik because he gives references from Vedas and compares the present day followings with what is written in their scriptures. But it seems like RSS wants to keep Hindus away from gaining knowledge of Vedas and Upanishads so they do not open their mind and think.
“Dr. Naik’s only fault is that he makes best attempts to open people’s mind which could get them out of their superstitious religiosity and this is not acceptable to RSS and its affiliates”.
“Why are you afraid of a man who is preaching his own religion which is not against the Indian Constitution and he did not break any Indian laws while the Sangh Parivar groups are trying to turn the country into Hindu Rashtra?” Sayeed demanded.
“His statements were cut in half and out of context to make him a villain since he speaks with evidence that idol worship is not allowed even in Hinduism”, SDPI leader said.
“Dr Zakir Naik always maintained that people of all religions to forget their differences and come together based on commonality between them and advocated Muslims to spread peace to all and he never said to blow up innocents in the name of Islam”, he said.
Noted scholar and intellectual Dr Javid Jamil described the whole episode as a very dangerous trend. Since the ascendancy of Hindutva groups with their fanatical ideology, Muslim scholars, social activists, and politicians are being hounded by them so as they cannot do their work freely, he added.
“I am not a big fan of Dr Zakir Naik but the way he is being pinned down is nothing but a witch hunt”. Speaking to Caravan Daily, Dr Jamil said a section of Indian media is playing dirtier role than the political class.
“The media completely lacks objectivity and journalistic ethics as it has become a crude propaganda machine which is in the hands of Saffron groups”, Dr Jamil said who heads the newly established Faculty of Islamic Studies & Research at Yenepoya University, Mangalore, Karnataka.
The cases mounted on Dr Naik have no any basis and ill-founded which will fall flat in court of law, he added.
Another Muslim leader, Dr Tasleem Rehmani, who is a visible face on Indian channels defending Dr Naik, said in the name of Zakir Naik, a section of media and some of government agencies are actually targeting the Article 25 of the Indian Constitution which gives right to every citizen to practice and preach his or her religion, faith.
Dr Rehmani, who also heads ‘Muslim Political Council of India’, told Caravan Daily that he became an ardent supporter of Dr Naik after he has been projected as “hate or terror preacher in a section of Indian media”.
I defended him at various national TV channels though I have never been supportive of his mission Dawah as I believe his mission is sectarian who preaches Salafi school of thought, he added.
Questioning media’s insinuation that Dr Naik entry is banned in some countries, Dr Rehmani said it conveniently forgot that before becoming the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi’s had also faced similar type of ban imposed by some Western nations including USA and UK for his alleged role in Gujarat Muslims pogrom of 2002 when he was the chief Minister of the state.
He said Dr Naik has been unnecessarily targeted as all security related agencies have been now after him as he is like a “hardcore criminal” while by using the media propaganda, Muslims are being discouraged to take up dawah work in the country.
Reminding that the ban on Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), Dr Rehmani said the ban on Islamic Research Foundation, its schools and other allied institutions may not withstand in the court of law as what is happening with the SIMI case we all know.
Differing above views, noted intellectual and socialist leader Dr. Prem Singh suggested that Dr. Zakir Naik should come back to the country and face the challenges and risks as several citizens are doing all over the country.
Dr Prem Singh, who is the President of Socialist Party (India), told Caravan Daily that Dr Naik claims in the interview that “he has a huge following, if it is so, he should not abandon his followers and must stood with them in times of crisis.
“In India, civil liberty organizations such as PUCL, founded by socialist stalwart Jai Prakash Narayan, are working day and night with utmost sincerity and commitment to protect the constitutional rights of citizens who fight for the rights of deprived and vulnerable sections”, he added.
“I heard the TV interview of Dr. Zakir Naik which is a political one while I did not follow his past videos he mentioned and therefore do not know about the content of those videos and also, I am not a scholar of Islam to comment on religious issues,” he said.
Former Bihar minister and Congress leader Dr Shakiluzaman Ansari also suggested that Dr Naik should face the law. He, however, was reluctant to speak his mind on the subject.