Islamic tele-evangelist Zakir Naik is once again in the news. And it comes as no surprise that this time too it is for all the wrong reasons.
Investigations post the Dhaka attack revealed that two of the attackers were followers of the Mumbai-based preacher.
Naik founded Peace TV, a Dubai-based religious channel in 2006. It is through this channel that his sermons reach over 200 countries across the world. It also has two sister channels, Peace TV Urdu and Peace TV Bangla. It is reported that the Bangla counterpart is quite popular in Bangladesh.
Despite not having the licence to broadcast in India, Peace TV is widely available on cable networks across the country. However, with the latest revelations coming to light, the I&B Ministry has urged state governments to rein in cable operators and Multi Service Operators from broadcasting the channel. “Punitive action will be taken against those who are found to be in violation and are broadcasting unlicenced channels,” The Times of India quoted a source as saying.
Concerned about the alleged influence of the tele-evangelist, the Bangladesh government on Wednesday requested the Indian government to examine the content as well as the context of the controversial preacher’s sermons.
What he follows
According to a DNA report, Naik follows the Salafi brand of Islam, also called Wahhabism, after its founder Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab. It is a puritanical form of Islam opposed to any liberal reforms in Islam and certain spiritual sects like Sufism, The Week wrote in a piece. The ideology has gained notoriety since Jihadi outfits like Al Qaeda, Taliban and Islamic State too follow the same brand of Islam.
At first impression, he seems to be a tolerant and a gentle preacher who allows non-Muslims to clarify their doubts about Islam. But dwell more and the signs of an Islamic supremacist are inevitable. The preacher even goes to the extent of claiming that all the scientific discoveries, inventions as well as many other wonders of the universe have already been mentioned in Islamic scriptures. However, what is disturbing is that he also uses his knowledge of non-Muslim scriptures to ultimately refute them and establish the “greatness of Islam” instead of taking a secular approach.
On Vande Mataram
The BJP and its ideological parent, the Sangh Parivar have always been sensitive on the issue of making Vande Mataram compulsory. On this question, however, he has claimed that even Hindus must not sing the song since few verses in the Hindu Vedas prohibit idol worshipping and bowing to the motherland is akin to it.
Quite familiar to controversies, Naik raged a storm when he once claimed that Al Qaeda chief Osama-bin-Laden was not a terrorist. He instead chose to put the blame on the United States. “If Osama-bin-Laden is fighting enemies of Islam, I am for him. If he is terrorising America—the terrorist, biggest terrorist—I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorising the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know, but you as Muslims know that, without checking up, laying allegations is also wrong.”
How he convinces people to embrace Islam
In 2015, during a meeting in Dubai, a non-Muslim man asked six questions about Islam to Naik, with a rider that if he gets his answers he will convert to Islam. After answering all his questions, Naik converted him to Islam after getting him to repeat the Kalima Shahada — the acceptance of Allah as the one god and Mohammed as his only messenger. With his soft tenor, he gets the job done. There was no force or threat intended.
Zakir Naik has aired his opinion even against homosexuality. He claimed that it is not genetic and occurs due to “sexual boredom”. He adds that “homosexuality is forbidden in Islam and the punishment for homosexuality is death.”
On keeping sex slaves
Although the world is outraged with the practice of having sex slaves that the Islamic State is adopting, Naik is however having a diagonally opposite view altogether claiming that it is permitted in Islam. “There are many verses in the Quran which say you can have sex with your wife and with whatever your right hand possesses,” he said in 2010.
On other religions
While he allows non-Muslims to ask questions to him first, and often quotes from Hindu scriptures and the Bible, some of statements show his supremacist side. He is reported to have said, “How can we allow this (building of churches or temples in an Islamic state) when their religion is wrong and when their worshipping is wrong?”
On suicide bombing
He once controversially said that suicide bombing may not be “haraam” if the situation demands. He mentioned Palestine as an example and said that it may be the last resort.
On Thursday, a video surfaced which showed Congress leader Digvijaya Singh sharing the dais with Naik at a 2012 event. He is also heard calling the controversial preacher as “messenger of peace who can help bring communities together in India.” Though Digvijaya Singh later clarified that he spoke against terrorism and religious fundamentalism in the meeting, this may well be the start of a political slugfest between the Congress and the BJP. With the government saying that he is under the radar of intelligence agencies, tough days are ahead for Naik.