NIA will speak to Zakir Naik on his return

Bangladesh said it had received several “serious” complaints against Mumbai-based Islamic preacher Zakir Naik whose sermons inspired two of the killers in the Dhaka terrorist attack last week. Bangladeshi information minister Hassanul Haq Inu said legal experts were looking into Naik’s speeches and sermons and action would be taken if they were found to have “fanned” terrorism.

The sentiment was echoed in Delhi as well, with MoS for home Kiren Rijiju saying Naik’s speech was a “matter of concern for us” and Indian agencies were looking into it.

“For a few months, many religious alims and ulemas and maulanas have lodged a complaint with my ministry that Dr Zakir Naik’s interpretation of Islam is not in line with the Quranic version and Hadees. So we are looking into the content,” Inu told Times Now. “The interpretation in a wrong way of Islam influences young people and…fans terrorism. That is why Dr Zakir Naik’s angle is to be looked into.”

Haq said the Hasina government would request India to take action if Naik’s preachings were found to have instigated the attack. Investigations have revealed that two of the killers, Nibras Islam and Rohan Imtiaz, were inspired by Naik who is hugely popular in Bangladesh through his channel Peace TV. With the National Investigation Agency’s probe into activities of the Hyderabad Islamic State (IS) module also pointing to Naik’s speeches as a source of motivation for the suspects, a top officer told TOI that the agency would like to speak to the Salafist preacher upon his return from Saudi Arabia. Naik is banned in the UK and Canada and is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.

“Zakir Naik’s speech is a matter of concern for us. Our agencies are working on this.But as a minister, I will not comment what action will be taken,” Rijiju said.

While the NIA is treading cautiously given Naik’s following among a section of Indians Muslims, especially in Mumbai, a senior official confirmed that the agency had already asked its sleuths to compile all possible material on Naik so that it could take a call on whether any action could be initiated against him. “We have to scan his speeches to see if he has at any time justified terrorism, creation of a `Caliphate’ through jihad, or endorsed or promoted a banned terrorist outfit like Islamic State. Any action would follow only after we have gathered enough material to make a case against him that will stand in a court of law,” said a senior government functionary.

The NIA had earlier this year arrested a Muslim cleric, Abdus Sami Qasmi, a resident of Delhi’s Seelampur, for allegedly inciting youth to join outfits like the IS. Qasmi, who studied at Darul Uloom Deoband, would raise, in the course of his speeches, emotive national and international issues such as the Muzaffarnagar riots, the Prophet’s cartoons published by a Danish newspaper and French magazine Charlie Hebdo, and the killing of “innocent” Muslims in Afghanistan and Iraq, to incite members of the community to rise against “anti-Islamic” forces.Incidentally, though Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) provides for banning of terrorist organisations, there is no provision in the Act to ban individual terrorists. Though the home ministry is ready with draft amendments to the UAPA that will allow banning of individual terrorists not identified with any known terrorist outfit, it is yet to bring the bill before Parliament.

Naik had courted controversy when he had refused to describe Osama bin Laden as a terrorist and, answering a question about why he was banned from entering Britain, said it was because he exhorts all Muslims to be terrorists. “I tell Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist… For a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber,” Naik had told reporters at a press conference in Mumbai in 2010.