Muslim clerics in India unite against televangelist Zakir Naik – Uzair Hasan Rizvi


Zafir Naik

Uzair Hasan RizviOne of the most powerful Muslim leaders in Bengal, Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati, criticised the Muslim televangelist for misleading people and suggested a ban on all his preaching materials in India. “Zakir speaks rubbish,” said Barkati, who is the shahi imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque. “He is only amassing huge wealth. Who is funding him? The government should also investigate this.” – Uzair Hasan Rizvi

Superstar Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik claims to be a messenger of peace and harmony. Through his channel, Peace TV, he broadcasts his messages to around 200 million people across India and the world. Despite this, he has never been able to unite the different branches, sects and sub-sects of Islam in India. One sign of this is the fact that these various groups continued to celebrate Eid on different days earlier this month.

However, Naik seems to have finally united India’s Muslim clerics.

Showing unprecedented solidarity, Muslim clerics from all sects have come forward to urge strong action against Naik and his channel for misinterpreting the Quran and misleading Muslims with his evangelism.

Naik’s Islam is a particularly conservative brand of Salafism, the ultra-conservative reform movement within Islam, which aims to go back to what its proponents call the fundamentals of the faith.

In the aftermath of the July 1 attacks in Dhaka, there were reports that Naik’s provocative speeches had inspired the militants behind the attack in which 20 people, mostly foreigners, were killed. On Sunday, Bangladesh banned Naik’s channel.

Many clerics in India have now demanded a ban on Peace TV, which is broadcast from Dubai. In 2012, the channel was blocked in India after the Intelligence Bureau red-flagged it for broadcasting malicious and so-called anti-national content. However, illegal broadcasts continue and Naik’s sermons are also available online, thus making it hard for the government to limit Naik’s popularity.

Condemnation across the board

In his Eid sermon, one of the most powerful Muslim leaders in Bengal, Syed Mohammad Nurur Rahman Barkati, criticised the Muslim televangelist for misleading people and suggested a ban on all his preaching materials in India. “Zakir speaks rubbish,” said Barkati, who is the shahi imam of Kolkata’s Tipu Sultan mosque. “He is only amassing huge wealth. Who is funding him? The government should also investigate this.”

Clerics from the Barelvi school of Sunni Islam, which gets its name from Bareilly—the town in Uttar Pradesh where it originated from—also accused Naik of delivering anti-Islamic speeches. During his Eid sermon last week, Maulana Asjad Raza Qadri, head cleric of Bareilly, demanded a ban on Naik for his hate speeches, and said that his activities were against Islam and the culture of India.

In the past, Naik has criticised Sufism—the mystical form of Islam that has been present in India for over 1,000 years. The preacher condemned those who revere Sufi saints and visit their tombs as “grave worshippers”.

Last year, members of the All India Ulama and Mashaikh Board, an organisation of Sufi Muslims, protested at the India Islamic Cultural Centre in Delhi after the centre invited Naik for a conference. The members even lodged a complaint against Naik at a local police station, and demanded that he be arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

Condemnation from Shias

Naik has also been criticised by the Shias—the second-largest branch of Islam after Sunni Islam.

Shia clerics in Lucknow have accused the televangelist of propagating ideas that attracted Muslim youth to extremism.

Prominent Shia Muslim cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawad Naqvi demanded a complete ban on Naik’s books, speeches and lectures. “Zakir Naik is spreading terrorism,” he said. “Naik is a part of the Saudi Arabia-funded Wahhabi terror network, which creates scholars and clerics who in turn brainwash young Muslims.”

Another Shia cleric, Maulana Yasoob Abbas, led a demonstration against Naik in Lucknow during which Abbas burned Naik’s effigy and labeled him as anti-national and anti-religious. The protestors at this demonstration carried a banner, which read: “Protest Against Terrorism” and carried the photograph of Zakir Naik along with those of Islamic State chief Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi and Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Saeed.

Condemnation from Deobandis

However, the most surprising condemnation comes from the Darul Uloom Deoband, the seat of the Deobandi school of Sunni Islam, which is headquartered in Deoband in Uttar Pradesh. The Deobandis are often referred as the Wahhabis, as they share many of their beliefs with Wahhabism. Darul Uloom has issued a series of fatwas against Naik since 2007.

The Deoband school said that religion should be learned through authorised ulema (Muslim scholars with specialised knowledge of Islamic theology) and books, and added that Naik was a self-styled preacher unaffiliated to any of the four schools of Sunni Islamic thought.

One of the fatwas issued by the Darul Uloom against Naik states that “Zakir Naik is an agent of Ghair Muqallideen, away from knowledge and wisdom from the four schools of thought, spreading mischievous things and misguiding simple Muslims to wrong path”.

Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali, the deputy imam of Lucknow’s Eidgah, had once come to the defence of Zakir Naik. He had said that if Naik had committed a crime, he should be tried under the law, but harassing the man on a big platform was unethical.

However, in 2008, the deputy imam’s uncle, Mufti Abul Irfan Mian Firangi Mahali, issued a fatwa against Zakir Naik describing him as kafir, or disbeliever. Following that, the Lucknow deputy imam also condemned Naik, and referred to him as a fake scholar. Then, Maulana Khalid Rasheed Firangi Mahali said in an online statement that: “Naik has just mugged up some verses from the Quran and pretends to be an Islamic scholar.”

Solidarity from Kashmir

The one place in India where Muslim clerics have supported Zakir Naik is in Kashmir, where the Jamaat-I-Islami and Jamiat-ul-Ahlihadees have condemned what they called a campaign by the government and media against Naik.

According to a report in the Hindustan Times, members of the Islamic Fraternity, a Muslim youth body, held a demonstration in support of the televangelist at the Press Enclave in Srinagar last week. The report said that the protesters carried banners which read: “Dr Zakir Naik, Kashmir is with you”, “Zakir Naik is a man of peace and harmony” and “Stop false propaganda against Zakir Naik.”

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, the leader of the separatist Hurriyat, too recently issued a press statement in favour of Naik in which he said that the preacher was not involved with incidents of terror in Dhaka, Bangladesh, or anywhere else.

With sentiment against him brewing in India, Naik has released a video saying that he did not inspire the Bangladeshi attackers. Incidentally, in the past, he has, on several occasions, denounced the Islamic State, to which the Dhaka terrorists swore allegiance.

However, Naik is undoubtedly an influential Salafi ideologue whose influence has grown in India and around the world over the years. In fact, last year, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia presented Naik with the King Faisal International Prize for service to Islam, which carried a cash reward $200,000. –, 11 july 2016

» Uzair Hasan Rizvi is an independent multimedia journalist in Lucknow. His Twitter handle is @rizviuzair.

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3 Responses

  1. No plans to return to India this year: Zakir Naik – PTI – Jul 15, 2016

    MUMBAI: Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, facing multiple probes over his alleged provocative speeches, on Thursday said he has no plans to return to India this year even as he claimed his remarks were “blown out of context” and that he has never inspired any terror activity.

    The televangelist, who had cancelled press meets thrice citing pressure from authorities of the venues where they were planned, had a lengthy interaction with media via Skype from Saudi Arabia, rubbishing the charge that his sermons had inspired terror activity, including the Dhaka attack.

    Stating that he is a “messenger of peace”, Naik said, “Killing innocent people is prohibited in Islam and I condemn all terrorist attacks” and that he is a victim of media trial with his statements being blown out of context. READ MORE HERE


  2. Government moves with caution on Zakir Naik, eyes water-tight case – Bharti Jain – TOI – TNN – Jul 12, 2016

    NEW DELHI: As the home ministry scans the recent speeches of Mumbai-based Salafist preacher Zakir for inflammatory or pro-terror content, top officials have ruled out any action against him until they have irrefutable evidence to prove his role as a terror instigator and inspiration behind past jihadi attacks. Such “evidence” may include statements from terror accused conceding that they were inspired by Naik’s and speeches to carry out attacks.

    The ministry feels it may not be easy to nail Naik , for his speeches have contradictory content. While in some he appears to be justifying jihad and terrorism, in others he can be heard condemning the same. “We have to study the speeches in totality. If we cite only the pro-jihad and communal speeches while booking him, his legal team will bring up other speeches condemning terrorism and outfits like the Islamic State. We have to guard against this and ensure that our case against Naik stands judicial scrutiny,” said an officer.

    Sources said the home ministry is looking at going beyond just Section 153A of IPC (inciting communal hatred), under which he has already been booked in the past, and examining the possibility of slapping the more stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against him. The home ministry is going through every aspect of evidence against Naik to see if a case is made out under UAPA, and only then will it initiate action against him, the TOI has learnt.

    Meanwhile, the home ministry has already stepped up probe into foreign contributions received by Islamic Research Foundation, the NGO run by Naik, to see if there were any violations of the Foreign Contributions Registration Act (FCRA).
    Top Comment

    “One clear violation noticed is that though registered as a ‘social and cultural’, it was receiving funds for religious purposes, which is a clear violation of FCRA. A notice under FCRA may be served on IRF once we have studied its activities and accounts for any violations. We have to build a water-tight case that will stand in a court of law,” a ministry officer said.

    Sources said Naik, who was due to return from Saudi Arabia where he had gone for ‘Umrah’, appears to have indefinitely put off his arrival in view of the scrutiny mounted on him ever since it was disclosed that two of the Dhaka attackers were inspired by his sermons. “However, in reality, even after he returns, we may not immediately go for his arrest and will wait to compile enough material to build a water-tight case against him,” said a top officer of the security establishment.


  3. Amid Inquiries Against Zakir Naik, PM Modi Speaks Of ‘Preachers Of Hate’ – All India – Reported by Tejas Mehta – NDTV – July 12, 2016

    MUMBAI: Mumbai televangelist Dr Zakir Naik abandoned plans for a press conference on Skype from Saudi Arabia today, choosing instead to issue a written statement that stressed “I do not support terrorism or violence in any form whatsoever. I have never supported any terrorist organisations.”

    India is investigating Bangladesh’s claim that Dr Naik, 50, inspired a couple of the seven young men who attacked a cafe in its capital, Dhaka, earlier this month, killing 20 hostages.

    “So far not a single official Indian government agency has contacted me for any clarification,” the preacher’s statement declared.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi who was on a tour of Africa, did not mention Dr Naik in his speech in Kenya but warned that “Preachers of hate and violence are threatening our society.”

    This weekend, Bangladesh has pulled Dr Naik’s Peace TV off air. The channel, which broadcasts out of Dubai, has been banned in India for years but was made available illicitly through cable operators, who have now been warned with stiff punishment.

    All state governments have been asked to take action against unauthorised TV channels, said Information and Broadcasting Minister Venakaiah Naidu. He said viewers who see unlicensed channels on cable networks should alert the government.

    The controversial preacher’s sermons, writings and funds are being examined by both the Centre and the Maharashtra government.

    Dr Naik, whose speeches are also streamed online, has been on a religious tour of Saudi Arabia since the Dhaka attack. Reports of a likely return to Mumbai today proved to be incorrect, with his Islamic Research Foundation or IRF stating he will travel to Africa over the next few days.

    Dr Naik, accused by countries including the UK and Canada of urging or justifying acts of terror, claimed that any speeches that appear to do so have been doctored to misrepresent his remarks.


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