Pakistani Church calls for ban on TV preacher who inspired Dhaka terrorists
by Kamran Chaudhry

Zakir Naik, a major Salafist advocate, is the founder of Peace TV and a well known TV preacher. His network has broadcast in Pakistan since 2009. Dhaka massacre investigators found a direct link between his sermons and one of the attackers.

Lahore (AsiaNews) – Catholic Church leaders are calling on the Pakistani government to ban Peace TV, which is headed by Zakir Naik, an Islamic preacher who inspired the perpetrators of the massacre at the Holey Artisan Bakery Café in Dhaka.

Born in India, Naik champions the most radical Islamic Salafist positions, which he promotes on Peace TV. The network has broadcast in Pakistan in Urdu since 2009.

Speaking to AsiaNews, Fr Qaiser Feroz, executive secretary of the Commission for Social Communications of the Pakistani Bishops' Conference, said, “We demand a complete ban on Naik and similar preachers who promote hate and discrimination. He never plays a role in bringing together the followers of different religions and presents a distorted image of Islam. We have plenty of such clerics in madrassas (Islamic seminaries)”.

Millions of people watch Peace TV’s Urdu broadcasts every day. On its website, the network claims that its goal is “to promote inter-faith dialogues, common teachings of scriptures of major religions and world peace.” In reality, the investigation into the attack in Bangladesh, which left 20 people dead, shows the preacher’s dark side.

Police found a direct connection between his speeches praising the most radical views of Islam and Rohan Imtiaz, one of the gunmen who took part in the attack in Dhaka’s Gulshan diplomatic district.

On his Facebook page, the young man quoted a speech from the preacher "urging all Muslims to be terrorists."

Bangladesh has now banned the network. India is monitoring its sermons and the activities of its Islamic Research Foundation.  Authorities in Canada, the United Kingdom and Malaysia have banned his sermons.

“Religion must be a source of peace and harmony, not conflict,” said Fr Feroz. “Religious leaders should avoid misleading the people. We admire Naik for his vast knowledge of sacred scriptures but hate how he looks down upon other religions and humiliates them. He is a fundamentalist and has contributed in increasing terrorism”.

Fr Morris Jalal, board member of a Lahore-based Catholic TV, endorses the Church’s call. “Naik is anti-society as well as anti-religion. Though a scholar, he has instigated violence and unrest, especially among youth”, he said.

“Harmony is possible with understanding, not diatribes,” he added. “Peace TV is an extremist channel whose founder does not believe that Osama bin Laden was a terrorist”.