Ban on NGO of Islamic preacher who inspired the Dhaka massacre

Zakir Naik is a radical Salafist. His Islamic Research Foundation promotes sermons via a private TV network. Bangladeshi and Pakistani authorities have already banned the latter. The preacher has praised Osama bin Laden and terrorism. India’s Muslim react with feelings.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – The Indian government on Tuesday banned the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the NGO of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is considered the spiritual father of the bombers who attacked a café in the capital of Bangladesh on 1st July 1, killing 20 people.

The five-year ban has immediate effect, and stems from the preacher promoting jihad and urging all Muslims to become terrorists.

His Mumbai-based NGO, which has branches in Maharashtra and Kerala, was declared "illegal" under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) because the government deems Naik's speeches as "unsightly and subversives" and received dozens of complaints in recent months.

In a statement released yesterday, India’s Home Ministry said that Zakir Naik praised “known terrorists like Osama bin Laden”. He has proclaimed that every Muslim should be a terrorist” and claimed “that if Islam had indeed wanted, 80 percent of Indian population would not have remained Hindus as they could have been converted `if we wanted` by sword”.

The preacher, the ministry noted, has justified “suicide bombings, posting objectionable comments against Hindu Gods, [. . .] and making other statements which are derogatory to other religions”.

“[S]uch divisive ideology is against India's pluralistic and secular social fabric”. At the same time, without action, there is a real possibility that it might inspire Muslim youths and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts.

Investigations about the preacher, one of the most famous exponents of Salafi radical Islam, established a direct link between his speeches and Rohan Imtiaz, one of Dhaka terrorists.

After the attack against the café frequented by foreigners, the governments of Bangladesh and Pakistan banned Peace TV, which is owned by Naik, and which broadcasts his speeches.

The Islamic orator is banned in the UK, Canada, and Malaysia, and his current whereabouts are unknown.

In India, the Muslim community is divided on the ban.

Mir Hadi Ali, who is president of the All India Shia Organisation, welcomed it. "Zakir Naik has said some hurtful and objectionable things about the Shiite community,” he said.

“He has misrepresented the incidents of Karbala and has elevated Yazid, who killed several members of Prophet Muhammad's family. He has created tension between sects and schools of thought within the Muslim community".

Others, like Syed Ahmedul Hussaini Sayeed Quadri, from the Sufi group Quadria International, have adopted a cautious approach.

Whilst maintaining that "he can never agree with" Naik's method of preaching or the Salafi strain of Islam, Quadri said, "The ban has to pass legal scrutiny. We think that the method of banning is not right."