Zakir Naik at a program with audiences and invitees. File photo
One of the most wanted Indian fugitives and controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is currently based in Malaysia, consistently continues to be engaged in the propagation of radical Islamic activities and collection of funds from his wealthy contacts in the Gulf region to support his campaign.
Naik is an Islamic preacher and televangelist from Mumbai. He is the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and Peace TV, an Islamic TV Channel broadcast in Urdu and English from Saudi Arabia. He is also associated with several local radical Islamic organisations such as South Karnataka Salafi Movement and Al-Lisaan Islamic Foundation.
Naik, escaped from India in 2016 and subsequently took shelter in Malaysia. Naik was booked by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2016 based on a National Investigation Agency FIR that was registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Analysts monitoring these developments have recently revealed that, Zakir Naik had contacted one of his old contacts Abdullah Ali al Emadi, a prominent Qatari national and requested an amount of $500,000 for his charity organizations. It is also learnt that Mohammad Siddique Al Emadi, a Qatari national, is a close associate of Naik and helps him contact local wealthy businessmen and charity organisations for collection of funds. Pakistan is also using its relations with countries like Turkey and Qatar to provide funding to Zakir Naik. Analysts privy to these developments have said that, "Zakir Naik was given hospitality by Malaysia at Pakistan's behest. Now, Pakistan is engaged in arranging large amounts of funding for Zakir Naik via countries like Qatar and Turkey."
Naik found himself in the eye of a storm after at least two of the terrorists behind the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery cafe in Dhaka in July 2016 were found to be inspired by his preachings.
Two Bangladeshi terrorists, namely Nabris Islam and Rohan Imtiaz, who were involved in Holey Artisan Bakery attack in Dhaka, confessed to having been inspired by Naik. He is involved in the preaching of radical Islamic ideology that has influenced a number of youth in India and abroad in an adverse manner and some of them are found to have been motivated to join extremist organisations such as Daesh. Following the Holey Artisan attack case Naik's peace TV was banned in India and Bangladesh.
Taking a tough stance the Bangladesh government in 2016 had also banned Naik's Peace Mobile handsets which used to be imported by Beximco group and were marketed as "Islamic mobile handsets". Some of the other instances, in which individuals influenced by Naik have joined terror organizations, are as follows:-
i) Abdul Rasheed @ Abdulla and his wife Yasmin were radicalised while working in Zakir Naik-run Peace International School (Kerala). Subsequently, Abdul Rasheed motivated a group of 23 individuals to join him in leaving the country for Afghanistan to join Daesh.
(ii) Mohd Ibrahim Yazdani and Mohd Uyas Yezdani, kingpin of ISIS-influenced Junood-ul-Khilafafil-Hind (JKF) module which plotted to carry out terror attacks in different parts of India, were influenced by Naik's speeches. The module was neutralised by the Indian agencies in July 2016.
(iii) Naser Abubakar Yafahi @ Chaus joined the ISIS-influenced JKH module after being radicalised by the preachings of Naik. Abubakar Yafahi was arrested in July 2016.
(iv) IRF had provided a scholarship to Abu Anas from Rajasthan, who intended to join ISIS and was arrested while he was leaving India for joining ISIS.
(v) Afsha Jabeen @ Nickey Joseph, while based in Dubai was involved in facilitating recruitment for ISIS. She was influenced by Naik. She was deported back to India in September 2015.
Naik continues to maintain several bank accounts in Gulf countries, including those in Qatar and the UAE, for the collection of funds. He generally uses these accounts to transfer funds to his associates and to the network for activities by the IRF and other associated organizations.
Zakir Naik propagated radical sentiments in different countries including Bangladesh through Peace TV. Zakir Naik's Peace School and Peace Mobile were also promoted in Bangladesh by people who believe in religious fanaticism.
Dhaka terror attack of July 2016 was the inflection point in Zakir Naik's life. Within hours, he fled India. One of the bombers told Bangladeshi investigators that he was influenced by his preaching through his YouTube channel.
Zakir Abdul Karim Naik has not returned to India. He is facing multiple charges in the country and features in the list of the most-wanted fugitives.
Currently, Zakir Naik is in Malaysia, where he has courted controversy in recent weeks and legal trouble in past few days. He has permanent residency of Malaysia, which gave him shelter after countries like Britain and Canada denied him visas.
Zakir Naik shot to fame during 1990s over his activities of dawah -- proselytising for Islam -- through his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). By early 2000s, his videos had become subject of debate as he attempted to establish superiority of Islam over other religions. His supporters called him an expert on comparative religion.
He launched Peace TV English, a Dubai-based channel for the propagation of Islam. Later he also launched Urdu and Bangla versions of Peace TV, which has been banned in many countries over allegations of hate campaign.
Zakir Naik, who has nearly 17.5 million followers on Facebook, is unwelcome in several countries for his views particularly after his declared support for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
"If bin Laden is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him. If he is terrorizing America, the biggest terrorist, I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist," Zakir Naik was quoted in a section of media, which he said misquoted him.
He called for death penalty for homosexuality and conversion of a Muslim from Islam to any other religion. He said the men have "right" to beat their wives "gently". Zakir Naik defended Islamic State for keeping sex slaves. He also supported the Islamic State over the destruction of non-Muslim religious places.
"How can we allow this [churches or temples in an Islamic state] when their religion is wrong and when their worshipping is wrong," Zakir Naik was quoted as saying by the media.
His hardline interpretation of Islam earned him a distinct following but he attracted attention of security agencies as well. Before the Dhaka bomber spoke about having been inspired by Zakir Naik, two of many Kerala youths who joined the Islamic State said that they took the step after meeting the controversial preacher. Zakir Naik denied having any role in the incident.
Three months after the Dhaka terror attack and Zakir Naik's fleeing the country, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) lodged a case against him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.
His Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) had already been declared an unlawful association by the central government.
Zakir Naik was accused of spreading hatred with his provocative speeches, funding terror activities and money laundering of several crores of rupees.
In July 2016 -- one year after he fled the country, India cancelled Zakir Naik's passport. By that time, Zakir Naik had claimed that he was a non-resident Indian (NRI). Some reports said that he had taken the citizenship of Saudi Arabia.
India has made requests to Malaysia for extradition of Zakir Naik but the country has refused to entertain the plea. Currently, India is negotiating with the Interpol to get a Red Corner Notice (RCN) issued against Zakir Naik.
Malaysia has refused to extradite Zakir Naik giving credence to his claim that the Indian agencies are pursuing him because of his religious belief and his criticism of the Narendra Modi government and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
After Dhaka terror attack, Zakir Naik's name cropped up in connection with April bombings in Sri Lanka. Zahran Hashim, the leader of National Thowheeth Jama'ath -- group that owned Easter bombings in Sri Lanka -- praised Zakir Naik asking Sri Lankan Muslims what they can do for him.
Following the terror attacks that killed around 260 people, Sri Lanka too banned the telecast of Peace TV of Zakir Naik.
In Malaysia, Zakir Naik was accused of inciting racial and religious hatred after he said Malaysian Hindus were more loyal to Narendra Modi than his Malaysian counterpart. Zakir Naik's statement stirred a huge uproar in Malaysia with several parliamentarians demanded that he should be expelled from the country.
Malaysian police questioned Zakir Naik for about 10 hours during which he said that his remarks were "misunderstood" by people. But political and public outcry continued against Zakir Naik. Malaysian government has meanwhile banned him from giving public speeches.
The writer is a freelancer and a social worker
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