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Banning The Preacher.


The Indian authorities are out to get the Muslim preacher Zakir Naik for allegedly making inflammatory hate speeches around the world. Perhaps they should also pull in their own leaders for making similar speeches.

The threat to India's survival doesn't come from Pakistan or China, but rather from India's own actions. India is a nuclear state and therefore, it can't be militarily defeated unless the other country is also willing to go down with it. That has been the reality of the Mutually Assured Destruction (M.A.D) concept of nuclear armed states. With its actions and policies, India is wired for self-destruction.

In August of 2019, the Indian government made an amendment to the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). It was approved by the Indian Rajya Sabha of the Indian Parliament, empowering the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to conduct raids anywhere prior to the government's approval. The law empowers the government of India to designate anyone as a terrorist, stripping him or her off of any civil liberties or rights whatsoever. This is one example of that Indian self destructive move that would eventually lead to its collapse from within.

Zakir Naik, a religious scholar, preacher and a popular televangelist, started facing trouble primarily because of his faith. A terrorist attack occurred in a posh cafe in the Bangladeshi capital city Dhaka, killing 22 people. The attacker was inspired by the speeches of Zakir Naik. Bangladesh responded by banning Peace TV, a channel founded by Zakir Naik in 2006, which is broadcast from Dubai. The channel claims to reach 100 million people worldwide.

Zakir Naik denied supporting violence. He released a video statement in which he said, "Killing innocent beings is the second major sin in Islam." Once, I was watching a live cricket match between Pakistan and India and, among the huge crowd of spectators, I saw the Indian superstar Aamir Khan. He was visibly more enthusiastic than most of the Indian crowd. And then it occurred to me; these Indian Muslims have to prove their loyalty to India. They have to earn their Indian patriotism certificate.

Naik's video statement didn't do the trick. In November, the National Investigation Agency responded by filing a First Information Report (FIR), which was an official police complaint against him and his non-profit organization Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) that he had founded in 1991. The FIR accused him of indulging in unlawful activities and promotion of religious hatred. Under the afore-mentioned draconian UAPA, the Modi-led government imposed a 5-year ban on the IRF. India's Enforcement Directorate (ED), which investigates financial crimes has accused the IRF of money-laundering. An educational trust fund that Naik ran was prevented from receiving any more funds. The IRF's properties in Mumbai were also seized.

Naik escaped from India. Many believed that the Saudis gave him citizenship because Saudi Arabia bestowed on him one of their highest awards for "Service to Islam". After the rumour mill calmed down, it was realized that he was residing in Malaysia after England and Canada had refused him a visa.

In an open letter, Naik said, "IRF and I were set up for a ban .... It is now proven that the decision to ban IRF was taken months ago and it was a communal decision. Before investigations were done, even before reports [were] submitted, the ban was already decided ... Whether it was owing to my religion or some other reason does not matter. What matters now is that my work of 25 years - completely lawful work - has been banned. And that is the most unfortunate thing for this country."

Since India could not openly say that it was going to stop Zakir Naik from using his free speech rights because the Hindu nationalist and extremist government does not like what he says, so it went ahead with equating his speech with incitement of terror. That magic word can do magic.

Words speak louder than actions in politics. The Indian authorities accused Zakir of making young men commit acts of terror with his words. They are trying to equate him with Anwar al-Awlaki and Charles Manson, whichever is more convenient. India makes young men commit acts of terror with its actions. Ahmed Dar who blew himself up in Pulwama and killed over 40 Indian soldiers, was radicalized because the Indians had humiliated him. Beatings, burning of beards and amputations are some of the nightmarish stories in a never-ending list of the forms of Indian torture meted out to the Kashmiris.

When white nationalists indulge in terrorism around the world from New Zealand to California, rampaging mosques and synagogues, they cite Donald Trump as their inspiration. Should President Trump be prosecuted for it? Should his organization be banned from doing business around the world? When soldiers of an invading army indulge in rape, extra judicial killings and other such horrific crimes in the occupied land, should the world prosecute the leaders who ordered the invasion? There is a stronger and real link between the soldiers and the leaders rather than the terrorists and the inspirational leader, namely Naik and Trump.

The point is: this is about hatred for an individual and his faith and justifications are found to satisfy those sadistic urges. Most importantly, the entire critique against Naik is focused on his religious work by those who otherwise talk of human rights. What about his human rights, his right to a fair trial, his right of free speech? If we do not believe in free speech right of those we despise, we do not believe in this right at all. There is no difference between his followers who kill and those who ban and dehumanize him because both pay attention to his speech, not his speech rights. Also, the cause of the NIA would be served better if Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi receive subpoenas for hate speech because they do it more and on a much larger scale since their reach is far wider. This year the ED (India's Enforcement Directorate) filed its first charge sheet against Zakir Naik saying, "His [Naik's] thoughts created disharmony amongst various faiths and created hatred amongst people following different faiths." The same could be said more strongly about Modi.
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Publication:South Asia
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jan 31, 2020
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