By Javed Anand
July 7, 2016
If the intelligence agencies in India are to be believed, it’s not only two of the terrorists responsible for the July 1 slaughter in Dhaka. Hyderabad’s Mohammad Ibrahim Yazdani, alleged head of the IS module in India (currently under National Investigation Agency detention) and Ayaz Sultan from the IS module in Malwani, Mumbai (who sneaked out of the country to reach Syria), too, were mesmerised by the one and the same Zakir Naik. No questions, he is a superstar of the supremacist brand of Islam.
While talking to The Indian Express from Saudi Arabia, Naik has condemned the latest butchery in Dhaka. Wouldn’t you, if you were him? Even the Saudi monarchy, the state-sponsor of Wahhabism — the ideology which Naik, al Qaeda and the IS have in common — has of late been denouncing the IS.
The NIA is now taking a close look at the numerous videos of the televangelist posted on YouTube. Evidence there is plenty to establish that Naik has been promoting a toxic brand of Islam. Would these add up to “prosecutable evidence,” which might lead to his conviction in a court of law? I hope they do, though a competent investigator, a good criminal lawyer would know better.
To all, except gullible Muslims — the televangelist claims there are 14 million of them on Facebook plus 200 million “Peace TV” viewers — it should be more than obvious that at the very least Naik is peddling a “gateway drug” on the road to more lethal highs. Put yourself in the shoes of a young Muslim, well-educated in worldly subjects but poorly grounded in the Islamic texts and traditions. For such a person, a traditionally clad Maulvi with a long beard, seemingly a relic of the past, speaking in the “native” language, fails to impress. On June 6, for instance, barely weeks before the slaughter in Dhaka, over 1, 00,000 Ulema from across Bangladesh had issued a joint fatwa against terrorism.
Enter the “suited-booted,” tie in place, Naik, holding forth from a lavishly constructed stage. His English is good enough. If his elephantine memory and his understanding of Islam appear impressive, his knowledge of the holy scriptures of other religions seems “awesome”. How can you not get hooked to his message: Islam is the only “true” religion.
Here are some gems from Naik’s treasury: One, skimpily dressed women are “asking for trouble”. Two, the pig is the only animal where the male indulges in “wife-sharing”; those who eat pigs behave like pigs. Three, accepting Prasad offered from a Hindu is Haraam (forbidden); so is wishing “Merry Christmas”. Four, Jews are the eternal enemies of Islam. Five, Lord Buddha never approved of statues; by demolishing the historic Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan, the Taliban were “educating Buddhists”.
Muslims who fail to recognise the poison he peddles end up fully convinced of the supremacy of Islam, harbouring pity and prejudice, if not contempt and hatred, towards people of other faiths. It doesn’t stop here.
Playing with words, Naik nudges his followers closer to the abyss: “Every Muslim should be a terrorist for anti-social elements”; “if he (Osama bin Laden) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him. if he is terrorising America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, he’s following Islam.” Naik could say nothing for sure about bin Laden because “I have never met him”. Naik never met George Bush either but he had no doubt that the former American President was the “biggest terrorist”.
Naik need not go any further. Just plant a seed that may flower into an idea: Why only bin Laden, any Muslim who “terrorises the enemies of Islam”, is following Islam. Leave the rest to the imagination of mind-warped Muslims and organisations such as IS and al Qaeda.
If not a link in a chain, Naik remains the peddler of a heady gateway drug.
And guess who the petrodollar-rich producers of the drug being peddled across the Muslim world are?
Javed Anand is general secretary, Muslims for Secular Democracy, and co-editor, ‘Communalism Combat’