By Khaled Ahmed
July 23, 2016
Zakir Naik’s connection with Pakistan was described, long ago, in the following report. Talking to ARY TV (August 30, 2004) Lahore’s radical evangelist Israr Ahmed said there was a great tradition of Mujadila (debate) among the Muslim scholars who took on Christian missionaries and always won (sic!). The greatest living debater, according to him, was late Sheikh Deedat of South Africa.
He said the other great debater was Zakir Naik of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), who was actually influenced by the writings of Israr Ahmed. He said Naik had come to Lahore to pay homage to him and had bought cassettes of his lectures worth Rs 60,000 on the best blank cassette available. He said Deedat and Zakir had mastery over the Bible text. Ahmed maintained that Khilafat would come as a result of a revolution in which a lot of blood will be spilt. He died in 2010.
Who was Israr Ahmed? A medical doctor like Naik, Ahmed rose to fame in the 1970s with his radical message under the military regime of the Islamising general, Zia ul Haq. In time, he had a big following and it attracted youths who were to kill later. In 2015, an MBA student in Karachi, Saad Aziz, killed a social worker, Sabeen Mahmud, for her liberal views after joining the ISIS in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. He was also involved in the killing of a busload of Ismaili Muslims in the city. According to his confession, he was first inspired by Israr Ahmed.
Sheikh Deedat, who died in 2005, was born in 1918, in Surat, India. His family migrated to South Africa in 1927 where he established the first Islamic religious institution to train preachers and was also the founder of world’s largest Islamic Dawa organisation. His technique: Establish the supremacy of Islam by running down other religions, something that Naik raised to a dangerous level, taking on Hinduism too.
The world has been waking up to Zakir Naik over the past decade and now thinks he can’t be allowed to carry on. That he went on for so long is owed to the tradition of self-critique among other religions while Muslims would kill for it. Like his two predecessors, he purveyed hate-speech; only he did it in English/Urdu and was lapped up and lionised by Muslims at home in South Asia and expat Muslims abroad.
Surprisingly, India remained tolerant, but negative reports about him kept trickling out: The American terror suspect Najibullah Zazi, arrested in 2009 for planning a suicide attack in a New York subway, and Kafeel Ahmed, who died during a failed suicide attack on the Glasgow airport in 2007, were inspired by his videos gone viral globally. The latest machete-wielding butchers of Dhaka were also pumped up by his rhetoric. He was counted among the 100 most influential “religious scholars” of India, a dubious distinction for India.
Before his visa got cancelled in 2010, he had steadily poisoned the minds of Muslim Britons since 1990 when he first visited there. Naik’s most lethal advice to the Muslims in the UK was that they should “proclaim” that they were Muslims first and British later. If this were to hold, it would practically kick them out of the category that made them equal to all other British citizens.
It was a kind of offensive self-denigration that threatened non-Muslims in Pakistan when its home minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stood up in the National Assembly in 2015 and declared that he was a Muslim before being a Pakistani. Whether inspired by Naik or not, he held out a threat to non-Muslim citizens claiming equality of citizenship under the constitution by reason of being “Pakistani first”.
Pakistani TV channels ARY and Al-Irfan (November 13, 2003) had Naik unloading the following rubbish on the destruction of the 4th century statues of Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan in 2001: When a Hindu asked him whether he thought what the Taliban did to the colossal statues was right, he answered that since there were no Buddhists in Afghanistan and the territory belonged to the Afghans, they were right in destroying their own property. He said what if all the opium-addicts protested that a country had destroyed large stocks of opium? Message: Pakistani museums should trash thousands of their Buddha statues since there were no Buddhists in Pakistan. What looked like advocacy of vandalism was to mutate into 9/11 and 26/11.
Naik’s entry was banned in the UK after three cities there invited him to speak to Pakistani and Bangladeshi audiences; 12 Pakistanis and Bangladeshis planning terrorism were arrested thereafter.
Naik resonates with other extremists in the UK that London can’t ban, and they are taking his mission forward. In September last year, UK Muslim leader Anjem Choudary tweeted: “Eventually the whole world will be governed by Shari’ah and Muslims will have authority over China, Russia and the US etc. This is the promise of Allah. And under the Shari’ah, the false gods that people worship instead of Allah will be removed, like democracy, freedom, liberalism, secularism, etc.”
Just as Naik is “protected” as an Indian citizen — according to his definition he is not Indian but a “Muslim first” — Anjem Choudary and his “untaxed” welfare payments in the UK — equivalent to a £32,500 ($50,000) salary — are protected. The average annual earnings of a full-time worker in the UK was £26,936 ($41,000) in 2014. There is no doubt that there is big money trailing Naik too without being accounted for.
Khaled Ahmed is consulting editor, ‘Newsweek Pakistan’