Who is Zakir Naik?
Zakir Naik. The one name that has been mentioned over and over again – in anger, fear, and contempt – in the aftermath of the Dhaka attack. Dr. Zakir Naik is an Indian Islamist preacher whose extreme and often controversial teachings are believed to have inspired the terrorists who carried out the despicable terror attack in Dhaka.
On 1 July, 2016, five Bangladeshi terrorists stormed the Holey Artisan Bakery, an upscale restaurant in Dhaka (Bangladesh), killing about 22 people. Later, two of the terrorists, Nibras Islam and Rohan Imtiaz, were reported to have been inspired by Zakir Naik. Imtiaz is believed to have posted a quote by Naik on Facebook prior to the attack. Bangladesh has asked India to put Naik under the scanner and examine his speeches.
Born in Mumbai on 18 October, 1965, Dr. Naik graduated from Kishinchand Chellaram College. He later gained his MBBS at the Topiwala National Medical College and BYL Nair Charitable Hospital.
In 1987, Naik met a South African Islamic preacher Ahmed Deedat and was heavily influenced by him. In 1991, Naik started his Da’wah work, which means proselytizing or preaching of Islam with an intention to convert non-believers, and founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
Technology for Religion
Naik is often described as “radical televangelist” by news reports and media houses. He founded and owns the religious television channel called “Peace TV”. Through the channel, Naik claims to bring clarity about Islam and its tenets to both Muslims and non-Muslims. Peace TV uplinks from Dubai and, according to reports, has a viewership of over 200 million across the globe. Naik uses his channel to hold epic debates with Hindu and Christian leaders and to give lectures that are widely publicized. In 2012, the Indian government banned the channel and following the Dhaka terror episode it has been banned in Bangladesh as well.
Apart from Peace TV, Naik also uses Social Media as a tool for his Da’wah work. Currently, over 14 million people follow Naik on Facebook. In 2014, he launched Peace Mobile, an Islamic Smartphone which came to be known as the “world’s only authentic Islamic Android smartphone”. The phone came with over 50 pre-installed Islamic applications and about 80 hours of lectures and discourses by Naik.
Zakir Naik Controversial Teachings
Naik has been the centre of controversy due to his rather radical preachings. Here are some of his views –
- In 2004, Naik spoke at a religious meet held at the University of Melbourne. Despite arguing that Islam offers true freedom and equality to women, perhaps more than any other religion, Naik said that donning more “revealing Western dress” makes them more susceptible to rape.
- Naik is a well known critic of Darwinism and the Theory of Evolution. According to him, it is “only a hypothesis, and an unproven conjecture at best”.
- One of Naik’s most controversial remarks was regarding the infamous terrorist Osama bin Laden. Naik is reported to have said that he would not criticise Osama bin Laden whom he had not met. A YouTube video of Naik’s speech shows him saying, “If bin Laden is fighting enemies of Islam, I am for him…if he is terrorizing America – the terrorist, biggest terrorist – I am with him”.
- Reports claim that Naik supports physical jihadism. The endorsement comes from his speech where he says, “Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he is terrorizing the terrorist, he is following Islam. Whether he is or not, I don’t know, but you as Muslims know that, without checking up, laying allegations is also wrong.”
- Naik has spoken out against the construction of temples and churches in an Islamic country because the religion (Hinduism and Christianity) is “wrong”.
- His views on non-believers, renunciation of Islam, and apostasy also tend to be violent. While he holds that there should be no death penalty for apostates in the religion, apostates who preach against the Islamic faith can be legitimately put to death.
- Naik consistently holds that girls should not be sent to school because they tend to lose their virginity in school. Nor should they be allowed to wear golden jewellery. He also holds that Muslims bear the right to have sex with their female slaves.
- In one of his Peace TV speeches in 2008, Naik spoke about the 9/11 attacks and said “it is a blatant, open secret that this attack on the Twin Towers was done by George Bush himself”.
Accolades and Criticism
Naik’s inflammatory and controversial views and teachings have brought him both accolades and scathing criticism. In 2013, he was honored as ‘Islamic Personality of 2013’ of the Dubai International Holy Quran Award. The award was given by HRH Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai). The same year, HRH Abdul Halim of Kedah, King of Malaysia awarded him the Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah Distinguished Personality International Award. More recently, in 2015, HRH Salman Bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud (King of Saudi Arabia) awarded him the King Faisal International Prize.
Outside the Islamic world, however, Naik has only remained mired in controversy and at the receiving end of much criticism. In 2010, Naik was scheduled to give discourses in London and Sheffield. Considering the nature of his preachings, the UK Home Secretary revoked his visa and banned him from entering the United Kingdom. Canada also banned the Islamist preacher from entry. Naik was also scheduled to deliver a talk in Malaysia in April 2016, but the Malaysian police asked the organizers to cancel the event fearing that it would hurt religious sentiments of Christians and Hindus in the country.
Despite maintaining that he does not endorse sectarian divisions in Islam, Naik often attracts criticism for having spoken disparagingly about the Shia and Ahmadi tenants and followers.
On Dhaka Attacks
Reacting to allegations that he inspired the Dhaka attack, Naik claims that his “all Muslims to become terrorists” speech is quoted out of context and that he is not to blame. He says that for a robber, a policeman may be considered to be a terrorist. Similarly, Muslims should stand up to anti-social elements. He blames other Islamic preachers who inspire violence and misguide youth in the name of religion. Naik said, “There are some people who misguide Muslims and in the name of Islam, they encourage them to kill innocent people, which is totally against the Quran. I totally disagree that I inspired this act of killing innocent people. There is not a single talk of mine where I encouraged one to kill another, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.”