- Dr Zakir Naik, 50, is controversial Mumbai televangelist
- Cited as inspiration for weekend’s cafe attack in Dhaka
- Centre and state now reviewing his speeches, he denies allegations
The speeches of Dr Zakir Naik, described as incendiary by critics and an inspiration for the weekend’s deadly killing of patrons of a cafe in Bangladesh, are being reviewed on CDs by top investigative officers, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said today.
“We will not compromise on terrorism at any cost,” said Mr Singh.
The Maharashtra government has separately announced its own review of Dr Naik’s speeches and writing, as well as the operations of his organization, which describes itself as a charitable agency.
Dr Naik, 50, a televangelist based in Mumbai, has been in Medina on a religious trip since seven young gunmen opened fire a week ago in a Dhaka restaurant. The Bangladesh government has alleged that Dr Naik’s speeches inspired two of the attackers, and that the preacher had been named by them in recent posts on social media.
In WhatsApp videos sent from Mecca and distributed through his Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai, Dr Naik has said that though he is wildly popular in Bangladesh – “more than 90 per cent Bangladeshis know me, more than 50 per cent are my fans,” he said – he cannot be blamed for the attack. “I disagree that I inspired this act of killing innocent people,” he said.
By training a medical doctor, Dr Naik, who is lean, delivers sermons on Peace TV and online. Though the TV channel is banned in India, it is illegally made available by some cable TV operators.
The UK and Canada have banned his entry because of his speeches, which have blamed revealing clothes for rapes, and a defense of Osama bin Laden.
Amid the new focus on Dr Naik, a video from 2012 that shows him with Congress leader Digvijaya Singh has gone viral. The politician is seen hugging and praising the cleric.
Mumbai-based Zakir Naik has come under the scanner after it was reported that his speeches have inspired some of the Dhaka cafe attackers. Maharashtra government on Thursday ordered a probe into the speeches by the Muslim televangelist.
“I have asked the Mumbai Police Commissioner to conduct a probe (into Naik’s speeches) and submit a report,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had told PTI.
Dr Naik’s speeches, his social media accounts and sources of funding of a foundation run by him in Mumbai will be scrutinised, said Mr Fadnavis, who also holds the Home portfolio.
Dr Naik, however, had released a statement, saying he “totally disagreed” that he inspired the act of killing innocent people in Dhaka.
“There is not a single talk of mine where I encouraged one to kill another, whether Muslim or non-Muslim,” he said.
The new Information and Broadcasting Minister, M Venkaiah Naidu, had called Naik’s speeches, as being reported in the media, as highly objectionable.
“The Home Ministry will study (his speeches). It will take appropriate action after studying them,” he had told reporters.
Naik’s speeches are believed to have inspired some of the Bangladeshi militants, who killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, at an upscale restaurant in Dhaka last Friday.
BJP has demanded action against Naik, saying he was a “threat” to national security as it was clear from his speeches that he “incited” people.