The government is closing in on controversial TV evangelist Dr Zakir Naik with a multi-pronged plan of action that may include the registration of an FIR by the NIA, taking his Peace TV off cable television and a review of permission to his outfit to get foreign aid, official sources said.
Naik, a doctor-turned-preacher, has always been on the radar of security agencies for making statements like “If Osama bin Laden is terrorising the US, I am with him” . But he has come under renewed focus after authorities in Bangladesh linked him to last week’s terror strike on a Dhaka café, saying some of the attackers were inspired by his speeches. The assault claimed by the Islamic State left 20 people dead, including a 19-year-old Indian girl.
“We have taken cognisance of Zakir Naik’s speeches and given instructions for a probe. CDs of his speeches are being examined,” home minister Rajnath Singh said Friday.
“The National Investigation Agency is planning to register an FIR against Zakir Naik. Legal opinion is being sought,” a ministry official said.
Singh is learnt to have discussed the matter with NIA director general Sharad Kumar.
The home ministry is also reviewing permission to Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation to receive donations from abroad under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act.
The information and broadcasting ministry has decided to direct cable operators to black out Naik’s Peace TV, which is not licensed in India and is uplinked from Dubai. The channel is banned in several countries.
The I&B ministry held a meeting — attended by representatives from the home ministry, intelligence agencies and NIA — to discuss all unlicensed channels broadcast in the country.
“It was decided that strict action will be taken against cable or multi-system operators who stream unlicensed channels, including Peace TV. The Intelligence Bureau and NIA have been asked to examine the contents of Peace TV in particular,” said the home ministry official.
“If any content is broadcast in violation of guidelines, action will be taken against them to the extent of confiscation of their entire broadcasting equipment,” minister of state (I&B) Rajyavardhan Singh Rahore said.
Mumbai-based Naik has denied Dhaka’s allegation, saying in a video message that while one of the attackers may have been his fan, he has thousands of such fans in Bangladesh.
The cleric is in Saudi Arabia and scheduled to return on July 11. But security sources said he may not come back immediately.
Controversy dogs the 50-year-old with his entry banned in the UK, Canada and Malaysia. He is under investigation in Mumbai in a 2013 hate speech case. And his Islamic Research Foundation is listed as a religious learning centre on the website of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, considered a front for Pakistani terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.
But Naik also has a legion of fans. Last year, the Saudi king conferred on him the King Faisal International Prize — which comprises a $200,000 prize, gold medal and citation — for being a promoter of Islam. Naik’s son, Fariq, is studying in Saudi Arabia and also gives speeches on Islam.