The Union home ministry has ordered an inquiry into the circumstances under which the foreign funding license of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was renewed, sources said on Friday.
They said four officials have been suspended.
“The ministry will soon rectify the position in this matter,” a ministry official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said. He didn’t specify what steps the ministry is contemplating in this regard.
The license for the controversial preacher’s NGO expired in the third week of August even as the home ministry was preparing an action plan for a clampdown on Naik’s activities.
All NGOs need to register with the home ministry under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to get foreign funding. Once registered, they are required to file a quarterly report with the home ministry providing details about the funding received and spent on activities. Their registration is renewed every five years.
The foreigners division of the ministry had also issued a questionnaire to the IRF seeking details of its funding and activities. The questionnaire is the first step of action against an NGO if the ministry finds anything amiss in their activities.
Following the questionnaire, it sends a team to inspect the books of NGO concerned and later a show-cause notice is issued asking the NGO why its registration should not be cancelled.
The home ministry had also sought the solicitor general of India’s opinion over declaring IRF unlawful under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The ministry was told that Naik’s statements on different forums allegedly promoted enmity and hatred between religious groups and inspired and incited terrorists – grounds on which the government could proceed to blacklist the IRF.
Naik has come under the scanner again after it was alleged that some of the gunmen who attacked a Dhaka bakery in Bangladesh were influenced by his sermons. Law enforcement agencies across India have also been watching Naik closely, and the Maharashtra government also indicted him.
The preacher has denied the charges but has refused to come back to India. He is currently believed to be in Saudi Arabia.
In his lecture aired on Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, the preacher reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists”. Naik is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.
(GK Dwivedi, joint secretary in-charge of foreigners division, is not among the officials suspended as earlier version of this report said.)