Sunni and Shia scholars have come down heavily on Islamic preacher Zakir Naik amid media reports that his lectures could have influenced the Dhaka café attackers.
Reacting sharply to Dr Naik’s sermons, Shia scholar Maulana Syed M Asghar said Islam always stood for peaceful life, and not religious hatred. “There is no message of social reform in Dr Naik’s speeches. Religious leaders should not undertake sermons that may divide society,” added the Maulana who teaches in Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).
Sunni expert Mufti Zahid Ali Khan said Dr Naik’s sermons smacked of ultra-conservative Salafism. “I do not agree with him,” maintained the Mufti, who is a former chairman of AMU’s theology department.
The July 1-2 attack in the Bangladesh capital had killed 29 people, including 20 hostages, after five militants opened fire on people at an eatery in upscale Gulshan 2 area.
Condemning the incident, Maulana Asjad Raza Khan Qadri of the non-extremist Sunni stream of Nabir-e-Aala Hazrat (Barelvi) went a step further, and appealed to Muslim youths to refrain from listening to Dr Naik’s speeches.
“India is the land of Sufism. Dr Naik speaks the language of terrorism. His thoughts are not Islamic, but related to (fundamentalist) Wahhabism,” he noted. “Back in 2008, we had demanded that the central and state governments to impose a ban on his speeches and programmes. Sufi Barelvis are united against him.”
“A practising Muslim cannot be a jihadist or a terrorist because Islam does not approve of killings,” the Maulana added.
Zakir Naik, a former member of AMU court
Dr Zakir Naik was a member of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Court, the apex governing body of the varsity. He, however, did not attend any of the court’s during his recently concluded three-year tenure. In fact, he never visited the campus.
AMU court members said Dr Naik was elected as a member on June 12, 2013 along with 14 others, under the ‘Muslim culture & learning’ category. His membership expired on June 11, this year.
Speaking to HT, senior AMU court member Khurshid Ahmad said any member could have proposed Dr Naik’s induction into the high-powered body “I do not remember who proposed his name three years ago when he was a renowned Islamic scholar,” he said, adding that AMU has had court members who never participated in its meetings. Some of the examples are actors Dilip Kumar and Farooq Sheikh, late freedom fighter Bishambhar Nath Pandey and Bihar politician Jagannath Mishra.
AMU sources informed that Dr Naik visited the varsity campus only once: in 2001. That was to participate in a programme organised at Kennedy Hall, where he also interacted with the students.