The law ministry has informed the government that televangelist Zakir Abdul Karim Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) could be banned, a move seen as an attempt to corner the controversial physician-turned-preacher accused of motivating terrorists.
Also, to bolster its case, the government has compiled a list of FIRs registered against Naik — especially one filed in 2005 and another in 2012. The law ministry considered these FIRs before giving its opinion.
The home ministry has been informed that the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), founded by the Mumbai-based Naik in 1991, could be declared “unlawful” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
“The law ministry’s opinion makes a clear case of banning the IRF by declaring it an unlawful organisation,” a senior home ministry official said.
Such a move will mean no person can be a member of the IRF — whose website says it is a registered non-profit public charitable trust — hold meetings or collect funds. A ban under UAPA is valid for five years.
Naik, who is said to be currently in west Asia, is accused of dodging police after allegations that his sermons influenced a terrorist killed in the July 1 Dhaka siege. Bangladesh has banned Naik’s Peace TV, saying it incited the attack on a Dhaka café in which 22 people were gunned down.
His trouble compounded after suspicion that his speeches inspired 20-odd people, who disappeared from Kerala and feared to have joined the Islamic State terrorist outfit.
His media adviser Aarif Malik defended the preacher on Sunday, saying no government agency has sent any notice or summons to Naik.
“Naik has no plans to return to India at least this year due to his prior engagements (abroad). But he has promised to cooperate in any probe by the government,” he said.
Zakir Naik’s advocate Mubin Solkar told HT it is totally unjustified to propose a ban against IRF. “There is absolutely no evidence and material against Dr Naik, which can show he has ever promoted terrorism or he has been ever involved in any terrorist activity. Provisions of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) can never be applied against him because ingredients which are required for such a draconian law are never made out,” Solkar said.
If the UAPA is invoked to ban the organisation, the government will have to prove its charges in a specially appointed tribunal.
The law says an outfit can be called “unlawful” if there are allegations that its activities are “prejudicial to national integration”, or promoting enmity between groups on the grounds of religion and race, and doing acts intending to or supporting secessionism.
Naik’s media adviser says the preacher and his foundation has worked to promote harmony between religions. “The IRF is a research body engaged in publishing research work and promoting greater awareness on and comparative religion.”
Naik and IRF’s activities have been questioned after the Dhaka attack, although the qualified doctor has been under surveillance since the 2003 serial blasts in Mumbai, when his name cropped up.