The government is readying its draft cabinet note for banning controversial TV evangelist Zakir Naik’s Mumbai-based outfit Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
“We are ready with a note on the IRF to declare it ‘unlawful’ under Section 3 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). Final vetting is being done. Then it will go for cabinet clearance,” said a senior Union home ministry official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
The declaration will mean no person can be a member of the foundation, hold meetings or collect funds for it. The existing assets of the outfit declared ‘unlawful’ can be taken over by the government by appointing a receiver for them.
Aarif Malik, a spokesman of the IRF, refused to comment, saying they cannot comment on the matter without seeing the note.
The government initiated the procedure to declare the IRF unlawful following a concurring opinion from the Attorney General of India.
The officer added that there are three main grounds for declaring the IRF ‘unlawful’ – around half a dozen criminal cases registered against Naik on the charges of promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race and place of birth, a compilation of around 60 provocative speeches made by Naik and his ‘dubious’ links with Peace TV. One of the office bearers of the IRF was arrested by police on the charges of promoting conversions.
Once the government issues a notification in this regard, it will have to prove its charges in a specially appointed tribunal, headed by a sitting high court judge. The declaration, if upheld by the tribunal, will remain in force for five years.
The government used this UAPA provision to declare other outfits like Student Islamic Movement of India, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam and All Tripura Tigers Force unlawful.
According to the website of IRF, it is registered as a non-profit public charitable trust and it was established in February 1991. Besides the IRF, Naik has another outfit called Islamic Research Foundation Educational Trust, which is also registered for receiving foreign funds.
Naik came under the scanner of the security agencies after Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported that one of the perpetrators of the July 1 terror attack in Dhaka, Rohan Imtiaz, ran propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Naik.
Naik in a lecture, aired on Peace TV, had reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists”. The Islamic orator is banned in the UK and Canada for his hate speech aimed against other religions. He is among 16 banned Islamic scholars in Malaysia.
He is popular in Bangladesh through his Peace TV, although his preachings often demean other religions and even other Muslim sects. The Mumbai-based preacher has not returned to India ever since the controversy came to light.
(With inputs from PTI)