- Zakir Naik accused of inspiring Banglasesh cafe attack
- Preacher, 50, based in Mumbai, denies the charges
- His TV channel is banned in India but still airs in some parts
As the government scrutinizes the televised and online sermons of controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, accused of inspiring last week’s killing of 20 hostages in Bangladesh, the Centre has made it clear that the broadcasting of unlicensed channels will be urgently checked and penalized.
Dr Naik’s TV channel, Peace TV, broadcasts out of Dubai and is banned in India but is shown by some cable TV operators, who, according to sources, download the content and then air it for subscribers. 24 channels, 11 of them Pakistani, are illicitly made available in different parts of the country, said sources in the Intelligence Bureau, underscoring that they have been flagging this content as dangerous propaganda in recent years.
Some of these sermons are also available on platforms like YouTube who have been asked to remove them quickly, said sources.
The Bangladesh government has said that Dr Naik’s speeches inspired some of the seven young men who burst into a Dhaka cafe and hacked foreigners to death.
Dr Naik, who has been in Mecca on a religious trip this week, has in a WhatsApped video statement said he cannot be blamed for the terror strike.
But the Centre has top investigators reviewing speeches of his CDs now to determine if he tacitly or otherwise urged acts of terror. The 50-year-old televangelist is banned from entering the UK and Canada.
Venkaiah Naidu, the Information and Broadcasting Minister, met with top officers from his own department along with members of the Home Ministry and intelligence agencies today. It was decided that “district monitoring committees” in different regions will “monitor and stop unauthorized channels” and will be empowered to stop the telecast of this content. “the equipment of those airing the content will be seized,” said Junior Broadcasting Minister Rajavardhan Rathore. However, intelligence officers at the meeting said that similar committees in the past have been “futile” and failed to take action.
Separately, the Maharashtra government is looking not just at Dr Naik’s speeches but at his writings as well as the sources of funds for his Islamic Research Foundation ,which describes itself as a non-profitable organization.
In the WhatsApped video distributed by his organization, Dr Naik claims that though he is wildly popular in Bangladesh – “more than 90 per cent Bangladeshis know me, more than 50 per cent are my fans,” he says in the video – “I disagree that I inspired this act of killing innocent people.”