MUMBAI: Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, facing multiple probes over his alleged provocative speeches, on Friday said he has no plans to return to India this year even as he claimed his remarks were “blown out of context” and that he has never inspired any terror activity.
The televangelist, who had cancelled press meets thrice citing pressure from authorities of the venues where they were planned, had a lengthy interaction with media via Skype from Saudi Arabia, rubbishing the charge that his sermons had inspired terror activity, including the Dhaka attack.
Stating that he is a “messenger of peace”, Naik said, “Killing innocent people is prohibited in Islam and I condemn all terrorist attacks” and that he is a victim of media trial with his statements being blown out of context.
Referring to the footage of some of his speeches shown by media following the Dhaka carnage, he said, “Indian media is running a trial against me because of unverified reports. Half sentences being shown, clips being doctored and statements being shown out of context to malign me.”
“It is unethical for the media to not take my answers on face value and doubt me. There are two thousand sentences in which I condemned terrorism…there may be ten sentences in which one may take out a double meaning…videos are being doctored for ulterior motives…,” he said.
When asked about one of his speeches in which he said that suicide bombing is permitted by Islam, he said, “it is haram if innocent people are being killed. But, if suicide bombing is used as a tactic of war, then it may be permitted. For example, in World War II, Japan used suicide bombing as a tactic of war.”
To a query on the probe by Mumbai police into his speeches, he said, “So far no official government agency has approached me in the last 8-9 days to ask me to cooperate in their investigations. If they do, I will welcome it. I have never had any problems with governments or police in the past. I am willing to cooperate with any investigation agency.”
“There are some people in Islam misguiding people in the name of paradise after death. People are inspired by Prophet Mohammed…but he never said that innocent should be killed. Similarly I never said kill innocent humans,” Naik asserted.
Naik also spoke in detail about his travel plans.
“As per my plans I will come back to the country next year. I was not supposed to come back to India this year, I have realised it is easier to answer queries on skype or video conferencing. I am not running away but I have been very busy meeting impor-tant personalities. I am available to authorities but as per my plan I will come back next year,” he said.
“Whenever I come to Mecca, I return only after a couple of months. But seeing the media trial of mine, I was ready to come for one-and-half days…but when I heard hotels are not welcoming, I thought of taking it on Skype. Why should I change my plans because of media trial,” he added.
Naik also maintained that no government agency has so far approached him to join investigation in connection with charges levelled against. “I am willing to co-operate with any probe agency if they approach me,” he said.
He also claimed that he had even addressed IPS officers in the past.
Naik also stated that he applied for permission to air Peace TV, run by his Islamic Research Foundation, in 2008, but did not get the same as the channel allegedly was “Islamic”.
He claimed his ‘Peace TV’ channel was not banned in India, but it did not get necessary permission to run the channel. “In 2008, the ‘Peace TV’ applied for down linking permission to run the channel. The Information and Broadcasting department (ministry) denied permission without any reason. It said it’s confidential and security reasons,” Naik said.
“I think it is a Muslim’s and an Islamic channel and was thus not given permission,” he said. “UK has the strictest norms with regards to giving downlinking permission. But if they can give licence why not India? There are 27,000 satellite channels in the world. Out of which only 1k have downlinking permission in India. So are 26k channels illegal? I want to ask the Indian and Bangladesh government to show any one programme on ‘Peace TV’ which is not conducive for India or Bangla,” the preacher said. The Bangladesh government recently banned the broadcasting of Naik’s Peace TV channel after reports that his “provocative” speeches inspired some of the militants who carried out the country’s worst terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka.
When asked about NIA investigation into cases of youths who allegedly got inspired by him to become terrorists, he said, “During my talks, I meet thousands of people…I never met any terrorist knowingly. Unknowingly I may have.”
Naik evaded a query on the issue of women’s entry into Haji Ali dargah, saying it is irrelevant.
His “provocative” speeches had reportedly inspired some of the terrorists who carried out Bangladesh’s worst terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka that left 22 dead earlier this month.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had asked the Mumbai Police Commissioner to conduct a probe (into Naik’s speeches) and submit a report. Later, the city police formed a special team to conduct a probe into his speeches.