As the controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik faces heat, the Maharashtra government today ordered a probe into his speeches that were reported to have inspired some of the Dhaka attackers while the Centre said “appropriate action” will be taken against him.
As Mumbai-based Naik came under the scanner, senior Congress leader Digivjaya Singh was in BJP’s line of fire after a 2012 video showing him share a dais with the 50-year- old televangelist praising him at an event to promote communal harmony surfaced today. The video in which Singh said Naik is a “man of peace” also triggered a slugfest between BJP and Congress.
Security personnel were deployed outside Naik’s ‘Islamic Research Foundation’ office at Dongri area in South Mumbai as a precautionary measure in the wake of the escalating row over his alleged hate speeches.
Naik for his part released a statement, saying he “totally disagreed” that he inspired the act of killing innocent people in Dhaka. “There is not a single talk of mine where I encouraged one to kill another, whether Muslim or non-Muslim.”
“I have asked the Mumbai Police Commissioner to conduct a probe (into Naik’s speeches) and submit a report,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis told PTI.
Everything, including Naik’s speeches, his social media accounts, sources of funding (of a foundation run by him in Mumbai) will be scrutinised, said Fadnavis, who also holds the Home portfolio.
The new Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu called Naik’s speeches, as being reported in the media, as highly objectionable
“The Home Ministry will study (his speeches). It will take appropriate action after studying them,” he told reporters in Delhi.
Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju yesterday hinted at action against Naik after looking into whether the preacher through his speeches glorifies terrorist acts by Muslims.
Naik’s speeches are believed to have inspired some of the Bangladeshi militants, who killed 22 people, mostly foreigners, at an upscale restaurant in Dhaka last Friday.
Digvijay Singh, who was seen praising Naik in the 2012 video, defended himself, saying if there was any evidence against the preacher, then the Indian and Bangladeshi governments should take action against him.
“I have appealed for communal harmony and opposed religious fundamentalism and terrorism by either Hindus or Muslims,” the Congress leader added.
However, BJP was quick to target Singh and also demanded action against Naik, saying he was a “threat” to national security as it was clear from his speeches that he “incited” people.
Citing Singh’s comments, BJP national secretary Shrikant Sharma said, “It is in Congress’ character to politicise and glorify terrorism. Its leaders used terms like Hafiz saab and Osama ji for terrorists.
Responding to BJP’s attack, Congress’ chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said there was no place in Indian society for obscurantist and extremist thoughts and Congress party has always fought the forces of hate and division which have threatened India’s integrity.
Coming to the defence of Singh, Congress Chief Spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the senior leader has himself stated that he only appealed for peace, harmony and brotherhood.