DHAKA: Both Bangladesh and India are probing controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik in connection with the terrorist attack on a café here last Friday.
Bangladeshi Information Minister Hassanul Haq Inu said legal experts were looking into Zakir’s speeches and sermons and action would be taken if they were found to have “fanned” terrorism.
He said this following the confession of two suspected Islamic State terrorists, Rohan Imtiaz and Nibran Islam, that they were “inspired” by the radical teachings of Zakir and have been his “staunch” followers on Facebook and on the Peace Television Channel.
The duo were involved in the attack on the Artisan Hotel Bakery in Dhaka, killing 22 people.
Rohan Imtiaz – the son of a politician of Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League – ran a propaganda on Facebook last year quoting Zakir, Bangladeshi newspaper ‘Daily Star’ reported.
“For a few months, many religious alim and ulama and maulana have lodged a complaint with my ministry that Dr Zakir Naik’s interpretation of Islam is not in line with the Quranic version and Hadiths. So we are looking into the content,” Inu told Times Now.
“The interpretation in a wrong way of Islam influences young people and…fans terrorism. That is why Naik’s angle is to be looked into.”
The Hindustan Times quoted Inu as saying: “I also request the Indian Government and information minister that they also examine the context of Naik’s teachings.”
Meanwhile, India’s Home Minister Kiren Rijiju, said Zakir’s speech was a “matter of concern for us”. He said Indian security agencies were investigating him and going through his speeches.
Haq said Bangladesh would request India to take action if Zakir’s preachings were found to have instigated the attack.
Rijiju told Bangladesh’s bdnews24.com that India would consider a ban on the preacher’s activities “If we have a request from Dhaka to ban Zakir Naik”.
Other terror suspects, too, have pointed to Zakir as an inspiration. Najibulla Zazi, who was arrested in 2009 for conspiring to bomb the New York subway, Kafeel Ahmed who stormed the Glasgow airport in an explosives-laden car in 2007, and Mumbai’s Rahil Sheikh who was arrested for the 7/11 serial train blasts, had earlier claimed they had followed Zakir.
The Economic Times reported that the Islamic State’s Hyderabad module head Mohammad Ibrahim Yazdani had told the National Investigation Agency, during his interrogation, that his inclination towards violent outfits working to establish Shariah law was also because of Zakir .
But, talking to CNN-IBN News 18, Zakir rubbished the reports linking him to the terrorists. Denying that his speeches promoted terrorism, he welcomed the investigation against him.
He claimed that there were people using his photographs and misquoting him to defame him.
The Times of India reported that Zakir had courted controversy when he had refused to describe Osama bin Laden as a terrorist and, answering a question about why he was banned from entering Britain, said it was because he exhorted all Muslims to be terrorists.
“I tell Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist… For a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber,” Zakir had told reporters at a press conference in Mumbai in 2010.
Zakir, in his lecture aired on Peace TV, an international Islamic channel, had also reportedly “urged all Muslims to be terrorists”.