PETALING JAYA: Broadcasting regulators in the UK have found Dr Zakir Naik’s satellite channel Peace TV guilty of hate speech, and say it could risk having its licence revoked as the Indian Muslim preacher battles accusations of racism in Malaysia.
Ofcom, the UK government’s regulatory body which has wide powers over the broadcasting, telecommunications and postal sectors, said it had scrutinised five television programmes aired on Peace TV following complaints of homophobia and criminal incitement.
“Ofcom has decided that four of the five programmes breached the code, and one did not,” said the commission’s report last month sighted by FMT.
Ofcom said the four programmes found in breach of the broadcasting code of conduct were aired between November 2017 and March 2018.
Two of these breaches, it said, involved both the channel’s Urdu and English editions, and could be punishable with “the imposition of statutory sanctions”.
The violations listed include incitement to crime, hate speech and abusive treatment.
One of the programmes, “Kitaab-ut-Tawheed”, is an Urdu programme where lectures based on the works of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism, are discussed. In one episode, the speaker Shaikh Ashfaque Salafi advocates the beheading of magicians.
Peace TV’s licensee in the UK, however, defended the statements.
“The programme is not about Harry Houdini, Paul Daniels, David Blaine or other entertainers performing magic tricks for money or fun. It is about black magic, witchcraft, sorcery and enchantment, as viewers will understand,” said Club TV Ltd.
In another programme called “Strengthening Your Family”, presenter Imam Qasim Khan makes comparisons between homosexuals and pigs.
“Here’s two human beings that are making a practice and trying to justify something that even animals don’t do. Subhanallah, worse than animals.
“Human beings can be worse than animals. At least animals have the dignity of confining their passion, their sexual passion, to the opposite gender of that animal.
“Human beings are so insane sometimes and try to justify and then have the blatant audacity to apply religion to that very insane and sinful practice, to apply religion to it.
“Homosexual Baptist, homosexual Methodist, homosexual Catholics, homosexual Jewish people, and embarrassingly homosexual Muslims. That’s insane. What are we going to do about it?” Qasim was quoted as saying in Ofcam’s investigation report.
In its defence submitted to Ofcom, Club TV said the channel was directed at Muslims “with a specific emphasis on teaching how to live a religiously observant life in line with the scriptures”.
It said viewers were therefore likely to have expected the speaker to have strong views on homosexuality.
Ofcom said it did not intend to curb any religious speaker’s right to free speech, including the right to question other beliefs which could “offend, shock or disturb”, saying this is protected under Britain’s constitution.
“However, when transmitting material of this nature, broadcasters must comply with all relevant rules in the code, including: Rule 3.1 (prohibition on material likely to incite crime); Rule 3.2 (hate speech must be justified by the context); and Rule 3.3 (material which contains abusive or derogatory treatment of individuals, groups, religions or communities must not be included on television),” Ofcom said.
Peace TV, which is broadcast from Dubai, is part of Naik’s business empire which has come under scrutiny in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Naik, who is seeking refuge in Malaysia, is currently being investigated by police for several remarks seen as provoking racial sentiments.
The preacher, who is facing money laundering charges in India, says he is a victim of a campaign of vilification by Hindu extremists in India.