Denies advocating suicide bombings, says he is messenger of peace.
Mumbai : Controversial televangelist Zakir Naik, who now claims to be an “NRI” based in Dubai and Saudi Arabia, has no plans to return to India this year. That should nip in the bud any plans that intelligence agencies may have had of grilling him on his alleged ‘terror’ links and inflammatory utterances.
Claiming that his statements have been doctored and twisted out of context, Naik asserted that he was a “messenger of peace” and unequivocally condemned all terror activities, including the recent strike in France. Denying that he had ever advocated suicide bombings, the 50-year-old clergyman told the audience: “I am a messenger of peace and I don’t support any form of terrorism.”
Naik, on whom almost all star hotels in the city had slammed their doors, was finally able to host his much-touted Skype press conference from a dingy basement hall in Mazagaon. Cramped for space, media persons, at times, had heated exchanges with Naik even as his PR team attempted to control the situation.
Blaming the media for ‘‘blowing the matter out of context’’ he asserted that he has never inspired any terror activity. “If someone comes and shakes hand with me and gets the event photographed I will not start interrogating him,” he said, suggesting that the Dhaka perpetrators might know him but he does not know them.
Speaking about suicide bombings, Naik said, “Killing innocents is severely condemned in Islam. It is haram (prohibited), 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.” The preacher was addressing the media from Saudi Arabia, where he is currently holed up. “There are some people in Islam who are misguiding others in the name of paradise. But the Prophet Mohammed never said that innocents should be killed. Similarly, I never said kill innocents,’’ Naik asserted.
To a question whether the agencies were probing his alleged role in inspiring the perpetrators of Dhaka carnage, Naik said, “I am ready to cooperate with their investigation. No agency has contacted me or my office till date in the last 10 days. It is only the Indian media which is running a campaign against me.”
About his visit to Mumbai which is overdue, Naik said that most of the time he is out of India since he is an NRI. “My plans are laid out and I have to meet many important personalities. There is no plan to come to India in the near future.”
Naik also stated that he had sought permission in 2008 to air Peace TV, which is run by his Islamic Research Foundation, but he was rebuffed as the channel was perceived to be “Islamic”. His NGO’s functionaries did not allow the media to quiz Naik during the media interaction. “It is question time, not a debate,” said Naik’s aide Ather Khan, who was moderating the media interaction.
When asked if he knew Rahil Sheikh, the 2006 Mumbai train bombing mastermind, the Islamic preacher said, “I did not know him personally but he was an IRF volunteer. The moment I got to know that he was involved in the train blasts, I immediately asked my office to remove him from the IRF.”
“Knowingly I have never supported any terrorist,” he said.
When asked if he knows any political leader who can stand up in his support, Naik shocked many by saying, “A large number of politicians know me. A few years ago Shatrughna Sinha called me to campaign for his party. I have never met Sinha in my life.”
Naik’s alleged connection with the previous regime at the Centre was recently exposed by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, which has leaked a letter dated February 15, 2013, of the then government seeking favours for the controversial televangelist.
Speaking on this issue, Naik said, “I know Congress leader K Rahman Khan who wrote a letter to Manish Tewari at that time. But I had not asked him to write the letter to favour me.”
Meanwhile, the controversial Islamic preacher urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to take action against media houses which are running a ‘hate campaign’ against him. “Also, I have asked my lawyer to file a defamation suit at least against 10 media houses – news channels and newspapers. I hope within two-to-three days they will get the court notice,” concluded Naik.