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Zakir Naik has no Plans to Return to India for a year, but says he is Not Running Away

Zakir Naik has been in the Indian news for quite some time now, due to his controversial religious speeches.

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Dr. Zakir Naik. Image Source : Wikimedia Commons
  • Zakir Naik is a controversial Muslim Preacher who is in news now for allegedly inciting killing and violence in the name of Islam.
  • Naik has often been in the news, primarily because of his speeches and their content.
  • But he says that he is a messenger of peace and does not mean to harm innocent people.

“I did not inspire any terrorists. Suicide bombings targeting innocent people are condemnable. My statements have been taken out of context. I am a messenger of peace,” said Zakir Naik to the reporters after his Peace TV channel got banned in Bangladesh.

Naik in the news. Image Source : youtube
Naik in the news. Image Source : youtube

According to him, his statements on terrorism and suicide bombings reported by the Indian media were “tampered and doctored.” He had applied for permission from Indian authorities to air Peace TV through his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in 2008, but the request was denied “possibly because the channel was Islamic.”

“I am not running away. As per my travel plans, I am supposed to come to India by next year, not before that,” Naik said. Even though Naik said he had not been contacted by any Indian investigating agency, Mumbai-based intelligence sources told BenarNews that all angles related to the televangelist, including his speeches, were being probed.

PM Modi had said “preachers of hate and violence are threatening the fabric of our society”, with reference to Zakir Naik. Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu has also hinted at his agitation against Naik due to his inappropriate speeches.

After the IS attack  on Bangladesh, India had been feeling threatened. The heat on Naik is coming during a heightened sense of a threat from the Islamic State (IS)  in India following the attack in the Bangladeshi capital, which killed 29 people, including an Indian hostage.

Until recently, New Delhi had denied that the Middle East-based terror outfit had any significant presence in India, but officials on Friday confirmed that the Dhaka attack had forced security agencies to make “certain procedural changes.”

Aftermath of Dhaka Attack. Image Source : thedailystar.net
Aftermath of Dhaka Attack. Image Source : thedailystar.net

“Naturally, security has been enhanced [after the Dhaka attack]. Several checks have been instituted along the Indo-Bangla border to prevent intruders into our cantonments and protect installations,” Wing Commander S.S. Birdi, spokesman for the defense ministry in Kolkata, capital of West Bengal, which borders Bangladesh, told BenarNews.

Bangladesh, after the Dhaka Attack, is still in mourning and wishes to make certain things clear to its scarred people. In Bangladesh, authorities on Friday moved to regulate weekly sermons in mosques across the Muslim-majority country amid a stepped-up campaign to combat Islamist extremism.

The state-run Islamic Foundation has prepared and delivered a sermon to more than 300,000 mosques in the country. It invokes verses from the Quran to prevent Bangladeshis from joining the path of radicalism, foundation chief Shamim Mohammad Afzal told Agence France-Presse.

“It is not mandatory, but we hope imams will follow our sermon or take inspiration from it,” Afzal said to Benar News, adding, “Our core message is [that] there is no place for terrorism in Islam. We want to make sure our children cannot be brainwashed to commit an act of terrorism.”

Meanwhile in India, Indian security agencies have made at least two IS-linked arrests since the Dhaka attack.

The Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) arrested a civil contractor, identified as Naser Yafai Chaus, 31, who hails from the Parbhani district of Maharashtra state, on Thursday.

While the department would not confirm the basis for Chaus was arrested, sources said he allegedly had contact with an IS handler in Syria.

On Tuesday, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) claimed to have arrested Naimathullah Hussaini alias Abu Darda from Hyderabad, alleging that he was involved in recruiting youngsters from the south Indian city for the IS.

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More than 40 suspected IS operatives have been arrested in India since the formation of the terror outfit in 2014.

At least 23 Indians have left for Iraq and Syria to fight alongside the IS, which has called Hindu-majority India an enemy nation in its propaganda material, according to intelligence agencies.

However, the figure could be higher, analysts warned after reports emerged that 21 Muslims missing from different districts of south India’s Kerala state over the last month may have joined the IS.

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D.C. Pathak, former chief of India’s Intelligence Bureau, told BenarNews that the IS threat to India was real.

“They have come near our homes. They are knocking at our door,” Pathak said in reference to the recent Dhaka attack. “It is time to fend it with vigour.”

Moushumi Basu of the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said the Indian government should acknowledge IS a threat.

“[The government] has to take stock of the situation. It has to chalk out a proper plan to prevent Indian youth from joining such radical outfits. It has to identify and focus on resolving the issues driving our youngsters to join jihad or other forms of extremism. Simply a backlash from a recent terror attack or a knee-jerk reaction won’t solve the problem,” she added. (Benar News)

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3 Ahmadi Men Sentenced to Death in Pakistan on Charges of Blasphemy; Minority Communities are increasingly facing the Heat in the Country

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes.

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Pakistan-protest
Pakistani students of Islamic seminaries take part in a rally in support of blasphemy laws in Islamabad, Pakistan, Wednesday, March 8, 2017. Hundreds of students of Islamic seminaries rallied in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, urging government to remove blasphemous content from social media and take stern action against those who posted blasphemous content on social media to hurt sentiments of Muslims. The placards, in center, in Urdu language are reading as "Authorized Institutions immediately take action on the incidents of blasphemy and remove blasphemous content on social media". (AP Photo/Anjum Naveed) (VOA)

Washington, October 15, 2017: A court in Pakistan’s Punjab province has sentenced three men of a minority religious group to death on charges of violating the country’s controversial blasphemy law.

Mubasher Ahmad, Ghulam Ahmed and Ehsan Ahmed were found guilty and convicted by the trial court Wednesday for insulting the prophet of Islam.

The men were tried under Section 295-B of Pakistan’s penal code, commonly referred to as the blasphemy law, which recommends either life imprisonment or the death penalty for anyone found guilty of deliberately insulting Islam.

The men were arrested in May 2014 in a remote village in Punjab province after residents filed a complaint with the police and accused the defendants of tearing down a religious poster.

Four men were arrested at the time. The fourth man, Khalil Ahmad, was shot dead by an angry man while in police custody just a few days after the incident.

Saleemuddin, a spokesperson for the Ahmadi community, told VOA that the charges against the defendants and the court’s verdict were unfair.

“The convicted men were trying to take down a poster, which had anti-Ahmadi slogans and text that urged the community to socially boycott the already persecuted Ahmadi community,” Saleemuddin said.

“We will challenge the trial court’s decision in high court,” he added.

Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims, but Pakistan’s state does not recognize them as such and labels them heretics. There are more than a half-million Ahmadis living in Pakistan under the constant threat of persecution.

The Ahmadi community “is one of the most mistreated communities in the country. They have had been a target of blasphemous charges, sectarian violence and target killings,” said Mehdi Hasan, a prominent human rights activist in Pakistan.

ALSO READ Military Dictatorship Always Halted Progress in Pakistan, says Pakistan Prime Minister

Ahmadis ‘a threat’

The death sentence for the three individuals came just a few days after Muhammad Safdar, a prominent member of the ruling party and son-in-law of ousted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, publicly denounced Ahmadi community members as a threat to Pakistan and urged the country’s institutions not to hire them in the military or the civil service.

Safdar’s remarks stirred a debate in the country on the issue of minorities and their rights.

Pakistan Minister of the Interior Ahsan Iqbal, without mentioning Safdar by name, denounced the anti-minority rhetoric coming from politicians.

“It is tragic to see hate speech against minorities in National Assembly. We believe in inclusive Pakistan. Pakistan respects all minorities,” Iqbal said in a tweet.

Abuse of law

“Blasphemy is a very sensitive issue in Pakistan. We’ve seen several incidents where angry mobs killed those accused of committing blasphemy without giving them a right to face the trial,” human rights activist Hasan told VOA.

Rights groups say the controversial blasphemy law has often been abused to settle personal vendettas and disputes. Due process is often ceremonial, the rights activists add, and decisions are often informed by the growing religious intolerance in the country.

Even if courts do drop charges against defendants, mobs and local residents attack them, and law enforcement authorities look the other way in most cases, the activists charge.

blasphemy
Members of a Pakistani civil society demonstrate April 22, 2017, in Karachi, Pakistan, against the killing of Mashal Khan, a student at the Abdul Wali Khan University in the northwestern city of Mardan. Police say the lynching of Khan, falsely accused of blasphemy, was organized by other students who saw him as a political rival. (VOA)

Social media posts

Nadeem James, a Christian, was sentenced to death last month in Punjab after the court established that he sent a blasphemous poem to a friend via WhatsApp, an instant message application.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan in a recent report said 15 people were arrested on charges of blasphemy in 2016, including 10 Muslims and five members of religious minorities.

In April 2017, Mashaal Khan, a journalism student, was accused of posting blasphemous content online and was beaten to death by fellow students at Abdul Wali Khan University in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Pakistan’s government is being criticized for strictly enforcing the blasphemy laws.

In April 2017, the government used newspapers and mobile phone services to warn its citizens not to post or upload any blasphemous materials on social media.

The government has also reportedly encouraged people to report those who violate the blasphemy law. (VOA)

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Ahmadiyya Sect of Pakistan is the Most Persecuted Minority in Line of Fire

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Pakistan Minority
Members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community dig graves for victims in Chenab Nagar. voa

Islamabad, Pakistan October 11: The son-in-law of Pakistan’s recently ousted prime minister lambasted a minority that human rights groups consider one of the most persecuted in the country.

Mohammed Safdar said members of the Ahmadiyya sect are a “danger to this country, this nation, its constitution and its identity.”

Speaking in the national assembly, of which he is a member, Safdar demanded that Ahmadiyyas, along with the minority Bohra community, be barred from joining the armed forces of the country because their “false religions do not include the concept of jihad in the name of God.”

Safdar is the son-in-law of Nawaz Sharif, who was forced to resign from premiership in July after a court ruled against him in a corruption case. Sharif alleged that the ruling was a conspiracy to remove him from power by the establishment, a euphemism for the country’s powerful military.

A member of Sharif’s ruling Pakistan Muslim League party, Safdar is married to his daughter Maryam Nawaz, who has been widely reported in the news as his potential successor.

In his statement Tuesday, Safdar also demanded that the name of the physics department of the Quaid e Azam University in Islamabad be changed. The department is named after Dr. Abdul Salam, an Ahmadiyya who is also one of Pakistan’s two Nobel laureates. The other one is Malala Yousufzai, who became the youngest person to win a Nobel Peace Prize for her activism in favor of girls’ education.

“If the name of the department is not changed, I would protest here every day,” Safdar said.

His outburst in the assembly followed days of uproar by the opposition parties over a minor amendment in the election law that was deemed to be pro-Ahmadiyya. The government declared it a clerical error and reinstated the original draft of the law.

Ahmadiyyas in Pakistan face a peculiar dilemma. They insist they are Muslims, but the country’s constitution declares them non-Muslims. Officials say Ahmadiyyas are welcome to all the rights afforded to other minorities in the country as long as they do not call themselves followers of the Islamic faith. Ahmadiyyas, on the other hand, insist that doing so would go against their religious beliefs.(voa)

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India Demands Data on UN Staff Misconduct, Use of Immunity

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India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about misconduct by UN staff. Flickr

United Nations, Oct 7: In an attempt to break the wall of silence around the crimes and UN staff misconduct and those on its assignments, India has demanded the secretariat disclose information about such cases and the immunity invoked against prosecutions.

Yedla Umasankar, the legal advisor in India’s UN Mission, touched a raw nerve here by criticising the UN on Friday for not vigorously following up allegations of serious wrongdoing by its employees who enjoy the equivalent of diplomatic immunity, a prized possession of its staff.

“It appears that the UN system itself may be reluctant to waive immunity even for serious misconduct carried out by its personnel while serving on its missions, so that such cases can be prosecuted by the host governments,” he told the General Assembly’s committee on legal affairs.

“Even a few of such instances or allegations of crimes committed by UN personnel is highly damaging for the image and credibility of the United Nations system and its work around the world,” he added.

His statement also touched on the practice of some countries that protect their wrongdoers at the UN.

Umasankar demanded that secretariat disclose how many cases of serious misconduct by UN personnel were registered and the number of cases where the UN refused to waive immunity to allow their prosecution.

He also wanted to know in how many cases the host country wanted the immunity waived so it can prosecute those accused; the number of times the UN asked the host country or the country that sent them to prosecute them; how many times it consulted countries before waiver of the immunity of their personnel and how many of them refused UN’s request to waive their citizens’ immunity.

The information he wanted does not cover the diplomats sent by member countries to represent them at UN bodies and enjoy diplomatic immunity with the nations hosting the UN facilities.

After scores of serious allegations of sexual misconduct by peacekeepers, especially exploitation of children, the UN vowed to uphold a policy of zero tolerance and began publishing data on such cases in peacekeeping operations including how they were dealt with.

Starting with the year 2015, it began identifying the nationalities of those accused.

However, it has not made public a roster detailing all the allegations and proven cases of serious misconduct across the entire UN.

While the focus has been on sexual exploitation and abuse reported on peacekeeping operations, Umasankar said that “at a broader level, the issue of accountability has remained elusive in some cases”.

He attributed it to “the complexities of legal aspects relating to sovereignty and jurisdiction”, the immunity or privileges that may be necessary for UN operations, and the capability or willingness of countries to investigate and prosecute the accused.

He noted that the UN itself cannot make criminal prosecutions.

While Indian laws has provisions for dealing with crimes committed abroad by its citizens, not all countries have them, he said.

Those countries should be encouraged and helped to implement such measures, he added. (IANS)