Dr Zakir Naik has never incited terror, agreed. He was just a soft and high-profile target that the Islamophobic brigade picked on, to attack the community. But what Zakir Naik does, is not much better than inciting terror: he praises tyrants.
In an interview to India Today on Monday, Naik showered praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and dodged questions on the plight of Indian Muslims under the BJP's rule.
Naik gave credit to Modi for something that even the PM's most loyal bhakts would feel shy of giving: he believes that Modi's aim is to improve relations between Hindus and Muslims.
Naik praises Modi
"As far as the present Prime Minister Narendra Modi is concerned, I have to be very honest with you, he is the first prime minister of India to have visited so many Muslim countries in a span of two years...his aim is to better the relations between India and Islamic countries. His aim is to better the relations between Muslims and Hindus, the second and third largest religions in the world. He is trying to bring communal harmony."
Modi is trying to bring communal harmony. Perhaps Dr Naik should try and preach that to the family of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri, or to Zakia Jafri and the family members of those who were massacred in Gulberg Society and Naroda Patiya. Or how about the parents of 12-year old Imtiyaz who was killed and hanged in Latehar by Gau Rakshaks and the children who have been blinded by pellets in Kashmir?
Zakir Naik is famous for his razor sharp memory, so it isn't possible that he has forgotten these events. It seems that in his expediency, he has chosen to ignore that these even took place.
When asked if Hindu-Muslim tensions have increased under Modi, Naik's response was a cop-out: "They have increased in some cases and decreased in some cases. I am not a politician, I am a specialist in Islam and comparative religion."
"I have not faced any problem under this government," he further added.
What's worse is that Naik even went to the extent of citing the Quran to justify his feeble stand on Modi.
But then what can one expect from a man whose words for Yazid, the murderer of Prophet Muhammad's grandson Imam Hussain and his companions, are: "May Allah be pleased with him".
What explains Naik's Modi-love? Is it merely fear of a crackdown by the state?
Naik lets the cat out of the bag during the course of the interview when he says "...in recognition of Modi's efforts towards communal harmony, King Salman of Saudi Arabia gave him the country's highest civilian award"
Obviously if Naik's Saudi patrons love Modi, he has no option but to feel the same way. In fact, be it his praise for Modi or Yazid, it all stems from his need to justify tyranny and thereby provide legitimacy to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive regimes in the world. After all, the Takfiri frames that Naik uses to criticise Shias, Sufis and non-Muslims have their roots in the Saudi-Wahhabi brand of Islam.
Also read: Why is Islam's poster boy Zakir Naik taking moderate Muslims back in time?
Don't side with oppression
My knowledge of Islam is nothing compared to that of Dr Naik. But being on the side of oppression is a complete negation of the spirit of Islam. It would be best to present this to Dr Naik in his own manner.
"And incline not to those who do oppression, or the fire will seize you; and ye have no protectors other than Allah, not shall ye be helped." (Holy Quran, Chapter 11: Verse 113)
"...sit thou not in the company of those who oppress." (Holy Quran, Chapter 6:Verse 68)
"...it is only oppressors that stand as protectors one to another." (Holy Quran, Chapter 45: Verse 19)
The Prophet said, "Verily, tyrannical rulers will come after me and whoever affirms their lies and supports their oppression has nothing to do with me and I have nothing to do with him, and he will not drink with me at the fountain in Paradise." (Hadith reported by Ka'b ibn Ujrah)
In this video, over 10 years old, Dr Naik narrates at length the suffering of Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots. He fails to mention Modi by name, though he blames "politicians" for the riots.
There is no justification for a ban on Dr Naik or his channel Peace TV. But he needs to be called out for his hypocrisy and his support for tyranny.
The writer is a practising Muslim.
The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.