By Sualeh Keen
Jul 09, 2016
Ever since it was reported that Islamic evangelist Zakir Naik was quoted approvingly by one of the terrorists involved in the July 1 Dhaka attack at an upscale restaurant, we have had loud demands from the kangaroo courts of television channels – for a blanket ban on Naik.
Banning, however, is not the way to go – it never is.
If anyone has acted in a manner that violates the law of the land, then that person needs to be booked and prosecuted in a fair trial. It cannot be without due process – or by selective application of the law, on someone's whims and fancies.
Also, people should be held accountable for their acts, and it should not matter whether they were inspired by a sermon, God’s whisper, a violent movie, a television show, heavy metal music – or, indeed, Zakir Naik’s Peace TV.
You do the crime, you do the time.
We can run a society only if we make people accountable for their actions and not deflect and attribute the crimes to their inspirations and role models.
There are many examples, but consider just this: Naik justified the destruction of Bamiyan Buddha by Taliban by saying that it is the right thing to do and that Buddha, who was against idolatry, would have approved.
Now, isn’t that like a pat on the backs of Islamists to destroy temples, bomb Masjids and shrines of "heretical sects"? Add the smug glee of this act of destruction as being given a thumbs-up to doing the same to "pagan" deities as well, and there you have a blanket 360 degree "scriptural sanction" to destroy any idol and Ziyarat or shrine you can find.
One does not need to enact terror attacks oneself – one can just supply the ideological framework to justify atrocities and terrorism. Such people are called “white-collar terrorists” and Zakir Naik qualifies with flying colours.
He therefore clearly needs to be challenged, fought and defeated on the ideological front, but we need to think through our actions rather than behave in a knee-jerk or whimsical manner.
What We Must (Not) Do
But what do we do with such terror motivators who have "plausible deniability" of their direct role in brainwashing a generation?
Unless the person is directly involved in the planning or execution of an act of terror, there is no case.
Zakir Naik should not be made a scapegoat. It would be counterproductive to make him a martyr, which will only increase his fan base. He must not be harassed or physically harmed by vigilantes. If required, he should be provided security by the government.
The best way to deal with such ideologues is to fight them on the ideological plane and to appeal to right-thinking public to distance themselves from such ideologies. That’s the civilised way and that is what sets us apart from terrorists.
Indeed, there is no dearth of hate-mongers – Hindu, Muslim, even Buddhist – who use sophistry to pass on terror and violence as "peace" or "justice".
By all means, expose and act against those as well: I am with you. But please don’t use the examples of other venom-spewing characters in the sub-continent to defend this very influential confirmer and justifier of chauvinism, condescension, and hate for non-Muslims.
As one who sees the pernicious influence of Zakir Naik around my immediate society in Kashmir, including my own home, I will be more than happy if this ideologue is challenged and criticised in public and his credibility is dented.
Other hate-mongers have not yet infiltrated my home, so I am not as bothered about them – though, as a citizen of the country, I am bothered at a general, not personal, level.
The short point is this: whatever action against Naik needs to be taken should be independent of whether action against all other hate-mongers has been taken or not.
So go ahead and create and share Joker Naik memes and cartoons. Go turn the tide.