Pakistan should be concerned about the potential consequences of the Islamic scholar’s message.
India has banned Indian-Muslim evangelist Dr. Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. An Islamist murderer in Bangladesh had claimed his allegiance to Naik, triggering the official Indian reaction. Despite his alleged links to militancy, Naik continues to receive top billing in Pakistan and is seen 24 hours on a dedicated TV channel.
He is accused of “extolling bin Laden, claiming that 80 percent of Indians would not have remained Hindus as Muslims could have converted them—‘if we wanted’—by sword, justifying suicide bombings, claiming Sikhism’s Golden Temple may not be as sacred as Makkah and making objectionable comments against Hindu gods.”
Nobody in Pakistan cared much about what came with his message. It was enough that he rubbished Christian tenets on the basis of his amazing memory of chapter and verse of scriptures. Instead of being focused on the goodness of Islam, Muslims enjoyed Naik’s expert denigration of other faiths.
But Naik was at times reckless, once telling British Muslims they should announce their civic identity as Muslim first and British second. He once also asserted that “all Muslims should be terrorists.” This “unacceptable behavior” got him banned from the United Kingdom in June 2010. He was due to give a series of lectures in London and Sheffield to Pakistani and Bangladeshi audiences when then-home secretary, and now prime minister, Theresa May announced the ban. Earlier that same year, Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American found guilty in the 2009 New York City Subway and United Kingdom terror plot, had admitted to being an “admirer” of Naik.
Naik’s Pakistan connection was Dr. Israr Ahmad, a scholar of encyclopedic memory equally available today on cable TV and the Internet—six years after his death. The founder of the Tanzeem-e-Islami was no stranger to controversy himself, once telling the Islamic Society of North America: “A final showdown between the Muslim world and the non-Muslim world … would soon take place.”
In 2015, MBA student Saad Aziz joined the Islamic State militant group in Jalalabad, Afghanistan and killed social worker Sabeen Mahmud in Karachi for her liberal views. He was also involved in the killing of a busload of Ismaili Muslims in the same city. According to his confession, Dr. Israr Ahmad had first inspired him.