By SAHIL JOSHI | INNLIVE
The Islamic televangelist wanted to play a victim of media campaign against him as he knew that this would earn him more followers.
Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik has become a headache for the investigating agencies. Because the police simply don't know how to pin him down.
It has been a week and the Mumbai Police is yet to submit its report on the investigation ordered by Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis after the media went all-out against Naik for his allegedly inspiring the terrorists who attacked a Dhaka cafe earlier this month.
Naik is not unfamiliar to the people of Mumbai, who have been seeing full-page ads of his peace conferences in Mumbai newspapers since many years.
The 50-year-old Naik is an Islamic orator and founder of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation. He runs a channel for Islamic teachings called Peace TV which is banned in India as it doesn't have down linking licence from the ministry of information and broadcasting.
He is a qualified medical practitioner whose studies include the Shrutis and Smritis, Bible and Quran.
Sources in the ATS say that they couldn't get any evidence or clues which could prove Naik's role in tutoring terrorists.
He speaks English fluently and dresses in a three-piece suit with a tie. He had shot to fame with his videos of debates with Hindu spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and with talks on the similarities between Hinduism and Islam. Naik courted controversy when he reportedly said that every Muslim should be a terrorist.
He had also argued that any religion other than Islam was not worth practising. Some of these extremely offensive quotes can be found on the Peace TV website. Naik is banned from the UK and Canada for his hate speeches against religions other than Islam.
When cornered by the media, Naik said that he was quoted out of context. However, his statements have landed him in trouble earlier and Mumbai Police had booked him for hurting the public sentiment.
What's worse, his statements have not only earned him the wrath of people from religions other than Islam, but those from various sects of Islam have also been annoyed by his views, especially those on Karbala.
But all said and done, the police and investigating agencies haven't been able to find a terror angle in his speeches, nor have they been able to establish that Naik has links with terrorist organisations.
Only twice have the investigating agencies raised eyebrows on him on the terror front - first when one of the men working for the Islamic Research Foundation was arrested in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case but then later let off by the ATS, and then when Feroz Abdul Latif Ghaswala, arrested by the Delhi special cell in April 2006 with RDX, told the Mumbai Police that he had attended Naik's programme at Srinagar and then searched for militant contacts which would help him in joining militancy.
But sources in the ATS say that they couldn't get any evidence or clues which could prove Naik's role in tutoring terrorists.
"There are three stages through which fresh terror recruits goes through," said a senior ATS officer, "first he meets radical preachers who makes the young man sensitive towards religion, then the peers make the youngster an extremist and when he gets in touch with crime he becomes a terrorist or joins a terrorist organisation."
The officer felt that Naik's speeches had the potential to radicalise young minds but for any agency it's very difficult to pinpoint how his speeches or preaching can turn the person into a terrorist.
Naik himself in his press conference has tried to challenge the media on this front saying, "I challenge the media to give me proof that I am supporting violence. The Quran says if you kill one man you kill the world."
His action-packed press conference last week suits his style of presenting himself. Rather than coming to Mumbai amidst the controversy he chose to speak via Skype from Medina. He wanted to play a victim of media campaign against him as he knew that this would earn him a few thousand more followers.
He bashed the media saying that it is making a terrorist out of him. It has been a few days now but investigating agencies are yet to find anything against him which will link him to terrorism.
The Mumbai Police have been studying his speeches and some officers have also questioned the funding of Peace TV and the Union home ministry has already begun an investigation into this.
Former Mumbai Police commissioner Satyapal Singh has alleged that he had submitted his report on Naik to the then Congress-NCP government but it didn't act on the report.
However, he is silent on no action being taken by the new government against Naik even after ten days and on why despite his old report, chief minister Fadnavis has had to come up with new investigation orders.
Those sects among the Muslims who oppose Naik and his preaching think that this controversy will find him new followers.
Despite so many allegations in the media, Naik has clearly said that he had no plans to come to India at least for the next one year as he was an NRI and operated from the Middle East.
But his last statement before ending the five-hour-long press conference has a direct question for the Mumbai Police and those who want him to be pinned down as a preacher of terrorism.
"I am proud to be an Indian Muslim... I believe in the Indian Constitution. If the agencies are saying I am a terrorist, then why are they not arresting me?"
Surely, the agencies are trying their best to answer him through their investigation report.