Wednesday, July 13, 2016

How To Deal With Zakir Naik? Not By Force, But With Counter-Narrative


Can a phenomenon be eliminated by force?

No. That is what the experts feel about televangelist preacher Zakir Naik, who has virtually achieved a phenomenal status. According to them, by controlling law and order and using the state machinery, the popularity gained by Naik can't be erased.

As per the confession of one of the militants involved in the Dhaka terror attack, the Mumbai-based Muslim preacher Naik, through his narratives on Islam, motivated him into terrorism.

Counter-terrorism analysts believe in the need for a counter-narrative based on perception management, to eliminate the growing influence of Naik and his ilk on young minds.

Way back in the nineties, stock market broker Harshad Mehta, who was known as the 'Big Bull', became a phenomenon for that generation. But once his stock manipulations and financial crimes became public knowledge, a negative perception got created against him. The phenomenon, thus, got shattered.
The key is to use perception management based on truth and facts to counter a narrative based on negative perception.

"A phenomenon can't be eliminated by kinetic force. It can be done through perception management based on truth. By counselling alone, you can't de-radicalise. Harshad Mehta is an example. It was the growing negative perception against him that punctured his status as the 'Big bull of stock market'. We should get rid of Americanised ways of de-radicalisation, which has become a catch word for them," said Brigadier (retd) Narender Kumar, senior fellow in a think tank on strategic affairs.

"Could America de-radicalise Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi even after keeping him in prison for six years or the detainees in Abu Ghraib prison? De-radicalisation can't be done in isolation or in a classroom. The exercise has to be done in a holistic manner at multiple levels - legally, intellectually and economically," Kumar said.

"Through perception management, a negative side of the person, his illicit activities need to be exposed. His false image has to be broken through a counter-narrative. Besides, we need to stop foreign funding to programmes, organisations and groups with Salafi and Wahabi ideologies spreading hatred against another religion," Kumar added.

What the experts suggest:
Foreign funding should be restricted to TV shows telecasting programmes such as Zakir Naik's, that could polarise and communalise society.

Government should monitor funds received by religious organisations, and check if they are legitimate expenditure and not spent on subversive activities that could polarise the society on communal lines.

Instead of a Madrasa education system, only a uniform government approved school education system like CBSE needs to be adopted. There shouldn't be any minority based education; instead an education system that allows children from all religions, castes, sects and ethnic diversity to study together. More good Kendriya Vidyalayas and Navodaya schools should be opened and be accessible to children of economically weaker sections of the Muslim community, so that they don't have to go to Madrasas for free education. Create a better atmosphere than the Madrasas.

Need for counter engagement through dialogue, debate, discussion and interactions on multiple platforms.

Preventive actions against corridors of threat - organisations, groups, individuals, etc.

"Through perception management and by creating an alternative narrative, the bad side of Wahabi ideology needs to be exposed. Immediate danger to India is not from ISIS, but from the money that is coming from Saudi Arabia. Funding of such kind is helping Wahabi and Salafi ideologies to spread and thrive through TV shows like that of Naik or other radical outfits," said defence analyst Maj Gen (retd) Dhruv Katoch.

"Government has to initiate financial investigation of all funds coming from abroad, particularly those used for preaching like in the case of Naik. Besides, Indian Muslims need to get rid of cultural domination of the Arab Muslims, who the India Muslims consider to be superior. Indian Muslims need to say that they would follow only Indian culture and none else. Madrasa is another area that needs to be monitored, as the clerics who themselves are ill-informed, teach students to be radical and fundamental," added Katoch, former director, Centre for Land Warfare & Studies (CLAWS).

Countering theology with theology:
Zakir Naik's case is a classic example of how this Salafi preacher used theology by quoting Quran and Hadis to influence a large mass base including the educated section, even to the extent that two militants - one from Bangladesh and the other in India - confessed to being motivated for terrorism by watching Naik's videos.

Despite several efforts ranging from monitoring the Cyber world to physically cracking down on terror groups, India is unable to control the psychological and electronic propaganda of terror groups, which is making a strong impact on young minds.

Experts are of the opinion that Naik's TV programme is not a law and order problem, but that of perception, which could only be dealt with a counter narrative based on theology.

"Zakir Naik has quoted theological texts in his preaching. We need a counter narrative based on theology. Besides Islamic scholars, there are very few experts in India outside the Islamic fold who have a deep understanding of Muslim issues.

Indian experts talk more on the basis of perception than on reality. There is a need of de-radicalisation in a calibrated manner, along with approaching the issues in a right manner, so that Indian Muslims can be prevented from getting attracted to hate speeches of the extremist kind," said Alok Bansal, director, Centre for Security & Strategy, India Foundation.

"Primarily, the youth are led to believe on the basis of theological justification, unlike popular belief that injustice, poverty or any other grievance leads a person to join fundamentalist outfits. Many a times, parents are ignorant about the background of a maulavi, who comes to teach Arabic, Urdu etc to their children - who imparts parochial lessons. It's a slow process, but over time, it successfully indoctrinates young minds," added Bansal.

No comments: