Bangladesh government today said it was investigating the Islamist links of India-based controversial preacher Zakir Naik and examining the possibilities of banning his “provocative” speeches in the wake of two brutal terrorist attacks in the country within a week in which 25 people died.
Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said that Bangladesh’s intelligence agencies were investigating the Islamic preacher. “He is on our security scanner... Our intelligence agencies are investigating his activities as his lectures appeared provocative,” Khan said.
Khan said the investigators were also probing Naik’s financial transactions in Bangladesh. He, however, added that the government was yet to decide on banning the broadcast of his ‘Peace TV Bangla.’
But Information Minister Hasanul Haq Inu said the government was examining the possibilities of banning Naik’s ‘Peace TV Bangla’ in view of his controversial speeches.
“Give us some more time for taking a decision in this regard...but I can tell you we have been receiving complaints about the provocative contents of his speeches,” Inu said.
The comments by the two senior ministers came as Bangladesh’s private TV cable operators said they await a government directive on the broadcast of Naik’s television channel.
“In the past, I myself used to watch the channel but after the Gulshan incident, I realised that many people do not view the channel the way I do it,” Cable TV Owners’ Association President Mir Hossain Akhtar told a Bangladeshi news agency.
He added: “We want to stop airing the channel across the country. But in the absence of any government notification in this regard, it is not possible at this moment.” The channel also airs broadcast in Bangla targeting the Bangladeshi audience.
Naik, whose speeches are aired on ‘Peace TV’ run by his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, is a controversial Islamic preacher and his preachings were reported to have inspired some of the Dhaka attackers.
Britain and Canada have banned Naik from visiting the two countries several years ago while Malaysia banned his lectures fearing that they could instigate inter-racial tensions.
Experts said Naik could not be accused of openly inciting terror but his preaching were a heady mix of ingredients which could abet radicalisation of the extreme kinds.
One of the slain attackers of the terrorist attack in Dhaka’s high-security Gulshan area on July 1, the 22-year-old Rohan Imtiaz quoted Naik in a Facebook post in January this year where he urged “all Muslims to be terrorists.”
Twenty-two people, including 17 foreigners, were killed in the brutal late-night attack. Six days later, militants attacked police guarding the largest Eid gathering in Bangladesh and killed three more people.