KARACHI: India’s most popular Muslim televangelist Dr Zakir Naik – who has been living in self-exile in Malaysia since 2016 – has confirmed that an emissary of Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered him a “safe passage to India” in return for supporting the BJP government’s revocation of Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IOJ&K)’s special constitutional status.
The revelation was first made by a Pakistani-American Muslim scholar and evangelist, Sheikh Yasir Qadhi, on social media. Dr Zakir Naik – who is also founder of the Islamic Research Foundation and Peace TV – said in a Youtube message that scores of journalists and media houses have approached him within a span of 48 hours to verify Sheikh Yasir’s claim.
Dr Zakir revealed that an “Indian government representative” came to the Malaysian city of Putrajaya in the fourth week of September 2019 to meet him “under the direct instructions of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah” to “remove misunderstandings and miscommunications between myself and the Indian government”.
“He [the emissary] offered me a safe passage to India,” said the popular televangelist with a huge fan following across the Muslim world. “The same BJP which hounded me for three and a half years – and the same Narendra Modi who used my name nine times in less than two minutes during his election campaign in May 2019 is bartering with me for a safe passage,” he said. “I said to myself, it’s too good to be true.”
Dr Zakir Naik, who left India in 2016 after New Delhi accused him of promoting hate speech and inciting terrorism, has been granted permanent residency in Malaysia. India has requested for his extradition, but Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad refused to send him back.
“[In] the meeting [that] lasted for several hours… he [Modi’s emissary] said he wanted me to support the BJP government’s decision of revoking Article 370 of the Constitution,” the televangelist said in the video message, which has been viewed thousands of times since it was uploaded on Jan 10. Article 370 of the Indian constitution granted the IOJ&K a special semi-autonomous status.
The televangelist said he “flatly refused” to take up the offer because “revoking Article 370 is unconstitutional and is taking away the rights of Kashmiris”. “I cannot support the act of injustice, neither can I betray the people of Kashmir,” he recalled telling Modi’s emissary.
The Modi government revoked Article 370 in August 2019, stripping the IOJ&K of its partial autonomy before clamping a curfew and communication blockade on the region in an attempt to stop the Kashmiris’ anger from spilling into the streets. More than five months on, the inhuman siege remains in place raising serious questions about India’s democratic credentials internationally.
Dr Zakir said the Indian government representative also said that the BJP government wanted him to use his connections and help “improve India’s ties with Muslim countries”. He responded that he was willing to help the Indian government but would not do anything which was in contravention with the Holy Quran and the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
The Islamic preacher said that when Modi’s emissary realised he was not going to accept any “unjust” offer, he asked him not to criticise the BJP and Modi, directly.
Dr Zakir said he believed India’s Muslim leaders who supported the highly controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act must have been “blackmailed or threatened with dire consequences” in doing so. “If you fear a backlash and you are afraid, the least you can do is to keep quiet but supporting an unjust act is un-Islamic,” he said in a direct message to India’s Muslim leaders.
The Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019, which has sparked nationwide deadly protests, threatens to leave millions of Muslims in India, who form 15% of the country’s population, state-less.