Claiming that his statements were “doctored and tampered out of context”, controversial NRI televangelist Zakir Naik on Friday asserted that he was a “messenger of peace” and unequivocally condemned all terror and terrorist activities.
He also revealed that he was a “NRI”, enjoying residential status in Dubai, Saudi Arabia plus some other countries, and visited India occasionally, including during the holy Ramadan month.
Condemning in his opening remarks Thursday night’s terror attack in France’s Nice, which claimed at least 84 lives, Naik termed as “misinformation” that he had ever advocated suicide bombings.
“I have been preaching for 25 years and I have always condemned terror attacks, suicide bombings since in this innocent people are killed and it is ‘anti-Islam’,” he said, addressing an aggressive media via Skype from Saudi Arabia, where he currently is.
“However, it (suicide attacks) may be used as a tactic of war to save the country, but in all other circumstances where innocents are targeted, it is ‘haram’ in Islam and condemnable,” he contended.
Replying to a question on how his speeches inspired the terrorists behind the recent Bangladesh terror attacks, Naik retorted that he had many fans in that country who watched him on Peace TV, and he attracted 14 million followers on Facebook of which 25 percent are from Bangladesh.
“Even he (the Dhaka terrorist) could be my fan. I challenge the media to show me an official source in Bangladesh who said I have inspired him. The media has picked it up without confirmation,” he shot back.
Claiming that his speeches have been “purposely quoted out of context”, Naik rejected outright the contention that he supported terror and said he was being subjected to a media trial.
He said he had 30 allegations against him and he was quoted out of context and challenged the media persons to prove him wrong since he had the original unedited recordings and could easily verify the doctored tapes doing the rounds on social media networks.
“You have seen doctored clips and tampered statements. You should find out who is doing this, and by using my popularity pushing innocent Muslims to see the (doctored) clips and get influenced,” Naik urged.
“There are some other speakers on Islam who preach that when you kill others or non-Muslims, you will attain paradise. But such speakers are actually misguiding the people, misrepresenting facts and are anti-Quran,” he said.
To a question, he said he had never been summoned or contacted by police in the past nine days since the controversy erupted, but was prepared to fully cooperate with them for any kind of investigations.
“I am an NRI but when my media team informed me of the developments, I decided to come here for a few days to clarify my position,” he said.
On why Peace TV was banned, Naik said he had applied to the Information & Broadcasting Ministry in 2008 for down linking, so what was the ban when only the down linking permission had not been given. He alleged that the real reason it is “banned” is because it is a Muslim minority channel.
Naik’s Peace TV and Peace mobile have been banned in Bangladesh following revelations that two of the young Islamist attackers who killed 20 hostages, mostly foreigners, during a Dhaka cafe siege on July 1 drew “inspiration” from his speeches.
After three earlier unsuccessful attempts, Naik’s Skype media interaction finally materialized in a dingy basement hall in Mazagaon area, and at times saw heated exchanges between him and media persons, even as his PR team attempted to control the situation.