Zakir Naik
Govt bans Zakir Naik's NGO Islamic Research Foundation for 5 years. In picture: Zakir Naik speaks to the media via a video conference in Mumbai on July 15, 2016.Reuters

The Islamic Research Foundation, the non-government organisation (NGO) run by Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik, was on Tuesday banned for five years by the Central government with immediate effect. Naik is currently not in India, and refuses to return for fear that he would be arrested over allegations that he has had ties to terrorists and their networks. 

The government termed the NGO "illegal" and "unlawful," and banned it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. The government had been planning this move for quite some time now, so the ban does not come as too big a surprise.

Terror links

Naik has been on the crosshairs of several probe and anti-terror agencies ever since it emerged that he had inspired the five terrorists who had attacked a posh eatery in Dhaka and killed 22 civilians and five policemen in July this year.They had been especially criticised because the attack had taken place during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan.

Naik had earlier -- in 2010 -- to be precise, banned from entering Britain for saying things like: "I tell Muslims that every Muslim should be a terrorist. Terrorist means a person who terrorises. When a robber sees a policeman, he is terrified. So for a robber, a policeman is a terrorist. So in this context every Muslim should be a terrorist to the robber."

However, he had, after the authorities went after him, tried to put forward a friendlier face, saying: "Knowingly I have never met any terrorist, but if some people stand next to me to take photographs, I smile. I don't know who they are... I am a messenger of peace. I do not criticise any sect of Islam, I may disagree on interpretations."

Under scanner

In the aftermath of the Dhaka terror attack and the coming-to-light of the role Naik may have played in it, the Maharashtra government had ordered a probe by the Mumbai Police into Naik's activities and speeches.

Even Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh had said back then: "We have taken cognisance of Zakir Naik's speeches and necessary instructions have been issued in this regard. His speeches/CDs are being examined and whatever is justified will be done. As far as the government of India is concerned, we will not compromise on terrorism at any cost."