NEW DELHI: Ridden in controversy, the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the NGO of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has been banned, as an ‘unlawful organisation’ for five years with immediate effect.
The ban has been enforced under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and approved at a meeting of the Union Cabinet.
Earlier, the government intended to ban IRF citing Naik’s “objectionable and subversive” speeches, the criminal cases filed against him and other members of IRF in Mumbai and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra and Kerala, as well as his “dubious” links with Peace TV that allegedly features “communal” and “pro-jihad” content as grounds for such a ban.
An ‘unlawful’ association is different from a ‘terrorist’ organisation listed under UAPA. The law defines ‘unlawful association’ as any organisation “which has for its object any activity that is punishable under Section 153A or 153B of IPC” – provisions dealing with threat to social and communal harmony.
Declaration of IRF as ‘unlawful’ under Section 3 of the UAPA will force closure of its offices and interests across the country.
According to sources in the home ministry, there was a solid case+ for proscribing IRF based on inputs and material shared by the Maharashtra government and the central intelligence agencies.
There are FIRs against Naik and other IRF members under Section 153A and 153B of IPC in 2 police stations of Mumbai, 1 in Kerala and two in Sindhudurg. There are several of Naik’s speeches compiled by Intelligence Bureau (IB) including where he extolls Osama bin Laden, claiming that 80% of Indians had not been Hindus as Muslims could have converted them “if we wanted” by sword, justifies suicide bombings, claims Golden Temple may not be sacred as Mecca and makes objectionable comments against Hindu gods. Most of these speeches form the content on Peace TV, a part of which was put together by Mumbai-based Harmony Media Pvt Ltd that once had Naik and his wife as directors. Large money transfers have been detected from UK-based charity IRF International, run by Naik to Harmony Media.
As per the Cabinet note proposing action against IRF, which incorporated legal opinion favouring a ban on the NGO for disturbing communal harmony and attempting forced conversions, Zakir Naik+ has been promoting enmity between religious groups and inspiring Muslim youth in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts.
“Such divisive ideology is against India’s pluralistic and secular social fabric and it may be viewed as causing disaffection against India and thereby making it an unlawful activity,” states the draft Cabinet note. “If urgent steps are not taken (to ban IRF), there is every possibility of more youth being motivated and radicalised to commit terrorist acts,” it warns.