Here is the full text of the questions and answers of Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan given via email to a journalist of freemalaysiatoday on 18 August, 2019. Dr Khan gave these answers in his private capacity and as a leader of the Indian Muslim community. Nowhere he said that this the opinion of Delhi Minorities Commission or that he is speaking in the name of the Commission. He, in fact, introduced himself as “a writer, scholar and journalist”.
Q.: Where does Zakir Naik stand in the spectrum of Indian Muslim scholarship? Is he an influential force, and how far is he recognised?
A.: He is influential and has a huge following due to his televised debates and Peace TV appearances [Peace TV is owned by him or his company] but he is not a scholar as such. He is a student of Ahmad Deedat whose specialty was holding debates with non-Muslims, especially Christian missionaries.
Q.:. Zakir Naik has sparked a debate in Malaysia, with many non-Muslim groups and politicians here calling for his deportation to India to face money laundering charges. One major complaint among Hindu groups in Malaysia is that Naik’s speeches on comparative religion denigrate their religion. What is your view on this?
A.: I think Zakir Naik may be blunt and offensive at times but he does not abuse other religions. Some followers of Hinduism here find it difficult to hear any criticism to their faith by a non-Hindu. Money-laundering cases are allegations yet to be proved but the government on the basis of these charges has attached his properties especially because he has refused to return to India under the circumstances of witch-hunting and official vilification.
Q.: Naik has often spoken about a campaign to get him by the Narendra Modi government and forces of Hindu extremists. How far true is this allegation?
A.: This allegation is true. Since the Hindutva forces have unbridled power since Modi came to power in May 2014, they are misusing it against their opponents, real or imaginary.
Q.: Personally, do you agree with Naik’s method of Islamic propagation?
A.: I think he should be more cautious. He used to hold huge open-air televised conferences in parks and stadiums where Hindu leaders used to be invited and “insulted” in their view. More offence was taken of Hindus standing up after His lectures and announcing their conversion to Islam. This offended Hindus.
Q.: Naik has said he would not return to India to face charges because he felt he would not be accorded a fair treatment before the trial, and could be arrested. Your comments?
A.: It is true, under the current official vilification, Naik will not get justice under Modi/BJP government.
Q.: Malaysian PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad said he would not deport Naik because the Indian judiciary would not give him a fair trial. How independent is the Indian judiciary in your opinion?
A.: This is true. Indian judiciary has been quite compromised under the current government which believes in bulldozing its decisions.
Q.: Did Malaysia do the right thing in resisting calls for his deportation?
A.: I think Malyasia did the right thing. Naik will not get justice under the current Indian dispensation.
Q.: Naik recently attracted large crowds in the east-coast state of Kelantan and was given celebrity treatment, despite most Kelantanese not well versed in the English language which is Naik’s main medium. Why do you think Naik has managed to attract huge number of fans in Malaysia?
A.: I have no knowledge.
Q.: For background for Malaysian readers, could you tell us a bit about:
a. the Delhi Minorities Commission which you are heading
A.: The Delhi Minorities Commission is statutory body of Delhi State Government with jurisdiction in the State of Delhi. Its task is to protect the designated religious minorities [Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis].
Q.: your latest works/activities in India
A.: I am a writer, scholar and journalist.
Q.: Anything else you would like to add.
The following was later emailed by Dr Khan to the Malaysian journalist:
Zakir Naik took for real the Indian constitutional guarantees of freedom of expression and right to profess and propagate any faith. In fact, these rights exist more on paper than in reality. Any conversion from Hinduism to another religion is considered a threat to Hindus and the country; and propagation of any religion other than Hinduism is also frowned upon and action may be taken against persons doing this on the plea that it is a threat to communal harmony. In addition, there are umpteen Hindu militias which take the law in their hands, while State apparatus looks the other way, to enforce these Hindutva objectives professed by RSS and supported by its political wing, the BJP which is now ruling India. n