The past week has seen a media storm in India over the Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik and his role in inspiring the July 1 Dhaka attack where five terrorists killed 29 people in an upscale neighbourhood of the Bangladesh capital.
So loud was this coverage that the government got involved as well. India’s premier anti-terror force, the National Investigative Agency, as well as the Intelligence Bureau allocated precious bandwidth to examine the speeches and activities of Naik. The Mumbai Police got involved too, since Zakir Naik is from the city.
All the stories in India were based on a news report in the Dhaka newspaper Daily Star, which said that one of the terrorists, Rohan Imtiaz, had shared a Naik video on this Facebook wall last year. On Saturday, however, the Daily Star itself put out a clarification, rebutting the basis of much of the Indian media’s coverage. The newspaper denied that Zakir Naik inspired the Dhaka terror attack, though it admitted that it had been wrong when it said Naik was banned in Malaysia.
While the Daily Star had simply reported that Rohan Imtiaz had shared a video of Naik’s in 2015, much of the Indian media jumped to the conclusion that Naik had inspired the July 1 attack itself. Here’s what Times Now had to say, for example.
“It has been proved that he inspired the terrorist strike in Dhaka,” declared Arnab Goswami on July 6, without bothering to ask how it had been proved.
Zee News took it as a given that Naik’s speeches were “spreading terrorism” and proceeded to analyse this phenomenon.
NDTV was slightly more thorough than Times Now and Zee News and made sure to credit Daily Star as the source of this news. Of course, Daily Star, in turn, contends that even NDTV was wrong in its reporting of the facts. This is Daily Star’s clarification:
The Daily Star categorically denies this allegation and wants to say it did not report that any terrorist was inspired by Zakir Naik to kill innocent people. The report said that one of the terrorists had propagated on Facebook last year quoting Peace TV’s preacher Zakir Naik urging all Muslims to be “terrorists”. In his video speech, Dr Naik himself said he has millions of followers in Bangladesh. Our report was an attempt to show how young minds were interpreting Dr Naik’s views in ways that were perhaps not intended for.