Indian Embassy attacked, ISIS flags waved,’ Islamic extremism is rising in Indonesia, thanks to Zakir Naik

The Indonesian government has deployed tough security measures near the Indian Embassy in Jakarta which had witnessed a series of protests by the radical Islamist groups. Although tough security arrangements are in place outside the Indian consulate in Medan, in Sumatra. Top Indian diplomats in Jakarta will shortly meet Indonesian Vice President to discuss the matter.

Indonesia, the country with the largest Muslim population prides itself for its secularism. However, the country’s secular and plural values are at risk with the rise of Islamist radicalism and the growing clout of radical Islamist leaders. Zakir Naik- the controversial Islamic hardliner and preacher who is facing probes in India over his provocative speeches could be the reason for rising Islamic extremism in Indonesia.

A detailed report by The Hindu in 2017 proves how indirectly Zakir Naik influenced elections in Indonesia. The controversial preacher radicalized the voters to not vote for non-Muslim candidates in Jakarta’s gubernatorial elections a couple of years back. The elections were held to elect the Governor of Jakarta for a five-year term.

Even in the run-up to the elections, radical Muslim groups such as the Islamic Defenders Front and Hizbut Tahrir argued that the Quran prohibited Muslims from voting for a non-Muslim. Consequently, Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, alias Ahok, an ethnic Chinese and Christian candidate, lost to former Minister of Education and Culture Anies Baswedan, a Muslim, by nearly 58% votes.

Mr. Ahok, the second non-Muslim Governor of Jakarta, was sentenced to two years in prison for “blasphemy” when he critiqued by saying those making such (only Muslims winning) arguments were misleading Muslims. Naik gained a lot of traction in Indonesia when Republika, a national daily newspaper that has a strong readership among the Muslims in Indonesia routinely published Naik’s hate speeches.

As recent as a week back, the security agencies in India flagged an Indonesia based non-government organization (NGO) with links to terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT)’s charity wing Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) for raising funds online in the name of North-East Delhi’s communal riots that were triggered in late February. The funds were being collected using the Delhi riots as the excuse and using images and messages on the Internet as propaganda tools, and being routed to India from Dubai through the hawala route.

Presumably, the money was to be funneled to ‘Muslims only’ who had lost their family members, were injured or lost their property in the riots that left 53 people dead and more than 500 injured.

Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, though Muslim majority, have deep affiliation to their Hindu cultural roots. People in these countries identify themselves with their Hindu culture rather than Islam. However, over the recent years, radical Islamists have taken grip among the society and Zakir Naik is among them.

Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) has been a part of the Kerala Module in the country for recruiting ISIS operatives and brainwashing them. The recent report of widowed-wives of ISIS operatives who fled to Afghanistan and Syria and now wanting to return to India had all been turned to Islamist extremists by Naik’s NGO.

It is important to note that Naik runs a YouTube channel where he posts his propaganda videos brainwashing the audience. Zakir Naik, who is constantly on the radar of Indian agencies has been staying in Malaysia as a Permanent Resident (PR) under the tutelage of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed. As usual, Naik has spewed his venom in Malaysia too. Mahathir and his anti-India, anti-Kashmir rhetorics at the UNGA last year and on subsequent occasions have been covered well and Naik had a pivotal role to play in them.

According to Associated Press, authorities in Malaysia have arrested more than 160 people in the past two years for suspected ties to ISIS. Militancy and terrorism have seen a steady rise in Malaysia over the years. Between 2013 and 2016, around 250 people were arrested because of their ties with the Islamic State. With Mahathir’s Islamization drive, religious and ethnic chauvinism is on a further rise in the country.

A public university in Malaysia went a notch above and declared Naik as ‘icon of the Islamic world’ in a university question paper. A question in Universiti Malaysia Perlis examination paper on Ethnic Relations reads, “ZakirNaik is one of the icons of the Islamic world. He is very active in spreading true Islam and following the Quran and Sunnah of Rasulullah SAW. He is able to reason and to answer every question that is asked to him. However, in Malaysia, he is no longer allowed to deliver his preaching. In your opinion, as a Malaysian, why does this happen?”

With Mahathir gone and a change in regime, there might be a renewed effort by New Delhi to get Zakir Naik extradited. There have already been voices in favor of deporting Naik to India within Malaysia’s political circles- something that might get a major shot in the arm with an anti-Zakir Naik politician assuming the Prime Ministership of the country.

It is imperative and need of the hour to nail Naik at the earliest. A country like Indonesia which has emerged as a key maritime security partner for Delhi in the Indian Ocean Region and a pillar in its Indo-Pacific vision cannot be lost to whimsies of a radical Islamic preacher. India and Indonesia share cultural heritage that dates back thousands of years and therefore some madmen can not endanger the values shared by both nations.

Islamist radicalisation is a menace that needs to be nipped in the bud swiftly by the Indonesian government otherwise the results can be catastrophic.



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