[Prime Minister Narendra Modi receiving Saudi Arabia's highest civilian honour from King Salman]
The ‘Media Trial’ of Dr. Zakir Naik, started after The Daily Star report, which the newspaper itself has backtracked extending unconditional apology to the Islamic preacher, is ending up as sadistic propaganda against Saudi Arabia and other Muslim preachers including Ahmed Deedat – the Indian origin South African expert in comparative religions against whom no one had in the past shown the kind of abhorrence which Arnab Goswami exhibited during a recent Times Now TV show.
Dr. Zakir Naik is inspired by Ahmed Deedat – the man best known as a Muslim missionary, who held numerous inter-religious public debates with evangelical Christians as well as video lectures on Islam, Christianity and the Bible. And, according to Arnab Goswami and his fellow panelist present for the show, Ahmed Deedat’s center in South Africa received donations from Saudi Arabia and Bin Laden family. It is hence, they claim, one more proof to show Zakir Naik’s link with terrorism. Great logic!
But, before jumping to such a conclusion, will Arnab clarify from when receiving funds from Bin Laden family has become a crime? That too, for a South African national against whom there is nothing in hand to establish or prove that he violated any rules while setting up his center in South Africa?
That Osama Bin Laden has been charged for his role in 9/11 and other terror attacks is in everybody’s knowledge. But, how and when any court or our own Indian government or agencies held guilty the entire Bin Laden family?
Doesn’t Arnab know Bin Laden is one of the biggest groups in Saudi Arabia which hires among others a large number of Indian citizens? If donation from the Bin Laden family is a crime what about those Indians who are working for Bin Laden?
I am not here to defend Bin Laden family, Zakir Naik or Ahmed Deedat. I defer on many things which Naik preaches. About Deedat, I read only after Arnab mentioned him during his TV show. As for Bin Laden family, I am still searching to know if anybody held guilty the entire family for the acts of Osama bin Laden.
Arnab does not have problems with Bin Laden family alone. He repeatedly asked questions about Zakir Naik’s funding from Saudi Arabia. Only Zakir Naik, and perhaps Arnab, knows how much fund his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), Peace TV and other trusts run by him received from Saudi Arabia. But, there are many Muslim organisations in India openly claiming that they have received funds from Saudi Arabia – from individuals as well as through government channels. And, they say, all these funds are received well within the Indian law and after fulfilling the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) norms.
If the claim by the organisations that they received financial aid from Saudi Arabia well within the Indian law is wrong then it must be asked how many of such organisations have been slapped cases for violating the law. It should also be asked how many organisations have been booked for utilizing the funds received from Saudi Arabia for the purpose other than they were intended for – more specifically for “radicalizing Muslim youths”, as regularly claimed by the media.
If there is none, then who is Arnab Goswami to question and defame Muslims in India and target Saudi Arabia for its donations?
Saudi Arabia is the biggest worldwide donor on a per-capita basis. The Saudi Fund was set up by a royal decree in October 1974, to stimulate economic growth in developing nations. In the next four years it gave soft loans totaling $3.1 billion to 51 countries, many of them with the lowest per-capita income bracket in the world. Almost 60 percent of approved loans earmarked for transport, power and water projects. By 1979, the fund accounted for about 30 percent of the kingdom's foreign economic aid, according to Aramco Magazine.
After the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and the resulting massive tsunamis, the Saudi government gave $30 million in aid to aid the victims, including a $5 million private donation by King Fahd (Saudis in total, including citizens, donated more than $80 million), according to BBC.
In the aftermath of the 2005 Kashmir earthquake, Saudi Arabia donated over US$3.3 million, more than any other country and promised an additional $573 million, also the maximum amount of money pledged.
Saudi Arabia’s efforts have been applauded by all and sundry. In 2005, Saudi Arabia's role in providing economic and financial support to regional nations, and developing countries in general, was appreciated by then Managing Director of IMF Rodrigo de Rato. Aranab says he has right to question. Question Rodrigo de Rato and the next moment you will be shown doors by Times Now bosses.
Besides this, India has a long history of business and trade relations with oil producing kingdom. BJP leader Najma Heptullah has noted that trade and cultural links between ancient India and Arabia date back to third millennium BC. Moreover, India Muslims have cordial relationship with Saudi Arabia long before the oil boom in the Middle East – an indicator that relation of Indian Muslims with Saudi Arabia is beyond trade and business.
Since the 1990s, India's economic liberalisation has helped bolster trade with Saudi Arabia, which annually supplies to India nearly 175 million barrels (25 million metric tonnes) of crude oil, or a quarter of its needs, according to a 2008 report by BBC.
Saudi Arabia is also home to more than 3 million Indian workers - the largest expatriate community in the Kingdom and is the ‘most preferred community’, according to Indian Embassy latest figures. Arnab and the likes should note that majority of the migrants to Saudi Arabia from India who hold well paid white collar jobs are not Muslims, they are non-Muslims.
During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recent visit to the Kingdom too important MoUs were signed between the two countries. Among other things, Delhi and Riyadh agreed on the need to intensify bilateral defence cooperation, through exchange of visits by military personnel and experts, conduct of joint military exercises, exchange of visits of ships and aircrafts and supply of arms and ammunition and their joint development. Besides this, Saudi Arabia conferred on Prime Minister Modi its highest civilian award.
Unlike the strong ties and above mentioned important MoUs between the two countries, a section of media considered closed to the present government in New Delhi is trying to project Saudi Arabia as if it is an enemy state, which is allowing anti-India activities and funding from its soil.
If the media is right in its claim then how can India sign important agreements, including MoUs on bilateral defence and military cooperation and intelligence sharing, with such a country? How can the prime minister of the country accept Saudi civilian award if whatever the local media claiming is correct?
But, if whatever the local media is claiming is wrong, and in the absence of the needed ground and evidence they are definitely wrong, the government should intervene so that the sadistic malicious propaganda against a friendly country is stopped. This is necessary not only because India is known for honoring bilateral relations but also because of the rich Indian culture which teaches us to respect our friends.
[The writer, Aleem Faizee, is Founder Editor of ummid.com. He can be contacted via e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org]