There has been justifiable and legitimate anger and concern over the television speech of Mumbai-based Zakir ik that urged “all Muslims to become terrorists”. As expected, ik has claimed that his statement was taken out of context and that he was totally against terrorism and the killing of innocent people. Before we take a closer look at mischievous statements like this one that are invariably claimed to have been taken out of context or “misreported” later on, it may be useful to look at our political and administrative dispensation that permits all kinds of authorized and uuthorized television programmes to be aired. It is imperative that the government should keep a check on which of the TV channels are licensed and which are not. Equally important is the need to monitor television programmes that not authorized to be shown in India. All over India, there are cable operators that air such uuthorized television networks. Ironically enough, Zakir ik’s TV channel that threatened to cause breach of peace on account of his statement on terrorists, is called ‘Peace TV’! It is registered in Dubai and does not have the required clearances to downlink in India, but some cable operators offer it nevertheless.
If the Information and Broadcasting Ministry seems to be a trifle careless about the monitoring of the TV channels that operate in India without authorization, it is perhaps even more clueless about the kind of programmes aired by these TV channels. In a country where preaching by evangelists goes on unfettered in temples, mosques and churches, there is hardly any need to extend it to TV channels as well. There is somehow the belief that even in addition to the preaching that goes on unfettered in our temples, mosques, gurdwaras and churches it is perfectly in order to have such preaching through our TV channels as well, despite our experience that commul hatred and violence are often stoked in our places of worship. If anything, one of the ways of ensuring that our TV channels are not used for stoking hatred and commul violence is to have a law that TV channels shall not be used for any kind of evangelist preaching or discourses. What Zakir ik now claims is that the TV clippings of what he had said (he cannot deny it now because the TV clipping cannot lie) was presented out of context. He submits that he had said that a terrorist is a person who terrorizes someone. He says that he had given the example that a policeman terrorizes a robber. So, for a robber, a policeman is a terrorist, he had apparently said, adding in that context that “every Muslim should be a terrorist to the anti-social element”. Anyone can see how bizarre the argument of a policeman being a terrorist to a robber is, and how unlikely it is that he had merely urged every Muslim to be a terrorist only to “the anti-social element”. One trouble with TV recordings is that while one cannot deny what was said (and aired), it is always possible to claim that one had said something that was not broadcast or was deleted. The claim that he had urged Muslims to be terrorists only to anti-social elements is obviously an allegation like the one that what he had said was broadcast out of context. It is something in the same category as Pervez Musharraf making a plea for jihad in Pakistan and then trying to ratiolize his statement to mean a demand for a jihad only against poverty and ignorance. It is hardly surprising that after ik’s statement, the Maharashtra government should have ordered a probe into his speeches. Pressure is also being mounted on the Centre to ban ik and his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). The need of the hour is a ban on all uuthorized TV channels and the use of TV channels for any kind of so-called evangelist preaching that stokes hatred and commul strife. There is no need for evangelism on TV; we have more than what we need of it in our places of worship.