India Bans ZakirNaik’s NGO for Five Years

New Delhi: The Indian government last Tuesday banned Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), the NGO of preacher Zakir Naik, as an ‘unlawful organization’ for five years with immediate effect. The ban has been enforced under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) and approved at a meeting of the Union cabinet.
TOI had earlier reported that the government intended to ban IRF citing Naik’s “objectionable and subversive” speeches, the criminal cases filed against him and other members of IRF in Mumbai and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra and Kerala, as well as his “dubious” links with Peace TV that allegedly features “communal” and “pro-jihad” content as grounds for such a ban.
An ‘unlawful’ association is different from a ‘terrorist’ organization listed under UAPA. The law defines ‘unlawful association’ as any organization “which has for its object any activity that is punishable under Section 153A or 153B of IPC” — provisions dealing with threat to social and communal harmony.
Declaration of IRF as ‘unlawful’ under Section 3 of the UAPA will force closure of its offices and interests across the country.
According to sources in the home ministry, there was a solid case for proscribing IRF based on inputs and material shared by the Maharashtra government and the central intelligence agencies.
There are FIRs against Naik and other IRF members under Section 153A and 153B of IPC in two police stations of Mumbai, one in Kerala and two in Sindhudurg.
There are several of Naik’s speeches compiled by Intelligence Bureau including where he extols Bin Laden, claiming that 80pc of Indians had not been Hindus as Muslims could have converted them “if we wanted” by sword, justifies suicide bombings, claims Golden Temple may not be sacred as Makkah and makes objectionable comments against Hindu gods.
Most of these speeches form the content on Peace TV, a part of which was put together by Mumbai-based Harmony Media Pvt. Ltd that once had Naik and his wife as directors. Large money transfers have been detected from UK-based charity IRF International, run by Naik, to Harmony Media.
As per the cabinet note proposing action against IRF, which incorporated legal opinion favoring a ban on the NGO for disturbing communal harmony and attempting forced conversions, Naik has been promoting enmity between religious groups and inspiring Muslim youth in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts.
“Such divisive ideology is against India’s pluralistic and secular social fabric and it may be viewed as causing disaffection against India and thereby making it an unlawful activity,” states the draft cabinet note accessed earlier by TOI.
“If urgent steps are not taken [to ban IRF], there is every possibility of more youth being motivated and radicalized to commit terrorist acts,” it warns. – Dawn/Times of India

Americans Neared a Voter-Turnout Record — Here's How 2016 Compares to Past Elections
By Rebecca Harrington and Skye Gould
Business Insider

Historic division brought out voters in droves this presidential election. More than 46 million people had already voted before Election Day, breaking early voting records and fueling Democrats' confidence in clinching the presidency.
But by the time most of the votes had been counted, it became clear that nearly every poll's expectation to crown Hillary Clinton as the 45th president was drastically wrong, and Republican Donald Trump would be heading to the White House. And that possible record-breaking turnout had a lot more asterisks attached to it.
The data available Thursday afternoon show over 131 million ballots had been counted, according to the United States Elections Project — just below the all-time high.
While results were still trickling in, and the overall turnout could end up being higher, that preliminary total suggests that only 57% of eligible voters actually voted this year.
For some Americans, the two names at the top of the ticket were so unpalatable that they opted out of voting for president at all, instead focusing on down-ballot races. In 14 states, more people voted for the senate races than voted for the presidency.
The highest overall voter turnout was 133 million Americans in the 2008 contest between Barack Obama and John McCain, according to the American Presidency Project. This year's turnout would have to surpass that mark to set the new record.
While the overall turnout in 2008 and 2016 sounds impressive, neither saw the highest percentage of voters that ever hit the polls.
That was in the race between Democrat Samuel J. Tilden and Republican Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, when 83% eligible voters turned out. That election was similarly contentious to this year's, with Hayes squeaking out a victory of 185-184 electoral votesafter a lengthy political and legal battle.
Of course, that was before women had the right to vote, and when minorities were still routinely disenfranchised, so that high percentage mostly applies to white men.
While 2008's overall total sounds impressive, only 62% of eligible voters turned out to vote that year — closer to 2016's level, but still low compared to other industrialized countries.
The reason why 2008 and 2016 appear to have record-breaking turnout is because the US population has increased, so there are more voters overall. But when you look at voter turnout as a percentage, it's actually decreased or stagnated in the last century.




Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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