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Preacher Called 'Zakir Naik of Kerala' Cries Foul After State Shutters His School

The school was in the headlines recently after 21 people went missing from Kerala to reportedly join the ISIS. Among the missing were Abdul Rasheed, who the police suspects to be the ring leader of this group, who was employed at the Peace School.

Aishwarya Kumar | News18.com

Updated:January 5, 2018, 10:30 PM IST
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Preacher Called 'Zakir Naik of Kerala' Cries Foul After State Shutters His School
MM Akbar is known as Kerala’s Zakir Naik thanks to his fiery speeches that enjoys wide circulation in social media. (Facebook)
New Delhi: A day after the Kerala government ordered the closure of Peace International School near Kochi for teaching objectionable and extremist content, Islamic preacher MM Akbar, who is also the MD of the school, accused the CPM-led government of targeting a minority institution that laid emphasis on “national integration and social inclusion.”

The school was in the headlines recently after 21 people went missing from Kerala to reportedly join the ISIS in Afghanistan and Syria. Among the missing were Abdul Rasheed, who the police suspects to be the ring leader of this group, who was employed at the Peace School. His wife Yasmin Ahmad, also missing, had earlier taught at the school.

Akbar is known as Kerala’s Zakir Naik thanks to his fiery speeches that enjoy wide circulation in social media.

Akbar told News18 from Qatar that he hasn’t received any formal order yet to shut down the school. “But if it is indeed the case, it is unfortunate that it has happened. The move is aimed at shutting down an institute that is completely lawful and was inspiring students towards national integration and social inclusion. It is sad that the government is targeting such an institute. Yes, there are religious teachings that happen in the schools that are not part of CBSE, but it is the same religious education that any other minority-school in the state imparts,” he said.

Peace International School’s curriculum allegedly encouraged students to give up their lives for Islam. A case was registered against the school in 2016 for teaching objectionable content to the students and for promoting enmity among different groups on the basis of religion.

“The whole controversy is around one chapter of the book published by Burooj Realizations. Now, one must know that we only used books that were available in that area. We didn’t think there was anything highly dangerous in those books. And if at all there are things are like this, we don’t teach the children those things. And now, since the government had issues with it, we stopped using it. Even after that, if the government is still shutting our school, it is unfortunate,” he said.

He said that they decided to go ahead with the book because it was an “activity-oriented textbook aimed at enhancing children’s creativity.”

“We focus on skill-based, activity based teaching rather than just restricting to books. I don’t why the government ordered for the school to be shut, but I think it’s been done so that people from the Muslim community don’t get a shot at entering mainstream. That is the only logical conclusion I can make,” Akbar told News18.

About the controversial portions of a class II textbook, he claimed it was only about “martyrdom and what to do when someone embraces Islam.”

“Certainly, it can be misappropriated considering the young minds that class II students have. Which is why we decided not to teach it to such young children when the government asked us,” he said. One of the objectionable questions in the said book asked students to state what they would advise a friend who had converted to Islam.

Akbar claimed the curriculum was not exactly “religious.”

“We started Peace schools with the aim of nurturing children into young, good people. More than 50% of our teachers are Muslims and we impart subjects like English, Science etc which have no religious connotations. We are working towards holistic development of students, which includes teaching them about faith too. But there is no religious ‘education’ involved,” he told News18.

“Out of the 500-odd people associated with our foundation, 2 people are said to have pledged allegiance to ISIS. How does that matter to us? These 2 people who are said to have left for ISIS are also part of a larger society; they must have had some other influence. We don’t know that. We, at our organization, have always preached and taken an anti-terrorism stand,” he said.

Commenting on the radicalization of youth in the state, the controversial Islamic preacher said that the there was a very small percentage from the lakhs of Keralites who had been radicalized. “There are other organizations that have Muslims too and they are associated with organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami, Kerala Nadvathul Mujahideen. Out of the lakhs of people in the state, the government says only 21 have left to join terrorism. That is very miniscule number. Terrorism is the cancer that destroys society. More than it being harmful for India, it is more harmful for Muslim community,” he said, adding that Muslims have always supported the government in its anti-terrorism programs and decisions.

Akbar said he hasn’t decided when to return to India. “The legal proceedings were going on well without me,” he said.

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| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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