He has 3 million subscribers on YouTube, 593k followers on Instagram, and has delivered thousands of lectures on Islam worldwide. But Zakir Naik, the 57-year-old popular Islamic preacher, is wanted by Indian authorities, banned from entering the UK, Canada, and Bangladesh, and on the run since 2016.
Recently, the preacher made headlines after his controversial statement during a lecture in Oman – “Hindus in India love me so much that….“
But before we dive into the reality of the alleged ‘radical preacher,’ it’s important to know – Who is Zakir Naik? Why is he called the ‘radical preacher’? And What charges does Zakir Naik face in India?
Here’s an explainer:
Who is Zakir Naik?
Zakir Abdul Karim Naik was born and raised in Mumbai, India, where he completed his education with an MBBS degree. His interest in socio-religious activities grew in his 20s, after which he founded the now-outlawed Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in India.
Zakir Naik also founded a Dubai-based broadcast, Peace TV, a channel now prohibited in the UK, Canada, India, and Bangladesh. And he is especially popular amongst Muslim youth, primarily due to his trademarks, Western suit, skullcap attire, and English lectures.
Over the years, Naik has become a subject of global attention after one of the attackers in the 2016 Dhaka attack (that killed 22 people) claimed to be inspired by his speeches.
Now 57 years old, the Islamic preacher left India in 2016 amidst accusations of promoting religious hatred and money laundering. Mr. Naik, however, denied the claim saying his remarks were taken out of context and distorted.
What charges does Dr. Naik face in India?
Soon after the Dhaka attack, India’s counter-terrorism activity had filed a complaint against Zakir Naik. He was accused of unlawful activities and of stirring religious hate.
Today, Zakir Naik is wanted in India for instigating terrorism, inciting religious tensions, and money laundering (millions of dollars). However, the court judgment delivered by Judge Manmohan Singh halted the ED from seeing Naik’s properties drawing similarities between Zakir and Asaram Bapu (self-styled spiritual guru now behind bars) in January 2018.
However, after the accusations, Naik fled India in 2016 and has been living in Malaysia ever since with permanent residency.
In 2017, India revoked Naik’s passport and asked Malaysia to deport Naik in 2018. But, somewhere in between, even Malaysia banned Zakir from delivering public speeches after continuously trying to stir up religious feelings and making racial statements against the country’s Hindu and Chinese minorities.
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Why is Zakir Naik called the ”Radical Preacher” in India?
Zakir Naik’s name often makes healing for his provocative and controversial statement. For example, at instances, Zakir supported suicide attacks in his speech while citing Salam Audah.
He has also defended temple bombing in Pakistan, arguing that Islamic nations should forbid saying, “How can we allow this (building of churches or temples in Islamic states) when their religion is wrong and when they are worshiping the wrong?”
His views on 9/11, homosexuality, girls’ education, and more have constantly kept him in the spotlight, giving him the title of ‘radical preacher.’
Where is Naik Today?
Recently, Zakir was spotted daring India to arrest the country’s many godmen. Recorded on camera, he can be seen covering Indian Hindu women. It was at this lecture that he was found saying:
“The problem is that the majority of Hindus in India love me. They love me so much that it is creating a problem for the vote bank. “Zakir Naik
While all this was happening in Oman, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said it was talking to the government of Oman to extradite Zakir so that he could be sent back to India to face justice. But the latest report states that Naik’s work in Oman is done, and he is returning to Malaysia.
Zakir Naik & The Indian Government – Bottom Line
According to Indian officials, Zakir Naik is a nuisance and a threat to any country’s religious harmony.
“With his large following, he is just a speech away from promoting riots and acts of terror, and yet he remains a celebrity in a certain part of the world – the Gulf.”Wion, indian news channel
However, despite Indian authorities’ immense efforts to apprehend Zakir Naik and seek his extradition from Malaysia, Qatar, and Oman, International police refused to grant New Delhi’s requirements for a Ref Notice against him (with the most recent being in 2021).
Moreover, Interpol dismissed the NIA’s charge sheet against Dr. Naik, stating that soliciting donations during speeches and endorsing a religion does not amount to any criminal offense.