Zakir Naik

Zakir Naik is an Islamist televangelist who runs Peace TV and is accused of in part influencing the July 2016 Dhaka attackers in Bangladesh to carry out their terrorist attack. Naik follows a conservative brand of Wahhabi Islam and has allegedly expressed sympathy for terrorists.Ishaan Tharoor, “The Saudi king gave a prize to an Islamic scholar who says 9/11 was an ‘inside job’,” Washington Post, March 4, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/03/04/the-saudi-king-gave-a-prize-to-an-islamic-scholar-who-says-911-was-an-inside-job/. He has called 9/11 an “inside job”Zakir Naik, “Indian Muslim Cleric Zakir Naik: 9/11 Was Carried Out by George Bush Himself,” Middle East Media Research Institute, July 31, 2008, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1846.htm. and has asserted that apostasy is treason.Ben Hubbard, “Saudi Award Goes to Muslim Televangelist Who Harshly Criticizes U.S.,” New York Times, March 2, 2015, http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/world/middleeast/saudi-award-goes-to-dr-zakir-naik-a-muslim-televangelist-who-harshly-criticizes-us.html?_r=0. In October 2017, India’s counterterrorism agency accused Naik of insulting various religions and recruiting for ISIS.Bharti Jain and Neeraj Chauhan, “NIA charges Zakir Naik for radicalization,” Times of India, October 27, 2017, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-charges-zakir-naik-for-radicalisation/articleshow/61253230.cms.

Peace TV is a self-described 24-hour Islamic International TV channel with the tagline “The Solution for Humanity.”“Dr Zakir Naik – President, IRF,” Islamic Research Foundation, accessed May 29, 2015, http://www.irf.net/drzakirnaik.html;
“Peace TV,” accessed June 1, 2015, http://www.peacetv.tv/;
“Banned in India, Peace TV Net Buys Berth on TWC in N.Y.,” Multichannel News, April 20, 2015, http://www.multichannel.com/banned-india-peace-tv-net-buys-berth-twc-ny/389891#sthash.wgxEJbRm.dpuf.
The Peace TV channel broadcasts from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, and even IndiaIrfan Al-Alawi, “Zakir Naik: ‘Peace TV’’s Calls for Terrorism” Gatestone Institute, July 1, 2010, http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/1396/zakir-naik-peace-tv-calls-for-terrorism;
Himanshi Dhawan, “No licence to air in India, but no stopping Peace TV,” Times of India (Mumbai), July 7, 2016, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/No-licence-to-air-in-India-but-no-stopping-Peace-TV/articleshow/53088604.cms.
despite being banned in India in 2012.“Government puts 24 foreign 'hate channels' on notice for showing anti-India TV shows after intelligence alert,” Daily Mail India (London), December 5 2012, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/indiahome/indianews/article-2243584/Government-puts-24-foreign-hate-channels-notice-showing-anti-India-TV-shows-intelligence-alert.html#ixzz3bWymCrFU. The United Kingdom and Canada have both banned Naik from entering the country.“Islamist Preacher Zakir Naik, Barred from U.K. and Canada – An Ideological Profile,” The Cyber & Jihad Lab- A MEMRI Project, accessed June 1, 2015, http://cjlab.memri.org/uncategorized/islamist-preacher-zakir-naik-barred-from-u-k-and-canada-an-ideological-profile/. However, Naik continues to speak internationally, including in the United States.Ishaan Tharoor, “The Saudi king gave a prize to an Islamic scholar who says 9/11 was an ‘inside job’,” Washington Post, March 4, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/03/04/the-saudi-king-gave-a-prize-to-an-islamic-scholar-who-says-911-was-an-inside-job/. In May 2015, Peace TV began airing in the United States on Time Warner Cable’s Manhattan system.“Banned in India, Peace TV Net Buys Berth on TWC in N.Y.,” Multichannel News, April 20, 2015, http://www.multichannel.com/banned-india-peace-tv-net-buys-berth-twc-ny/389891#sthash.wgxEJbRm.dpuf.

Peace TV English launched in January 2006 and is believed to be the most watched global religious Satellite TV channel, with approximately 100 million viewers. According to its website, Peace TV is broadcast in more than 125 countries worldwide.“About us,” Peace TV, http://www.peacetv.tv/en-gb/about-us/. The satellite network has expanded with an Urdu channel in 2009, a Bangla channel in 2011, and a Chinese-language channel in December 2015. However, Peace TV was banned in Bangladesh after the July 1, 2016, terrorist attack on a café in the country’s capital, Dhaka, due to reports that some of the attackers may have been inspired by Naik and Peace TV.“Bangladesh to ban Islamic TV channel after Dhaka attack,” Al Jazeera, July 11, 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/07/bangladesh-ban-islamic-tv-channel-dhaka-attack-160711074444953.html.

In 1991, Naik founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai, India, a non-profit that seeks to promote the “proper presentation, understanding and appreciation of Islam.”“Dr Zakir Naik – President, IRF,” Islamic Research Foundation, accessed May 29, 2015, http://www.irf.net/drzakirnaik.html. According to U.K. government documents, the IRF raised approximately $1.7 million in the fiscal year ending on January 31, 2014, and spent approximately $1.56 million on Peace TV.“Banned in India, Peace TV Net Buys Berth on TWC in N.Y.,” Multichannel News, April 20, 2015, http://www.multichannel.com/banned-india-peace-tv-net-buys-berth-twc-ny/389891#sthash.wgxEJbRm.dpuf. Through the IRF, Naik proselytizes an interpretation of Islam that has been accused of being homophobic, misogynistic, anti-Western, and anti-Semitic.Ishaan Tharoor, “The Saudi king gave a prize to an Islamic scholar who says 9/11 was an ‘inside job’,” Washington Post, March 4, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/03/04/the-saudi-king-gave-a-prize-to-an-islamic-scholar-who-says-911-was-an-inside-job/.

The IRF in Mumbai is further accused of incubating terrorist plots. IRF librarian Feroz Deshmukh belonged to a militant Islamist cell that executed the 2006 simultaneous bombings of two trains in Mumbai. His co-conspirators, Rahil Ahmed Sheikh and Zabiuddin Ansari, repeatedly met Deshmukh at IRF offices in Mumbai. All three men are believed to be members of the internationally-sanctioned Pakistani terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).Praveen Swami, “Shattered certitudes and new realities,” Hindu (Chennai), July 8, 2007, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article1868902.ece. LeT includes IRF as an approved Islamic resource on the website of its charitable arm, Jamaat ud-Dawa.Praveen Swami, “Shattered certitudes and new realities,” Hindu (Chennai), July 8, 2007, http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/article1868902.ece.

In 2013, Naik was named Islamic Personality of the Year by the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.“Zakir Naik wins Saudi prize for service to Islam,” Dawn (Karachi), March 2, 2015, http://www.dawn.com/news/1166900. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud awarded Naik with an International Prize for Service to Islam.Ishaan Tharoor, “The Saudi king gave a prize to an Islamic scholar who says 9/11 was an ‘inside job’,” Washington Post, March 4, 2015, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2015/03/04/the-saudi-king-gave-a-prize-to-an-islamic-scholar-who-says-911-was-an-inside-job/. The United States denounced Naik’s receipt of the award, stating, “The views [Naik] expressed in the past on Jews and 9/11 are reprehensible.”Carol Morello, “U.S. denounces award-winning cleric who called 9/11 an ‘inside job,’” Washington Post, March 6, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/us-denounces-award-winning-cleric-who-called-911-inside-job/2015/03/06/aeb3010b-a3d5-4bdd-95f4-11402a8465f1_story.html?utm_term=.5ba38158d38c.

On July 1, 2016, at least five gunmen stormed a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh, opening fire and taking hostages in a terrorist attack that left 22 people dead.“Bangladesh attack: Police say hostage mistaken for gunman,” BBC News, July 6, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36721091;
Ellen Barry and Maher Sattar, “‘We’ll Grow Again’: Bangladesh Café Attacked by Terrorists Reopens,” New York Times, January 11, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/world/asia/bangladesh-terrorist-attack-cafe.html.
After the Dhaka attack, reports surfaced that Naik had inspired some of the attackers.“Dhaka Attackers Inspired By Controversial Indian Cleric Zakir Naik, Says Report,” NDTV, July 5, 2016, http://www.ndtv.com/world-news/dhaka-attackers-followed-controversial-indian-islamic-preacher-zakir-naik-report-1428151;
“Dhaka killers followed radical Indian, British preachers,” Hindu (Chennai), July 5, 2016, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/Dhaka-killers-followed-radical-Indian-British-preachers/article14471086.ece;
“3 terrorists involved in Dhaka attack admirers of Zakir Naik: Home ministry,” Hindustan Times (New Delhi), November 16, 2016, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/3-terrorists-involved-in-dhaka-attack-admirers-of-zakir-naik-home-ministry/story-JSlYfyhyFUaBCTMbjWlVqM.html.
In particular, one of the assailants was known to have propagated a statement from Naik “urging all Muslims to be terrorists” on Facebook.“Inspiration for Dhaka attacker came from Mumbai-based preacher Zakir Naik,” FirstPost, July 5, 2016, http://www.firstpost.com/world/two-dhaka-attackers-followed-islamic-state-propagandists-on-social-media-2874300.html.

After the attack, Bangladesh’s government deemed Peace TV inconsistent with the country’s constitution and culture and banned it. “Bangladesh to ban Islamic TV Channel, Peace TV,” BBC News, July 11, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36761486. Naik denied that he inspired any terrorist activity and instead asserted that he is aihe iming that terrorist attackspreacher Zakir Naik,"ed the country.issued against the IRF., Bangladesh.and insteadi “messenger of peace,” blaming Indian media for its negative portrayal of him. Nonetheless, the Indian government began investigating his involvement in the attack.“Bangladesh attack: Police say hostage mistaken for gunman,” BBC News, July 6, 2016, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-36721091; Ellen Barry and Maher Sattar, “‘We’ll Grow Again’: Bangladesh Café Attacked by Terrorists Reopens,” New York Times, January 11, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/11/world/asia/bangladesh-terrorist-attack-cafe.html. It was not the first accusation leveled against Naik. U.S.-based al-Qaeda member Najibullah Zazi—indicted on charges of plotting to bomb the New York City subway in 2009—reportedly enjoyed watching YouTube videos of Naik’s sermons. Zazi’s friend asserted that Naik was “[Zazi’s] inspiration.”Michael Wilson, “From Smiling Coffee Vendor to Terror Suspect,” New York Times, September 25, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/26/nyregion/26profile.html?pagewanted=all.

As a result of the 2016 Dhaka investigations, India’s counterterrorism agency, the National Investigation Agency (NIA), filed an official police complaint against Naik, and the government imposed a five-year ban on the IRF in November 2016 under the country’s Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.“Special Tribunal upholds ban on Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation, says it’s in national interest,” Indian Express (Noida), May 11, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/zakir-naik-islamic-research-foundation-ban-muslim-ngo-tribunal4651500/. In April 2017, the NIA issued an arrest warrant for Naik for terrorism-related charges. India’s Enforcement Directorate also issued additional charges against the IRF for money laundering.Varinder Bhatia, “NIA moves to revoke Zakir Naik’s passport, probe his money trail,” Indian Express (Noida), June 9, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/nia-moves-to-revoke-zakir-naiks-passport-probe-his-money-trail-4695667/;
Saif Khalid, “Zakir Naik: Why India wants to arrest the preacher,” Al Jazeera, May 21, 2017, http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/india-arrest-preacher-zakir-naik-170521055023564.html.
India’s News 18 reported in September 2016 that Naik deliberately canceled plans to return to the country in July 2016 after hearing of the government’s intent to arrest him.“Zakir Naik ‘Escaped’ Arrest in July by Cancelling Return,” News 18, September 2, 2016, http://www.news18.com/news/india/zakir-naik-escaped-arrest-in-july-by-cancelling-return-1288738.html.

In May 2017, the NIA filed a request for an International Police Organization (Interpol) notice against Naik in the hopes of curbing his movements abroad. Sources report that Naik has been traveling between Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, and Malaysia.Varinder Bhatia, “NIA moves to revoke Zakir Naik’s passport, probe his money trail,” Indian Express (Noida), June 9, 2017, http://indianexpress.com/article/india/nia-moves-to-revoke-zakir-naiks-passport-probe-his-money-trail-4695667/;
Neeraj Chauhan, “NIA to seek Interpol notice against Zakir Naik,” Times of India (Mumbai), April 15, 2017, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-to-seek-interpol-notice-against-zakir-naik/articleshow/58188174.cms.
Naik holds Permanent Resident status in Malaysia, and has reportedly applied for citizenship there.“Zakir Naik, wanted on terror charges, seeking Malaysian citizenship: NIA sources,” Hindustan Times (New Delhi), May 30, 2017, http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/islamic-preacher-zakir-naik-wanted-in-india-on-terror-charges-trying-for-malaysian-citizenship-nia-sources/story-fnVbBvWN4KaCOsupXH7LdM.html;
“India issues second arrest warrant for Zakir Naik,” Star (Petaling Jaya), April 21, 2017, http://www.thestar.com.my/news/regional/2017/04/21/zakir-naik-second-arrest-warrant/.
Sources also report that Naik was granted Saudi citizenship in May 2017 to protect him from arrest by Interpol.“Indian preacher granted Saudi citizenship,” Middle East Monitor, May 19, 2017, https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170519-indian-terror-suspect-granted-saudi-citizenship/;
“Dr. Zakir Naik granted Saudi citizenship,” Samaa TV, May 21, 2017, https://www.samaa.tv/international/2017/05/dr-zakir-naik-granted-saudi-citizenship/.
As of June 2017, the NIA is allegedly in the process of revoking Naik’s Indian passport.Jitendra Bahadur Singh, “NIA set to revoke passport of IRF president Dr Zakir Naik,” India Today (Noida), June 10, 2017, http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/nia-dr-zakir-naik-irf-islamic-research-foundation-criminal-case-indian-passport-malaysian-citizenship/1/974881.html. In October 2017, the NIA accused Naik of inciting youth to join terrorist organizations and charged him under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act with heading an “unlawful association.”Bharti Jain and Neeraj Chauhan, “NIA charges Zakir Naik for radicalization,” Times of India, October 27, 2017, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-charges-zakir-naik-for-radicalisation/articleshow/61253230.cms. According to the NIA, Naik deliberately insulted Hindus, Christians, and non-Wahhabi Islamic sects, and influenced recruited to join ISIS. The NIA also accused the IRF of insulting various religious groups and promoting enmity between them.Bharti Jain and Neeraj Chauhan, “NIA charges Zakir Naik for radicalization,” Times of India, October 27, 2017, https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/nia-charges-zakir-naik-for-radicalisation/articleshow/61253230.cms.

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