Highlights

  • A look at controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik
  • Naik back in news for sermons in Qatar during FIFA World Cup
  • Naik faces criminal cases in India; taking refuge in Malaysia

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Zakir Naik: why Interpol rejected India's pleas; what he said on Hindu temples, Osama bin Laden, terror

Zakir Naik gained fame in the 1990s with his preaching and conversion activities. He is claimed to have an audience of around 20 crore across the world.

A man accused of serious crimes in India is getting a warm welcome in Qatar as the country hosts the football World Cup. Zakir Naik, a controversial Islamic preacher who is facing multiple criminal cases, is in Qatar to deliver religious sermons in the backdrop of the football tournament.

Let's take a look at why India wants to put him behind bars, and how he has avoided arrest for so long.

Zakir Naik became famous in the 1990s with his preaching and conversion activities. He is claimed to have an audience of around 20 crore across the world. His time in the limelight has been full of controversies.

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In 2021, he justified the demolition of a Hindu temple by a violent mob in Pakistan. Naik had said that Islamic nations cannot allow the building of temples. Back in 1998, Naik had spoke in favour of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, saying that he supports bin Laden if he is terrorising America which is the "biggest terrorist". Naik had added that he stands with bin Laden if he is fighting the "enemies of Islam".

In 2016, the preacher said that Islam allows suicide attacks as a tactic in war, but they're 'haraam' or forbidden if innocents die. The same year, the Indian government said that Naik had been praised by terrorists who carried out the July 2016 attack in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The terrorists, who had killed 22 people in a cafe, had said that they admired Zakir Naik.

As the controversies mounted, Naik came under the scanner of Indian authorities.

He now stands accused of hate speech and money laundering. His organisation, the Islamic Research Foundation, or IRF was also banned in 2016. Naik is now wanted by the National Investigation Agency and the Enforcement Directorate. He allegedly promoted religious hatred and terrorism in India. He is also accused of amassing $28 million in ill-gotten wealth. India cancelled Naik's passport in July 2016.

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Fleeing Indian agencies, Zakir Naik took refuge in Malaysia where he was supported by then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. But his controversial streak continued.

The Muslim country banned his speeches in 2020 as he came under fire from a minister for saying that Malaysian Hindus are more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than their country.

Naik was also banned from entering the United Kingdom in 2010. The UK government had called his behaviour "unacceptable". Canada has banned his television channels called Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu. Bangladesh also banned the channels following the 2016 Dhaka terror attack. The television channels are also prohibited in Sri Lanka.

India has been trying to get Naik extradited. With the Malaysian PM supporting him, India also tried the Interpol route. But the international police organisation has rejected India's requests for provisional arrest of Zakir Naik under Red Notices. In 2017, India asked Interpol to declare Naik an international fugitive. But Interpol rejected the appeal saying that no charge sheet had been filed against him in court by then.

In 2019, Interpol rejected India's Red Corner Notice request as it did not want to be seen as for or against a religious figure. Then in 2021, Interpol dismissed India's third plea for a Red Notice after questioning the invocation of money laundering charges.

Now, Zakir Naik's appearance in Qatar marks a fresh instance of tension between Delhi and Doha. Earlier this year, Qatar had objected to comments made by BJP leader Nupur Sharma against Muhammad, who is considered a prophet by Muslims.

India has a few options to let its displeasure known with Qatar. The government can summon the Qatari ambassador in Delhi to register its protest. It can also issue a note verbale or demarche to Qatar. These are different forms of diplomatic communications. Finally, India can unite with France, UK, and other like-minded nations to press Qatar on international fora.

With many alleged criminals evading Indian law by taking refuge in other countries, it is a test of India's diplomatic power and prowess to get them back for trial, and if needed, punishment.

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