He has delivered more than 4,000 speeches preaching Islam around the world. He is so popular among his followers that the total viewership of his evangelist TV channel Peace TV has exceeded 100 million. His followers swear by him; so much so that it is now alleged that the Bangladesh terrorists who recently shot several foreigners in Dhaka were influenced by the teachings of Zakir Naik.Dhaka’s demand
The frail-looking, but aggressive Naik has been under the scanner of Indian law enforcement authorities ever since Bangladesh asked for an investigation into his speeches and his writing following a claim that a terrorist was his follower, and was inspired by his speeches to carry out the attack.
The Maharashtra government has ordered a probe headed by Mumbai Police Commissioner Dattatray Padsalgikar to study Dr. Naik’s speeches and find out if they have encouraged antinational sentiments.
Supporters of the influential Salafist Islam preacher from Mumbai say there is no offence to be made out against Dr. Naik.
“One of his lectures was on the similarities between Hinduism and Islam, in which he insists the two communities arrive at a common term,” Dr. Naik’s brother-in-law Mubarak Kapdi told The Hindu on Friday. “If he wanted to spread hatred, why would he even talk about the commonalities?”
Born in October 1965 in Mumbai, Dr. Naik attended the Kishinchand Chellaram College in Churchgate, and later studied medicine at Topiwala National Medical College, and BYL Nair Charitable Hospital.
In 1991, he began Da’wah, which literally means proselytising of Islam. Dr. Naik then founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) inspired by Ahmed Deedat, an Islamic preacher who met him in 1987.
“He has attained so much popularity that even within our own community there is a section feeling extreme jealousy towards him. These sects are being used as a tool to fuel a vicious propaganda against him,” said Manzoor Sheikh, trust manager, IRF. “He is extremely pained to know that his simple teachings of Islam are being construed to target him.”
The 50-year-old is known for his almost-eidetic memory, which allows him to quote chapter and verse from the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible. He has often debated preachers and experts from other religions on his TV shows, and impressed them with his knowledge of Hindu and Christian scriptures.
Dr. Naik’s Islamic teachings and speeches have not gone unnoticed in the Muslim world. His critics often point out how his speeches have disparaged the Shia and Ahamadi sects of Islam. The Sunni-majority Saudi Arabia, which is considered the cradle of the extremist Wahabist theology, awarded him the King Faisal International Prize in March 2015 for “service to Islam.”Controversial speeches
Some of his speeches have been controversial. In 2008, in a broadcast on Peace TV, he claimed that the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 in America were an “inside job.” In 2010, the U.K. barred him entry for his alleged “unacceptable behaviour.” Peace TV is banned in India, but several local cable operators continue to show it.
Dr. Naik’s lawyers claim there is no offence to be made out. “If he has talked about Osama bin Laden in one of the speeches that in itself does not constitute a charge or offence against him. If one bomber [in Bangladesh] says he was inspired by Dr. Naik’s speeches, how can he be held accountable,” said Dr. Naik’s lawyer Mubin Solkar of Solkar & Associates.