Islamist Preacher Zakir Naik, Barred from U.K. and Canada – An Ideological Profile

June 25, 2010

Introduction

This week it was announced that Indian cleric Dr. Zakir Naik, a popular Salafi television preacher, was banned from entering both the U.K. and Canada.

On June 18, 2010, British Home Secretary Theresa May stated that Dr. Naik, who heads the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), was barred from entering the U.K. under laws that can exclude anyone who “foments, justifies, or glorifies terrorist violence,”[1] and that upcoming events with him, planned for the week of June 25 at stadiums in Wembley, Birmingham and Sheffield, were cancelled. Secretary May explained, “Numerous comments made by Dr. Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behavior,” and added, “I am not willing to allow those who might not be conducive to the public good to enter the U.K.”[2]

Within a week of the U.K. government ban, Canada announced that it too was barring Naik from entering its territory. Naik had planned to be keynote speaker at a conference in Toronto, chaired by Saed Rageah. Regeah is imam of the Toronto mosque that made news last fall when a group of its young members joined the Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant Somali group Al-Shabab Al-Mujahideen.[3]

Naik’s lectures are mostly aired on the Indian English-language Peace TV channel, which is owned and broadcast by the IRF. According to a May 30, 2010 Sunday Times article, Peace TV “has a huge following in the Muslim neighbourhoods of Mumbai, Naik’s native city. [Naik] has been named as the third most popular spiritual guru in India. Last year he was ranked 82nd in a list of India’s most powerful people.”

Though he has no official ties to terrorist organizations, his followers and employees have reportedly been linked to the 2006 serial Mumbai bombings and to other terrorist activity,[4] and his lectures, many of which are posted on YouTube, have been blamed for inciting Muslim youth to violence and extremism.

In response to the U.K. ban, Naik and his supporters claimed that it was motivated by Islamophobia and the desire to curb the spread of Islam in Europe. They also said that Naik was a promoter of peace and interfaith dialogue, and a staunch opponent of terrorism and hatred. In a June 17, 2010 press release, Naik said: “My message to vulnerable young British Muslims is that terrorism and violent extremism is totally unacceptable and has no place in Islamic life.”[5] A statement issued by his organization on June 22 added: “Dr. Zakir Naik is undoubtedly an opponent of terrorism, and as such has often spoken out against all acts of violence and violent extremism. He has emphatically and unequivocally condemned the killing of civilians and is one of the world’s regular noted orators on this topic.”[6]

Inayat Bunglawala, the founder and chairman of Muslims4UK and an advisor to the British Home Office, said in Naik’s defense that since the ban he has “issued a press statement saying that he ‘unequivocally condemns acts of violence including 9/11, 7/7 and 7/11 [the serial train bombing in Mumbai], which are completely and absolutely unjustifiable on any basis.”[7]

A review of his lectures and interviews, however, reveals that Naik has spoken in support of Osama bin Laden, saying, “If he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him.” He has also voiced virulent anti-American views, comparing the Americans to pigs, advancing the view that 9/11 was an inside job planned by U.S. politicians, and calling President George W. Bush “the world’s number one terrorist.” In addition, he has described the Jews as the Muslims’ biggest enemies, and has spoken in favor of polygamy and a husband’s right to beat his wife.

As for condemning terrorism, Dr. Naik has said on several occasions that the killing of innocent people, as happened in the September 11, 2001 attacks and in the July 7, 2005 London bombings, is wrong and contravenes the precepts of Islam. However, he generally follows these assertions by one or more of the following claims: that 9/11 was perpetrated by the Americans themselves; that Muslim terrorism, e.g., in Palestine, is carried out by people who are persecuted and have no other way to retaliate; and that the media uses a double standard, portraying attacks on Westerners as terrorism, but not attacks on Muslims, such as the killing of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.

For example, in one of his lectures he called 9/11 “an act that should be condemned [because] it is against the Koran.” He continued: “Who did it [i.e. perpetrated the attacks], I don’t know. The press says Osama bin Laden. I don’t know. I haven’t met him. I don’t know if he’s good or bad… Some people say the American government did it. Some people say George Bush did it himself.”[8]

In a 1998 lecture in Singapore titled “Misconceptions in Islam,” he said, “…It’s the duty of every Muslim to be a terrorist… [W]hat is the meaning of the word terrorist? A terrorist is a person who causes terror…the policeman is a terrorist for the robber.  In the same way, every Muslim should be a terrorist for the anti-social element… I am aware that the word ‘terrorist’ is more commonly used for causing terror to the innocent people; in that context, no Muslim should ever be a terrorist.  He [a Muslim] should not at all terrify any innocent person.”[9]

Shortly after the July 7, 2005 London bombings, Naik said, in response to a question, that the bombings were wrong and against Islam, but stressed that the international media had double standards, portraying this as terrorism but not the killing of thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan.[10]

In another lecture, he said in response to a question about the increase in terrorist organizations claiming to fight in the name of Islam: “…Some Muslims may be on the wrong track, they may not be following the guidelines of the Koran.  Like you have black sheep in every community… [However] it can be that they are people who are harassed… and if no-one is coming out to help them they are resorting to whatever means they have… We have to go back to the root cause [of terrorism]. It’s like giving the example of Palestine. When Hitler incinerated six million Jews, the Jews were kicked out from Germany and the Palestinians they said ‘ahlan wa-sahlan, you are our cousins, come and join us’ it is like I tell a stranger that if you’re having problems come stay in my house. After a few years he kicks me out of the house, and when I start making noise outside my house [unintelligible] these people have entered my house, so you call me a terrorist.”[11]

Excerpts from Naik’s Lectures and Statements[12]

*”If [Osama bin Laden] Is Terrorizing America the Terrorist… I Am with Him”

According to a May 30, 2010 article in the U.K. Sunday Times, Naik says in a clip that is currently on YouTube: ‘Beware of Muslims saying Osama bin Laden is right or wrong. I reject them … we don’t know. But if you ask my view, if given the truth, if he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him. I don’t know what he’s doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. If he is terrorizing the terrorists, if he is terrorizing America the terrorist … I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”[13]

(To view the MEMRI TV clip of this footage, visit http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/165.htm .)

*9/11 Was “An Inside Job”

In a lecture aired on Peace TV on July 31, 2008, Naik argued that 9/11 was an inside job, engineered by “some politicians in the White House,” including George Bush: “Just a few days back, there was an article that came in the newspaper that 75 professors from the U.S. say and believe that 9/11 was an inside job. And in that article, it was mentioned… It came in The Times of India, I think on the 7th of September. It says that 75 professors and scientists, belonging to different universities from different parts of the U.S., believe that 9/11 was an inside job. They say that there were some politicians in the White House who engineered the destruction of the Twin Towers, and, they say, the main reason was so that they could attack, and they could have control of the oil-rich countries. Open secret, I told you.

“One of the professors, by the name of Steve Jones, says: ‘We do not believe that 19 hijackers and a few men in a cave in Afghanistan could have done such a professional job alone. They could not have done it. We don’t believe – and by God, we are going to come to the truth and we are going to expose – we don’t believe in the theory of the government.’ They don’t believe in the theory of the government. He further goes on to say: ‘We, as professors and scientists, know that the steel beam of the Twin Towers couldn’t have melted at the temperature at which the jet fuel was there. There were systematic bomb explosions, which caused this to come down. Otherwise, it could not come down…’

“…There are several tapes and several DVDs available – ‘9/11,’ ‘Loose Change,’ ‘Fahrenheit,’ many – and if you see all this, it is a blatant, open secret that this attack on the Twin Towers was done by George Bush himself.” [14]

*George Bush Is the World’s Number One Terrorist

In a May 24, 2008 lecture on Peace TV, Naik called former U.S. president George W. Bush “the world’s number one terrorist”:  “I told the American consul at the time that according to me, the number one terrorist in the world is George Bush. I am a person who keeps on speaking very often. I had gone to Australia just a couple of months after 9/11… Today, it is very common [to say this]. I can name a hundred top personalities, and we know that our honorable Justice Hosbet… I didn’t know that even he considers… Right, he is an honest judge? And I agree with that. I don’t know when was the first time he said this… I don’t want to compete with him, he is more senior than me…

“I don’t know when was the first time he said that, but now when we read records, we come to know that the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, said that the biggest terrorist in the world is George Bush. The president-elect of Bolivia, Evo Morales, said that George Bush is a terrorist. The famous singer and activist of America Harry Belafonte said the biggest terrorist in the world is George Bush.
“An MP in the U.K. by the name of George Galloway said the biggest terrorist in the world is George Bush, and he said that the blood that is on the hands of George Bush and Tony Blair is much more than the bombers who have done bombing in London. He said that it will be justified… George Galloway, who is an MP in the U.K., said it will be justified that if a suicide bomber goes and attacks and kills Tony Blair, without injuring any other innocent human being – that suicide bomber will be justified. Who said that? George Galloway.
“We have Jyoti Basu. A few months back, he said, when George Bush came to India, that the number one terrorist is George Bush. Everyone says that, but the Indian government wants to invite him. For what? So that we learn the art of terrorism?
“Recently, a couple of days back, there was a news article in the newspapers that Nobel Prize winner Betty Williams said she would love to kill George Bush. She would love to kill George Bush, which I differ.”[15]

*George Washington and Benjamin Franklin Were Also Labeled Terrorists

In a July 29, 2008 lecture on Peace TV, Naik said that great American leaders like Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, who fought for the liberty of their country, were also labeled “terrorists” by the British government at the time: “…We know, in 1875 [sic], during the American Revolution, there were many Americans who were fighting for their freedom. The British were ruling America. And these people, who fought for their freedom – by the British government they were called terrorists. Number one in the forefront was Benjamin Franklin and George Washington. We know that these people – by the British government they were called terrorist number one.

“George Washington was called terrorist number one. Later on, he became president of the USA, and he happens to be the same terrorist number one. He became the president of the USA, and happens to be the godfather of all the presidents to come, including George Bush. Imagine – the same people who the British called terrorists now are allies. They are the best friends. The times keep on changing, depending upon the historical background, depending on the geographical background.
“What we come to know, in short, is that whoever is in power – whatever label he gives, the label gets stuck. Whoever is in power… Today, America is supposed to be in power. They have the media with them, so who they call a terrorist – the label gets stuck. It gets stuck.”[16]

*Americans Eat Pigs and Behave Like Pigs

According to a May 30, 2010 Sunday Times article, Naik is reported to have said about the American people: “The pig is the most shameless animal on the face of the Earth. It is the only animal that invites its friends to have sex with its mate. In America, most people consume pork. Many times after dance parties, they have swapping of wives. Many say, ‘You sleep with my wife and I will sleep with your wife.’ If you eat pigs then you behave like pigs.”[17]

*On Wife Beating

On the “Dare to Ask” program on Peace TV, Zakir Naik answers the question of the permissibility of beating one’s wife according to Islamic law.  He says, “[T]he husband on a general thing doesn’t have the right to beat the wife at all. So here it say that if she breaks, or if she disobeys or breaks Sharia there are various rules and regulation, then even that time you don’t beat her [unintelligible] admonish her. Say it is wrong…Allah has given permission as a last resort to beat lightly, the Arabic word is zarabah. Beat lightly means ultimatum…this beating is not for hurting the wife physically. If it was hurting the wife physically I would have said [unintelligible]…hit properly so that there are 10, 20 marks and blood comes out. So here we realize from the Koran beat lightly means it’s a final warning, ultimatum.  And the Hadith says with a miswak [i.e. toothpick], [unintelligible] you will say like maybe with a hanky, hanky, not tying a knot…[l]et me finish, the ultimatum, that means giving ultimatum warning and then the Koran says if there is a dispute then have a consultation…the reason they have given is because in the society, in the family, as far as the family [unintelligible] is concerned the leader is the man. So here it is given ultimatum warning, that doesn’t mean that husband is always right, please don’t misunderstand…he [the husband] has to stand up for the woman, look after the woman, doesn’t mean boss the woman…husband can use that as a last ultimatum whether right or wrong. He cannot physically torture her. If he doesn’t like her…he should leave her, give salah [divorce]…the husband may be right, the wife may be right, anyone may be right, so here this ultimatum warning before the [unintelligible]. So that is the reason Allah has permitted to beat the wife lightly.”[18]

*The Jews Are the Muslims’ Staunchest Enemies

In another Peace TV address, Naik said: “Strongest in enmity towards the Muslims are the Jews and the pagans…. It [the Koran] does not say that the Muslims should fight with the Jews… the Jews, by nature as a whole, will be against Muslims… there are many Jews who are good to Muslims, but as a whole … The Koran tells us, as whole, they will be our staunchest enemy.”[19]

*Polygamy Is the Solution for Surplus of Women

In an October 16, 2006 address, Naik argued that, because there is a surplus of women in today’s world, and because so many men in the West are gay, many women remain single – and that polygamy, permissible in Islam, is the answer:
“Today, one of the biggest problems that the Western world is facing, which is not so much in the Eastern part of the world, is the surplus of women… By nature, men and women are born in equal proportion… If you ask any pediatrician, he will tell you that the female child can fight the germs and diseases much better than the male child. So, in the pediatric age itself, there are more male children dying than female children. So, in the pediatric age itself, the female population is more than the male population…
“New York alone has one million females more than males. Out of the population of New York – the statistics tell us – one third are gays. ‘Gays’ means Sodomites. It means the people of Lot. That means they wouldn’t like to have females as life partners. There are more than 25 million gays, Sodomites, in America, in the USA. Another problem…
“Suppose I agree with the Western philosophy, or a non-Muslim who says that one man should only marry one woman. And suppose my sister happens to live in America, and suppose the market is saturated, and every man has already taken a woman for himself, yet there will be 30 million females who will not find life partners – 7.8 million added to the excess, and the 25 million gays, if you add it to them. There are more than 30 million females who will not find life partners…[20]
“The only option remaining for [my sister] is that she either marries a man who already has a wife or she becomes ‘public property.’ You people say: ‘public property? Dr. Zakir using such a harsh word.’ I am saying that the most sophisticated word that I can use is public property. You know I cannot use other words because I am a da’i [preacher]. Public property. There’s no third option.”[21]

2006 Mumbai Terrorists’ Connections to Naik and His Organization

In a series of articles in the Indian English-language daily The Hindu, Praveen Swami wrote about Naik, the IRF, and connections to the July 2006 Mumbai train bombings. “Investigations into the 2006 serial bombings in Mumbai showed that top Lashkar-e-Taiba organizers Rahil Ahmed Sheikh and Zabiuddin Ansari often met at the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) in Mumbai’s Dongri area. IRF librarian Feroz Deshmukh, their contact there, turned out to be a key member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba cell which executed the bombings.”
The article continued: “Zakir Naik, a popular Salafi television evangelist who heads the IRF, had no role in the Mumbai serial bombings. But his teachings, which include calls for Muslims not to participate in Hindu and Christian festivities, have considerable symmetries with those of organizations advocating violence. Interestingly, the IRF is listed as an approved religious information resource on the official website of the Lashkar’s parent organization, the Jamaat-ud-Dawa.”[22]
In another article, about one of the Mumbai bombers, Swami writes: “Like most of the core members of the 2006 serial bombings cell, Mr. Sheikh spent much of his time at Mr. Naik’s Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation. While there is no suggestion that either Mr. Naik or the IRF were in any way connected to the terror strikes, cell member Irfan Deshmukh worked there as a librarian, providing perfect cover for meetings. Interestingly, the IRF is the sole South Asian centre listed as a religious learning resource on the website of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the Lashkar’s parent religious organization.”[23]

Naik and IRF Press Releases: U.K. Banned Entry Due to “Islamophobia”

In response to the U.K. ban, Naik issued this press release: “Following on from recent malicious and specious reports in the British media about my work… I am disappointed to learn the British Government has decided to exclude me from coming to the United Kingdom to conduct a Peace Conference Tour between 25 and 27 June 2010. Despite this I intend to continue my work of interfaith dialogue, coming together upon common terms with other people and faith groups to promote a greater understanding of the binding strands existing between the faiths, whilst  dispelling fears, suspicions and misconceptions about the beautiful faith of Islam, that have been created by a media frenzy of Islamophobia. I encourage all Muslims to serve their country with dignity and honour and my message to vulnerable young British Muslims is that terrorism and violent extremism, is totally unacceptable and has no place in Islamic life. I would urge the British Government to permit the Peace Conference Tour to continue as scheduled and assist in the promotion of Peace and social harmony, whilst upholding the values of freedom and justice.[24]

In a June 20, 2010 interview on Headlinestoday.com, Naik explained that “Islam is spreading very fast in the Western countries,” and added that by banning his entry, “the U.K. government wants to curb the spread of Islam.” He commented that the ban “…was more of a political decision… they have taken some of my speeches out of context and present it to the media as I’m promoting terrorism so they’re killing two birds with one stone.”  Naik added that he had hired a top British lawyer who will challenge the ban next week. [25]

On June 22, Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) issued a statement: “It is deeply regrettable the British Government has bowed to pressure from sectarian and Islamophobic pressure groups by preventing the entry of Dr. Zakir Naik, who has been visiting and delivering talks in the United Kingdom for the past 15 years. Dr. Zakir Naik is undoubtedly an opponent of terrorism and as such has often spoken out against all acts of violence and violent extremism. He has emphatically and unequivocally condemned the killing of civilians and is one of the world’s regular noted orators on this topic. In the wake of the exclusion order and based on legal advice, Dr Zakir Naik intends to bring the matter before the High Court… and request a judicial review to have the exclusion order over overturned.[26]

Member of U.K. Home Office Working Group on Tackling Extremism: The Ban Is a Government PR Trick

Among those who called for Naik to be allowed to enter the U.K. was Inayat Bunglawala, who in 2005 was appointed to the Home Office working group on tackling extremism; he is also spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain and founder and chair of Muslims4UK.
On June 15, 2010, Bunglawala wrote an article in The Guardian calling for Naik to be allowed to enter the U.K. In it, he stated: “[T]his is just the latest in a series of ‘naming and shaming’ exclusion orders that began a couple of years ago when the former Labor government said that it would introduce a policy of banning ‘preachers of hate’ from visiting the U.K. At the end of last month the Sunday Times ran an article about Zakir Naik that seems to have panicked some people in the government. For his part Naik has since issued a press statement saying that he ‘unequivocally condemns acts of violence including 9/11, 7/7 and 7/11 [the serial train bombing in Mumbai], which are completely and absolutely unjustifiable on any basis.”
Bunglawala went on to state that there are already “a sufficient number of laws on the statute books to deal with incitement to hatred and violence” and that it is “hard to avoid the conclusion that the exclusion order policy is yet another government PR gimmick designed to show that it is getting tough on those it regards as being extremists.” He continued, “And if the government believes that these speakers may still make some improper – though not unlawful – statements, then it should be regarded as a test of our commitment to free speech, especially if we regard its value as being universal.[27]

*Steven Stalinsky is the Executive Director of The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI). 

Endnotes:

[1] Times of India (India), June 18, 2010. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/indians-abroad/Britain-bans-controversial-Indian-preacher-Zakir-Naik-/articleshow/6064138.cms.

[2] Daily Mail (United Kingdom); June 22, 2010.

[3] National Post (Canada), June 22, 2010.

[4] The Hindu (India), July, 8 2007.
http://www.thehindu.com/2007/07/08/stories/2007070859431000.htm; National Post (Canada), June 22, 2010.

[5] http://islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/1276-dr-zakir-naik-reply-to-uk-ban,  June 17, 2010.

[6] BBC (United Kingdom), June 22, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/10357263.stm.

[7] The Guardian (United Kingdom), June 15, 2010.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/jun/15/free-speech-muslim-preachers.

[8] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYNN2ezZKio.

[9] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5q_Nu1XVWDY.

[10] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GuuMn_Vlrfk&feature=related.

[11] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kJbOx8WMmtU&feature=related.

[12] The MEMRI TV Project has monitored Naik’s television appearances since 2006.

[13] The Sunday Times (United Kingdom), May 30, 2010,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7140235.ece. The IRF website claims that this statement was uttered in 1996, almost five years before the 9/11 attacks.

[14] See MEMRI RV Clip No. 1846, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1846.htm.

[15] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1788, http://www.memritv.org/clip_transcript/en/1788.htm.

[16] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1844, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1844.htm.

[17] The Sunday Times (United Kingdom), May 30, 2010,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article7140235.ece.

[18] According to the National Post, the video is from July 2009,
http://news.nationalpost.com/2010/06/22/controversial-muslim-televangelist-zakir-naik-banned-from-toronto-conference/.

[19] IRF Website (http://www.irf.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=241:mockery-freedom&catid=44).

[20] IRF Website (http://www.irf.net/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=241:mockery-freedom&catid=44).

[21] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 1295, http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/1295.htm.

[22] The Hindu (India), July, 8 2007.
http://www.thehindu.com/2007/07/08/stories/2007070859431000.htm.

[23] The Hindu (India), November, 26, 2008.
http://www.thehindu.com/2007/07/08/stories/2007070859431000.htm.

[24] http://islamnewsroom.com/news-we-need/1276-dr-zakir-naik-reply-to-uk-ban, June 17, 2010.

[25] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUphBjiTfXo.

[26] BBC (United Kingdom), June 22, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/10357263.stm.

[27] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/libertycentral/2010/jun/15/free-speech-muslim-preachers, June 15, 2010.