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Activists want India's 'hate-preacher' Zakir Naik banned from Lebanon

The controversial preacher remains popular among millions of conservative Muslims [Anadolu]

Date of publication: 15 June, 2017

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Activists in Lebanon are launching a campaign to ban controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik from entering the country, after a local cleric invited him for a speaking event.
Activists in Lebanon are launching a campaign to ban controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik from entering the country, after a local cleric booked him for a speaking event to be held "soon".

The activists say the Salafi Muslim cleric's views are "extremist" and "inflammatory", and have no place in multicultural Lebanon - where a small but potent radical jihadi scene remains active.

"Zakir Naik is an extremist preacher known to spread hate speech that attacks non-Muslims and moderate Muslims alike, and he has been banned from entering many countries," Khaled Merheb, a lawyer and human rights activist, told The New Arab.

Naik, a popular televangelist and Islamic preacher who has tens of thousands of followers on social media, was previously denied entry to the UK by then Home Secretary and current PM Theresa May for his controversial views.

"Numerous comments made by Dr Naik are evidence to me of his unacceptable behaviour," said May at the time, in justification of her decision.

Currently based in Saudi Arabia, he is wanted by the Indian authorities over alleged support for terrorism and alleged money laundering through his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation.

Naik denies the charges, insisting he condemns the killing of innocents, while his lawyers told Al-Jazeera in May that the IRF's funds had all come through "legal channels".

Naik claims there is a campaign against him, fuelled by the Hindu nationalist agenda of India's Modi government. But Muslim-majority Bangladesh also took action against Naik's Dubai-based Peace TV network, following a deadly 2016 attack in Dhaka, saying the perpetrators may have been inspired by his sermons.
Naik's brand of ultraconservative Wahhabi Islamic views are said to have inspired would-be terrorists such as Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American linked to a 2009 New York City Subway terror plot
'Dangerous for Lebanon'

"Good news! Praise be to Allah, the preacher Zakir Naik has agreed to come to Lebanon when I visited him this morning," Sheikh Hassan Katerji, head of a local Salafi group, posted on Facebook from Saudi Arabia on June 11.

Katerji, head of Lebanon's little known Islamic Federation Society, said the visit would take place "soon", once adequate preparations were made.

"Tomorrow I will, God willing, begin contacts with the authorities to guarantee his safe entry and residence, which is [Naik's] main condition [for coming]," Katerji later posted on Facebook.

A petition was launched soon thereafter via the Avaaz platform, appealing for people to support a ban on Naik's entry to the Mediterranean country. Activists behind the campaign are also threatening legal action.

"Naik's visit is dangerous on many levels," said Merheb, the Lebanese lawyer. "It encourages extremism, creates tension between different religious communities in Lebanon and may inspire jihadis." His views may be in violation of Lebanese laws regarding sectarian incitement, the lawyer added.

Merheb was referring to numerous controversial remarks the Indian televangelist has made, including ambiguous views on terrorism and suicide attacks, praise of Osama bin Laden, the slain leader of al-Qaeda, and other statements supporting death sentences against LGBTQ people and "apostates".

Naik has previously defended himself, saying his remarks were taken out of context by his detractors. He has also criticised the Islamic State group.

However, his brand of ultraconservative Wahhabi Islamic views that often justifies violence are said to have inspired would-be terrorists such as Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American linked to a 2009 New York City Subway plot, who was allegedly an "admirer" of Naik's sermons.

Neither Sheikh Katerji nor his office have responded to a request for comment.

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