Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is wanted in India on terror charges, is facing opposition from activists in Lebanon who have launched a campaign to ban his entry after a local cleric invited him to deliver a lecture. Calling Naik’s views “extremist” and “inflammatory”, the Lebanese activists say his presence is not conducive to the “harmony of a multicultural country like Lebanon”, according to The New Arab. “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, was quoted as saying by the news portal.
Sheikh Hassan Katerji, head of Lebanon’s little known Salafi group Islamic Federation Society, posted on Facebook from Saudi Arabia that Naik’s visit would take place “soon”, once adequate preparations were made. “Good news! Praise be to Allah, the preacher Zakir Naik has agreed to come to Lebanon when I visited him this morning,” he posted on his Facebook on June 11. “Tomorrow I will, God willing, begin contacts with the authorities to guarantee his safe entry and residence,” Katerji later posted on Facebook.
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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.
The controversial preacher is accused of spreading hatred by his provocative speeches, funding terrorists and laundering several crores of rupees over the years. Naik had fled from India on July 1, 2016 after terrorists in neighbouring Bangladesh claimed that they were inspired by his speeches on waging jehad. He is being probed in India for terror and money laundering charges. He had fled from India immediately after an investigation against him was initiated.
Naik denies all the charges. His present place of stay is unknown and it is believed that he has been shuttling between the UAE, Saudi Arabia, African and Southeast Asian countries. India has already banned his NGO – Islamic Research Foundation – and taken his TV channel Peace TV off air.