- 50-year-old accused of inspiring terrorism through his speeches
- His Peace TV is banned in India; sermons are streamed online too
- Bangladesh says he inspired Dhaka cafe attackers who killed 20
Controversial televangelist Zakir Naik, who is the subject of multiple inquiries in India over allegedly incendiary speeches, has said he will not return to India this year. The preacher, based in Mumbai but now in Saudi Arabia, said in a Skype press conference his morning, "I am not running away". He said that it was always his intent to spend most of this year abroad, and insisted that so far, no Indian official or agency has contacted him with queries.
Bangladesh has accused the 50-year-old doctor of inspiring the young men who killed 20 hostages at a Dhaka cafe earlier this month.
Both the Centre and the Maharashtra government have launched investigations to determine whether his speeches, streamed online and aired on a television channel, urge or justify acts of terror. Peace TV broadcasts out of Dubai and is banned in India. After the Dhaka attack, the government has moved to crackdown on cable operators who continue to make it available.
In a press conference via Skype from Medina, the preacher who has been banned from entering countries like the UK and Canada but has been conferred with hefty awards in Saudi Arabia was asked if he had met the young gunmen who allegedly cited him in social media posts in the months before they attacked the Dhaka cafe. "I have knowingly never met any terrorist, but if some people stand next to me take photographs, I smile. I don't know who they are."
The Islamic preacher today said it was "misinformation" that he had supported suicide bombings, asserting that he has always condemned them since innocent people get killed and it is "anti-Islam".
"My statements were taken out of context... I am a messenger of peace," he said, refuting the allegation that his speeches have provoked terror.