India intensifies efforts to arrest Zakir Naik

RIYADH: Dr. Zakir Naik, a prominent Islamic preacher, wanted in India for inciting communal hatred, money laundering, and terror funding, has arrived in Oman Wednesday to deliver two religious lectures amid several media reports about his imminent deportation to India. The lectures are said to be Oman government-sponsored and are being organized by the Omani Ministry of Awqaf & Religious Affairs, and the government has officially confirmed the event.

The fugitive Islamic preacher, who freely and frequently travels to the Gulf states, landed in Oman on the official invitation of the government of Oman, as per reports. India News Stream contacted Indian Ambassador to Oman Amit Narang and Second Secretary (Political and Information) Anoop Bijily for their comments and inputs. But, they did not send any comment until the time of filing this story on Wednesday.

An Indian community leader, however, said that “the reports about Dr. Naik’s possible arrest and deportation from Oman to India are all false and misleading. The veteran Islamic preacher has already arrived in Oman and will stay there for three days before returning to Kuala Lumpur.” He said that Dr. Naik has a massive fan following in the Arab world, mainly in the Gulf countries.

He further pointed out, “Dr. Naik was seen on the roads of Muscat, escorted by police and officials with full protocol on Wednesday.” While India has been trying to arrest him and pursuing his extradition from Malaysia, Interpol has thrice declined New Delhi’s request to issue a Red Notice against him, the last one being in 2021. Interpol has rejected the NIA’s chargesheet in the case of Dr. Naik, saying that asking for donations during speeches and promoting religion does not constitute a criminal offense.

This week, several media outlets in India reported citing sources, that Dr. Naik is likely to be deported to India from the Sultanate of Oman. Some of the media houses that carried this report include ABP News, Republic TV, The Week, and News18, among others. The Quint reached out to Dr. Naik’s Mumbai-based lawyer Mubin Solkar, who categorically denied the reports of his arrest or even the possibility of his arrest.

But, the media reports said that the Muscat-based Indian Embassy is in continuous touch with Oman authorities to take him into custody. If it happens, then Dr. Naik will be directly deported to India. Moreover, a legal team is expected from India to visit Oman amid reports that Indian Embassy in Oman has discussed this matter with the Omani Foreign Ministry’s officials.

Asked about the possibility of detention of Dr. Naik in Muscat, another Indian community leader told INS via phone that this Islamic preacher has good connections with top officials of the Gulf countries. “Therefore, Dr. Naik can not be detained in these countries despite the pressure exerted by India,” he added. He pointed out that the Gulf governments, including the Muslims living in the Arab world, commend the efforts of Dr. Naik in the service to Islam.

Dr. Naik was accorded the 2015 King Faisal International Prize (KFIP) for his “Service to Islam” by Saudi Arabia. It comprised a commemorative 24-carat 200-gram gold medal and Saudi Riyals 750,000 ($200,000). He was also conferred Sharjah Award for Voluntary Work and the Dubai International Holy Quran Award–Islamic Personality of the Year in 2013. Malaysia also presented him with the coveted Tokoh Mall Hijrah Award a few years back.

But in India today, Dr. Naik is wanted for inciting communal hatred, money laundering, and terror funding. On 18 July 2017, India revoked Dr. Naik’s passport following a recommendation made by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). He has been pronounced a fugitive since then, he has been living in Malaysia. But, he frequently travels to Arab countries either at the invitation of respective government agencies or private NGOs.

Naik, 57, has consistently maintained that his statements are “twisted” and “misrepresented”. He and his associates support the innocence of the preacher. His sermons and speeches are broadcast on Peace TV, banned in India, Canada, UK, and Bangladesh. Naik also gave several religious lectures at Qatar’s 2022 FIFA World Cup. Naik was born in Mumbai and finished his education from the city, including an MBBS degree. He got involved in religious activities in his 20s, and eventually founded the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), which is currently banned in India. – INDIA NEWS STREAM

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