MUMBAI: Islamic scholar Dr Zakir Naik, who is the subject of multiple inquiries in India over allegedly ‘incendiary’ speeches, has said that he will not return to India this year, India’s NDTV channel reported.
“I am not running away,” the channel quoted him as saying while addressing a press conference through Skype. Based in Mumbai, but now in Saudi Arabia, the preacher 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 New Delhi and the Maharashtra government have launched investigations to determine whether his speeches, streamed online and aired on television, urge or justify acts of terror.
Peace TV broadcasts out of Dubai and is banned in India. After the Dhaka attack, the Indian government has started a crackdown on cable operators, who continue to make it available. The Islamic preacher has been banned from entering countries like the UK and Canada but has been conferred with hefty awards in Saudi Arabia.
Live from Saudi Arab’s Medina city, the preacher was asked if he had met the young men who allegedly cited him in social media posts months before they attacked the Dhaka cafe. “I have never knowingly met any terrorist but if some people stand next to me and take photographs, I smile. I don't know who they are,” he replied.
Dr Naik has delayed his return to Mumbai, several times, since the Bangladesh attack. He said that it was misinformation that he had supported suicide bombings, asserting that he has always condemned them since innocent people get killed and it was 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.