Doha, Nov 23, 2022: Qatar has informed India through diplomatic channels that fugitive Zakir Naik was not officially invited to attend the opening of the FIFA World Cup in Doha.
It added that deliberate “disinformation” was being spread by third countries to spoil India-Qatar bilateral relations, a report in Hindustan Times said.
The formal response from Qatar came after the Indian government told Doha that New Delhi would be forced to call off the visit of Vice President Jagdeep Dhankar to attend the inauguration ceremony of FIFA World Cup on Sunday if Doha formally invited Islamist Zakir Naik to watch the grand opening of soccer event from VVIP box. Though Dhankar attended the event, but he departed from Qatar the next day.
Naik, a televangelist, reportedly left India in 2016 and moved to Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency. India had sent a request to Malaysia for his extradition.
Qatar authorities said that Naik could be on a private visit to Doha. However, till now there has been no positive sighting of the Islamist.
India outlawed Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) late in 2016, on the charges of encouraging and assisting the group’s followers in “promoting or attempting to promote feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different religious communities and groups.” In March this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared IRF an unlawful association and outlawed it for five years.
Naik, who shot to fame during the 1990s over his activities of da’wah (an act of inviting or calling people to embrace Islam) through IRF, is also the founder of the ‘comparative religion’ Peace TV. The channel reportedly has a reach of over 100 million viewers, many of whom regard him as an exponent of the Salafi (a reform moment within the Sunni community) ideology.