Controversial Islamic preacher Dr. Zakir Naik is in the eye of the storm in the wake of the reports that one of the terrorists of the recent Dhaka restaurant attack was inspired by the former's teachings.
Rohan Imtiaz, involved in Dhaka attack, said to have posted a quote of Zakir on his Facebook account before carrying out the killings at the Holey Artisan Bakery, a popular restaurant with expats located in a diplomatic zone.
But, it is not the first time, Zakir has been accused of being an accessory in radicalising Muslims around the world.
Zakir is the founder of the Islamic Research foundation, which goes by the tag line “Solution for Humanity.” He has a huge follower base on social media networks. He also runs a television channel Peace TV, which he uses to amplify his teachings, and is broadcast in over 200 countries.
Gatestone Institute, an international non-profit think-tank, has stated that although “he is not directly involved in terrorism, he has reportedly inspired many to take to terrorism through his preachings.”
Zakir allegedly inspired Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American arrested last year for planning suicide attacks on the New York subway. Rahil Sheikh, accused in a series of train bombings in Mumbai in 2006 and Kafeel Ahmed, the Bangalore man fatally injured in a failed suicide attack on Glasgow Airport in 2007.
According to a report at The Star Online, Zakir's involvement was suspected in disappearance of four tech savvy youths from Mumbai two years ago, who fled to Syria to fight along with ISIS.
According to media reports, Mohammed Ibrahim Yazadani, alleged chief of IS terror module, who was arrested in Hyderabad by NIA, has reportedly told the investigating officers that he was “influenced” by Zakir's preachings.
In 2010, deemed as a security risk, the United Kingdom and Canada banned Zakir from entering their country for supporting and eulogizing terrorists.
Zakir drew the attention of international security agencies after he refused to be critical of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin laden.
"If bin Laden is fighting enemies of Islam, I am for him...if he is terrorising America, the terrorist, biggest terrorist, I am with him,” he was quoted as saying in the media.
He had sparked a controversy by saying "Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
Hated by Muslims
Meanwhile, Zakir is also widely detested within the Muslim community. Muslim organisations, mainly Shia and Sunni leaders do not approve of Zakir's teachings or his methods.
In 2008, a fatwa was issued against Zakir by Maulana Mufti Abdul Irfan Qadvi, the chief Islamic religious judge of Lucknow for his support for Osama and suggesting that young people become terrorists. Another fatwa was issued against Zakir by Mufti Mohamed Ashraf Qadri.
Uncomfortable with his speeches, the police have denied him permission to hold public sermons in Mumbai since 2012.
The Uttar Pradesh government has banned him from delivering public speeches in Lucknow, Allahabad, and Kanpur.
Last year, Zakir was denied entry into Mangaluru city, where he was scheduled to take part in public functions.
Zakir drew the wrath of the Sunni leaders after he praised Yezid, the murderer of Imam Hussein, grandson of the Prophet Muhammad.
Under the security radar
Zakir, who is now in Mecca, has denied allegations of him supporting terrorism. He also said that he is ready to face investigation to clear his name.
According to reports, Zakir will return to India on July 11 and will be holding a press conference the next day.
In the meantime, NIA sleuths are probing allegations against Zakir. Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju told reporters on Wednesday that the government was contemplating action against Zakir.