Qatar denies inviting Islamic preacher Zakir Naik to FIFA World Cup inauguration

On Saturday, November 19  FIFA presenter Faisal Aljahri had tweeted, "Preacher Sheikh Zakir Naik is in Qatar during the World Cup and will give many religious lectures throughout the World Cup."

Doha: As India has raised objections to give Islamic preacher Zakir Naik a platform at the FIFA World Cup, Qatar on Wednesday has reportedly denied inviting the Indian fugitive to the inauguration in Doha.

Qatar has informed India through diplomatic channels that no official invitation was extended to Zakir Naik to attend the opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup in Doha on November 20.

“Third countries are deliberately spreading this misinformation to spoil India-Qatar bilateral relations,” Qatar officials said, according to Hindustan Times.

The Qatari authorities said that Naik could be on a private visit to Doha.

However, on Saturday, November 19  FIFA presenter Faisal Aljahri had tweeted, “Preacher Sheikh Zakir Naik is in Qatar during the World Cup and will give many religious lectures throughout the World Cup.”

On Tuesday, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokesperson Savio Rodrigues appealed to the government, Indian Football Associations and Indians travelling to Qatar to boycott the FIFA World Cup 2022. 

Meanwhile, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas Hardeep Singh Puri also said on Tuesday that India will raise the issue of Zakir Naik’s attendance at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar and that swift action will be taken.

Why did Zakir Naik become wanted in India?

In 2016, India began cracking down on Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, inciting Indian and Bangladeshi channels to accuse him of promoting sectarianism.

India banned Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation on November 17, 2016, under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The ban was extended by another five years in November 2021.

In 2017, the Indian authorities issued an arrest warrant against him, charging him with money laundering, incitement to terrorism, and spreading sectarianism through satellite channels and religious lectures.

The Indian authorities also issued a red arrest warrant against him with Interpol, claiming that he is an international fugitive from justice who must be arrested at any time and place and handed over to India.

Meanwhile, the Indian Islamic preacher responded to the Indian moves against him, saying, according to a report by Al-Jazeera: “The Indian authorities are chasing me because I am the most famous Muslim preacher in the country; therefore they would like to stop my activities, although my preaching style has not changed for nearly a quarter of a century.” 

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