The home secretary, Theresa May, is facing a stiff test of the Conservative party’s claims to oppose radical Islam after her officials chose to allow a misogynist Muslim preacher into Britain.
Zakir Naik, an Indian televangelist described as a “hate-monger” by moderate Muslims and one Tory MP, says western women make themselves “more susceptible to rape” by wearing revealing clothing.
Naik, who proselytises on Peace TV, a satellite television channel, is reported to have called for the execution of Muslims who change their faith, described Americans as “pigs” and said that “every Muslim should be a terrorist”.
In a recent lecture, he said he was “with” Osama Bin Laden over the attacks on “terrorist America”, adding that the 9/11 hijackings were an inside job by President George W Bush.
In opposition, David Cameron and other senior Tories led criticism of the Labour government for allowing radical preachers into Britain to stir up hatred on lecture tours. While in opposition, Cameron also campaigned to get Yusuf al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian radical, banned from Britain.
Cameron and May now face a political test over Naik, whose inflammatory comments have led some moderate Muslims to call him a “truth-twister”.
One well-placed insider said: “Zakir Naik is a nasty man who makes al-Qaradawi look like a participant at a teddy bears’ picnic. He shouldn’t be allowed into the country to stir up hatred.”
The Home Office indicated that it was not planning to ban Naik, however.
Although Naik makes it clear he does not support specific acts of terrorism, his inflammatory speeches have included one, currently on YouTube, in which he states: “Beware of Muslims saying Osama Bin Laden is right or wrong. I reject them … we don’t know.
“But if you ask my view, if given the truth, if he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him.
“I don’t know what he’s doing. I’m not in touch with him. I don’t know him personally. If he is terrorising the terrorists, if he is terrorising America the terrorist … I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
According to reports in the Indian media, his organisation, the Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai, was where Rahil Abdul Rehman Sheikh, suspected of being commander of a series of train bombings in Mumbai, and other alleged terrorists spent much of their time before the attacks.
The American terror suspect Najibullah Zazi, arrested last year for planning suicide attacks on the New York subway, is said to have been inspired by Naik’s YouTube videos. There is no suggestion Naik had any knowledge of terrorist plotting.
A doctor by profession, Naik has distinguished himself from dozens of other “mad mullahs” through his intellect and his ability to recite verbatim extended sections of the Koran.
Peace TV has a huge following in the Muslim neighbourhoods of Mumbai, Naik’s native city. He has been named as the third most popular spiritual guru in India.
Last year he was ranked 82nd in a list of India’s most powerful people.
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