Muslim televangelist Zakir Naik banned from Toronto conference
An Indian Muslim televangelist who was banned from Britain last week for “unacceptable behaviour” will not be allowed into Canada to speak at an upcoming conference in Toronto, sources familiar with the situation have told the National Post.
Dr. Zakir Naik, who has said “every Muslim should be a terrorist” and that Jews are “our staunchest enemy,” was to headline next month’s Journey of Faith Conference — which is billed as one of North America’s largest Islamic conferences and is expected to attract upward of 10,000 people.
Dr. Naik, the Mumbai-based founder of Peace TV and a widely respected lecturer in India, has a laundry list of views that could have led to his exclusion from the U.K. and Canada, both of which require an Indian citizen to obtain a visitor visa.
The 44-year-old medical doctor recommends capital punishment for homosexuals and the death penalty for those who abandon Islam as their faith. He has said that a man is within his right to beat his wife “lightly,” although in a July 2009 YouTube video he cautioned against hitting her on the face or leaving a mark.
The “Keep Zakir Naik Out of Canada” Facebook group, which was launched over the weekend, also points out his view that Western women make themselves “more susceptible to rape” by wearing revealing clothing.
Among the chief reasons British Home Secretary Theresa May decided to quash Dr. Naik’s U.K. speaking tour later this month, however, were comments he made in a widely circulated 2007 video.
“If [Osama bin Laden] is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him….
“If he is terrorizing a terrorist, if he is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him,” said Dr. Naik, who has delivered hundreds of talks in India, Canada, the United States and the Middle East. “Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, said he and the congress have been informed that Dr. Naik will be “stopped at the airport,” and sources familiar with the situation confirmed Dr. Naik does not have a visa to enter Canada.
“We are very happy that government agencies, having been made aware of his statements, have taken this decision,” Mr. Fatah said.
Mr. Fatah said he sent a mass email to federal MPs last week, warning them of Dr. Naik’s views. “We certainly don’t want hate-mongers to come here.”
“To me, the rules as to who can come into this country were written for this kind of person,” said Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress. “The comments are highly inflammatory, and highly provocative. When you put them together in one cauldron, you have a stew of hatred.”
Dr. Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai, was reached via email yesterday but would not comment on his pending visit to Toronto. In fact, Dr. Naik may not yet know that he is unwelcome in Canada, sources said.
In his email to the National Post, Dr. Naik pointed to a June 20 statement regarding
the “overzealous and islamophobic exclusion order” issued by the U.K. The statement seeks to clarify his comments, which the foundation argues were “taken out of context.”
The Journey of Faith Conference is chaired by Imam Saed Rageah, whose Toronto mosque, the Abu Huraira Centre, made headlines last fall after a group of young worshippers vanished and were feared to have joined a Somali militant group.
Imam Ragaeh declined an interview request yesterday, but passed along a Web video via email of Dr. Naik defending his comments and promising to challenge the U.K. ban.
According to the Journey of Faith event website, the “hope” of the July 2-4 conference at the downtown Metro Toronto Convention Centre is for Muslims to “renew their forgotten relationship” with the Koran. As of last night, the site still listed Dr. Naik as a featured speaker.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada declined to comment on the case yesterday, citing the Privacy Act.