Zakir Naik, the controversial Islamist who is alleged to have influenced one of the attackers in Dhaka, was a doctor before turning into a televangelist. As the founder of the Islamic Research Foundation he has been propagating the Wahabi Islamism and Salfism.
He has courted many controversies through his speeches and his comments be it on the status of women or about the terror attacks that is being carried out in the name Islam.
Naik, 50, son of the psychiatrist father Abdul Karim Naik belongs to Ratnagiri in Maharastra, It was his father who motivated Naik to be as an Islamic preacher and public speaker.
It was during his MBBS days in Topiwala National Medical College & BYL Nair Charitable Hospital in central Mumbai, that he decided to become full time Islamic preacher by abandoning medical profession.
During that period in medical college he happened to attend a class of South African preacher Ahmed Deedat, who influenced him so much that he decided to follow the his footsteps.
Naik now claims to have 1.4 million followers in Facebook and 20 crore viewers on his evangelical Peace TV. The Dubai headquartered channel is not registered with India’s Information and Broadcasting ministry.
Islamic Research foundation gets huge donation from across the world. Last year , Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz presented Naik with King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam which carried US $200,000 and a gold medal.
Apart from IRF Naik owns Islamic International School in Mazgaon.
The Islamic International School runs a string of programmes, including lectures, training sessions for youth, classes for hafiz Islamic orientation programmes are held as part of the school curriculum.
Naik who travels across the world to preach Islamism, has courted controversies for taking extreme views on religion, women’s status in society etc.
At t the University of Melbourne in 2004, he argued that Islam is the only religion that offered women true equality, and went on to add that “revealing Western dress” make woman more susceptible to rape. In 2010 he was denied British visa where he was attend a seminar.
Married to Farhat, who is heading IRF’s women’s wing Naik has two daughters . They are studying in Mumbai while their son studies at an Islamic university in Riyadh. The son, says an ardent Naik admirer, is following in the footsteps of his father and learning to be a preacher.
Naik, who is in Mecca now reacted to the news that the Dhaka attackers were inspired by his speeches He was quoted as saying “The largest percentage of my Facebook followers are from Bangladesh. 90 per cent of Bangladeshis would know me, including senior politicians, philanthropists, common men, students and more. 50 per cent would be my fans. Am I shocked that the attackers knew me? No.”
“Such a person would be a hardcore fan of Prophet Muhammad. Does that mean Prophet Muhammad told him to kill people?” Naik asked, adding that the Quran explicitly states that when a person kills another, of any religion, “it is as though he has killed the whole of humanity”.
His office say that he will be conducting a press conference once he returns from Mecca.