Canada cancels travel visa of Islamic preacher
Indian televangelist was scheduled to speak at Toronto conference
23 Jun 2010
NEW DELHI, INDIA—Canada has cancelled the travel visa of a controversial television preacher from Mumbai who was scheduled to speak at an upcoming religious conference in Toronto.
Officials from the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi telephoned popular Islamic televangelist Zakir Naik earlier this week to say the 44-year-old doctor’s five-year, multiple-entry visa to Canada has been cancelled, said a colleague of Naik’s at the Islamic Research Foundation in Mumbai. The visa was issued just last year.
A physician by training, Naik has become one of the most influential religious scholars in India. He was described as one of the 100 most powerful Indians in a recent survey by the Indian Express newspaper and is a polarizing figure. Naik been quoted as saying “every Muslim should be a terrorist” and that Jews are “our staunchest enemy.” He’s also condoned the death penalty for homosexuals and Muslims who convert from Islam to other religions.
Last week, he was barred from attending a conference in London after the British Home Ministry said the department had discovered evidence “of his unacceptable behaviour.” Canada followed suit a few days later.
What may have prompted U.K. and Canadian authorities to stop Naik’s entry was a video clip that has circulated on the Internet in which he says, “If he (Osama bin Lade) is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him. If he is terrorizing the terrorists, if he is terrorizing America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him Every Muslim should be a terrorist.”
But Naik’s brother, Naik Mohammad, said the video clip, labelled 2007, was actually filmed in 1996, long before Bin Laden orchestrated the September 11 terror attacks.
“In modern democracies, you don’t pass judgment without hearing from the party,” Mohammad said in an interview. “My brother has never met Bin Laden and doesn’t know him. But we aren’t worried about this. A ban would not stand up to any legal test. When he said those things about Bin Laden, no one had heard of him and Bin Laden hadn’t planned the 9/11 attacks.”
Those who have found inspiration in Naik’s teachings include Najibullah Zazi, an 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, who died during a failed suicide attack on Glasgow airport in 2007.