The Government of India issued its first statement in response to the Republic’s report on fugitive Zakir Naik’s attendance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Hardeep Singh Puri, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, expressed his displeasure on Tuesday about Zakir Naik delivering religious lectures at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. He promised that the Indian government would raise the issue and take firm action.
Notably, Naik is a wanted fugitive in India for inciting hatred, extremism, and promoting enmity among religious groups, and he is accused of money laundering, terror-related activities, and other charges.
As the FIFA World Cup began on November 20 in Qatar, with Indian Vice President Jagdeep Dhankhar also representing India, controversial preacher Zakir Naik is in Qatar to give religious lectures throughout the football extravaganza, according to Qatar’s state-owned Sports channel, Alkass, on Twitter.
“Preacher Sheikh Zakir Naik is in Qatar during the World Cup and will give many religious lectures throughout the tournament,” tweeted Faisal Alhajri, a presenter at Qatar’s state-owned sports channel Alkass, on Saturday.
In late 2016, India banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation, accusing him of encouraging and assisting its followers in “promoting or attempting to promote feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different religious communities and groups.” The ban was later extended by the government for five years. He has been living in exile in Malaysia as a runaway fugitive since 2017, after the Indian government charged him with money laundering.