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BJP calls for boycott of FIFA World cup 2022 after Qatar's invitation to Zakir Naik


BJP Spokesperson Savio Rodrigues on Tuesday appealed to the government, Indian Football Associations and tourists travelling to Qatar for the FIFA World Cup to boycott the event after the host country invited controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.

Naik, an Indian fugitive who has been living in exile in Malaysia since 2017, has reportedly been invited to Qatar to deliver religious lectures.

In a statement, Rodrigues said that at a time when the world was battling terrorism, giving Naik a platform was akin to giving a ‘terrorist’ and platform to spread ‘hate’, the ANI reported.

“FIFA World Cup is a global event. People from all over the world come to witness this spectacular sport and also millions watch it on TV and the internet. Giving a platform to Zakir Naik, at a time when the world is fighting global terrorism, is to give a platform to a terrorist to spread his radicalism and hate," he said.

“Zakir Naik is a wanted man under Indian law. He is charged with money-laundering crimes and hate speeches. He is a terror sympathiser. In fact, he is no less than a terrorist himself. He has openly supported terrorist Osama bin Laden and has been instrumental in spreading Islamic radicalism and hate in India," Rodrigues added.

The BJP leader appealed to Indians and those from other countries who were victims of terrorism to boycott FIFA “in solidarity with the global fight against terrorism".

Naik has been a controversial character in India for decades. He shot to fame during the 1990s over his activities of da’wah (an act of inviting or calling people to embrace Islam) through his organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), and is also the founder of the ‘comparative religion’ Peace TV. The channel reportedly has a reach of over 100 million viewers, many of whom regard him as an exponent of the Salafi (a reform moment within the Sunni community) ideology.

India outlawed the IRF late in 2016 on the charges of encouraging and assisting the group’s followers in “promoting or attempting to promote feelings of enmity, hatred, or ill-will between different religious communities and groups.” In March this year, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared IRF an unlawful association and outlawed it for five years.

He relocated to Malaysia in 2016, just before the National Investigation Agency (NIA) started a probe against the religious preacher. He is wanted in India on charges of money laundering and alleged links to terror-related activities.