Zakir Naik breaks silence on Skype: Says he condemns suicide attacks, but adds qualifier

After cancelling three media briefings in the past one week, controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik finally broke his silence and addressed the press in India via Skype on Friday. Apart from calling himself a "messenger of peace", the televangelist dodged many questions by the media.

"I have been giving lectures for 25 years and have never encouraged terrorism," said Naik and told the media not to trust doctored clips which take his speeches out of context.

Claiming his statements were doctored and tampered out of context, Naik on Friday said he unequivocally condemned all terrorist activities. The Islamic preacher dismissed as "misinformation" that he had ever advocated suicide bombings, saying he always condemned them since innocent people get killed and this is "anti-Islam". However, he added a rider and said: "However, it (suicide attacks) may be used as a tactic of war to save the country. In all other circumstances where innocents are targeted, it is condemnable."

As Firstpost earlier noted, the Muslim population in India is bitterly fragmented on Naik and his views of Islam. While some follow his speeches ardently, organisations like Darul Uloom have issued a fatwa against him. "I am a messenger of peace. I do not criticise any sect of Islam, I may disagree on interpretations," said Naik.

Naik was briefing the media from Saudi Arabia.

"There is a media trial against me in India. Media has twisted my statements and presented it out of context," Naik added. Naik also attacked the Union government for banning his Peace TV.

Commotion broke out during the media briefing, when Naik accused a reporter of not having "tameez".

The radical televangelist began his address by condemning the truck attack in Nice, which killed 84 people on Friday.

"I did not inspire the Dhaka attack terrorists. Newspaper which blamed me for Dhaka attack later corrected itself and exonerated me. My statements were taken out of context. Media for ulterior motives change meaning of my statements. My answers are altered and misguide people. Those who do that should be held responsible."

Naik said he has replies to all allegations made on TV and they are on pen drives for reporters. "I condemn all terror attacks anywhere in the world, will speak for hours if needed. This is misinformation that I have advocated people to kill. I am a messenger of peace."

One of the slain attackers of the terrorist attack in Dhaka's high-security Gulshan area, the 22-year-old Rohan Imtiaz quoted Naik in a Facebook post in January this year where he urged "all Muslims to be terrorists". Twenty-two people were killed in the brutal late-night attack. Six days later, militants attacked police guarding the largest Eid gathering in Bangladesh and killed three more people.

The activities of Naik's Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation are also under the scanner of Indian Ministry of Home Affairs amid allegations that funds from abroad received by it have been spent on political activities and inspiring people towards radical views.

"Ban can only be if a country has given downlinking permission. When India hasn't given any permit, how can they ban the channel? No government official authority has approached us with any question. So far, I have had no problem with Indian govt or the police. Knowingly, I have never met any terrorist, but if some people stand next to me and take photographs, I smile. I dont know who they are," Naik said.

"I am a messenger of peace," Naik added.

"So far not a single official agency approached me to be a part of investigation. I am willing to cooperate if they approach me."

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Updated Date: Jul 15, 2016 14:15:15 IST

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