Courted by MI6, banned by the Government

I was asked by security services to educate Muslims – then barred from UK, says preacher

A controversial Islamic preacher who was banned from entering the country by the Home Secretary Theresa May has claimed that he was twice approached by security officials who wanted him to help educate disaffected young British Muslims.

The Mumbai-based evangelist and scholar Dr Zakir Naik – who was barred from entering the UK in June, a few days before he was due to give talks to thousands of Muslims in London, Birmingham and Sheffield – said that before the general election he was twice approached by British security officials to help reform those in danger of becoming extremists.

But, following the change of government, Ms May banned him from entering the country, highlighting contentious quotes he had given as justification. Dr Naik is to challenge her decision in the High Court this month, claiming that his comments have been taken out of context. Dr Naik said: "In 2009, I was sounded out by government officials representing the Home Office and the anti-terrorism department to see if I would co-operate with them to reach out to misguided young Muslims.

"They said I would make an ideal envoy. I told them I would be happy to co-operate. Now after the change of government, the attitude has changed. Only last year the Government wanted me to help tackle terrorism; this year they are calling me a terrorist."

At the time, says Dr Naik, he discussed how he could use his television channel, Peace TV, to help spread his message to disaffected Muslims and invited the officials to one of his talks.

The subject was broached again this year, when Dr Naik's UK office held a meeting with Home Office security officials. Legal documents lodged at the High Court state that on 3 June, Dr Naik's representatives met Charles Farr, director general of the Office for Security and Counter-terrorism (OSCT), along with Sabin Khan, a community adviser, and Debbie Gupta, also of the OSCT. The documents state that at the meeting Mr Farr said he was in favour of Dr Naik coming to the UK.

Ms Gupta, who is a facilitator for the Government's Prevent programme – which aims to stop people from becoming terrorists by reaching out to Muslim communities – is quoted as saying: "Dr Naik can reach the people we simply cannot."

The documents also allege that, in subsequent telephone calls, Ms Khan reiterated that she and Mr Farr felt Dr Naik's visit to the UK could be "very constructive and positive". She has since reportedly been suspended from her position after allegedly criticising Ms May's decision.

Dr Naik has hired two lawyers to fight his case. Defeat for Ms May would be embarrassing, as the order was her first test in office relating to government policy on perceived extremists. In her letter highlighting the reasons for his exclusion, Ms May quoted Dr Naik's assertion that "all Muslims should be terrorists" as one example of his "unreasonable behaviour". He claims the statement was taken out of context. "I said every Muslim should be a terrorist to each and every anti-social element in society... but no Muslim should ever terrorise a single innocent human being," he insisted.

Another passage quoted in the court document is said to come from a 2006 lecture, in which Dr Naik said of Osama bin Laden: "If he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him." Dr Naik claims the date of this comment is incorrect and that the lecture was given in 1998, before the 11 September attacks.

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "It would be inappropriate to comment on an ongoing court case. The Home Secretary will consider many views in making a decision but will exclude an individual if she considers that their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good. We will defend this position robustly."

Dr Zakir Naik

* Ranked the 82nd most powerful person in India last year, Dr Zaik was born in Mumbai in 1965 and trained in medicine at university. He abandoned this career in 1991 to concentrate on preaching, founding the Islamic Research Foundation which uses the media and its own television channel – Peace TV – to promote understanding of Islam. While he is recognised as an authority on Islam, he has also earned a reputation for making disparaging remarks about other faiths, arguing that those "who change their religion should face the death penalty". He has also been filmed saying that "There are many Jews who are good to Muslims, but as a whole...The Koran tells us, as a whole, they will be our staunchest enemy."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'