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
  • Get to the point
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

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: New Lift Sales Executive - Lift and Elevators

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A challenging opportunity for a...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss