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
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Buddy DeFranco
people
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
filmIdris Elba responds to James Bond rumours on Twitter
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones
film
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
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: Business Manager

£32000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Manager is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£45000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Panel & Cabinet Wireman

£20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Panel Wireman required for small electro...

Recruitment Genius: Electronics Test Engineer

£25000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SME based in East Cheshire, ...

Day In a Page

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month