Zakir Naik among ‘extremists’ abusing UK charities, says think tank

AFP pic
AFP pic

PETALING JAYA: A London-based think tank has named Zakir Naik in its latest report on terrorism, accusing the controversial Indian Muslim preacher of exploiting British charities and other organisations for funds and support.

The Henry Jackson Society’s report titled “Wolves in sheep’s clothing: How Islamist extremists exploit the UK charitable sector”, said at least £6 million of taxpayers’ money had been given to extremist groups last year, adding that this could be just the tip of the iceberg.

It said such groups portrayed themselves as charities to “exploit” the Islamic teachings on charity, while donors were unaware of the organisations’ agenda.

Since 2010, Naik has been banned from entering Britain, but he remains the chair of the Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI), a UK-registered charity.

India has banned IRFI over concerns that individuals might be radicalised by the organisation.

Naik is wanted by Indian enforcement authorities for questioning over allegations of spreading hatred through his speeches, funding terror groups and laundering money. He has, however, fled the country, and currently lives in Malaysia as a permanent resident.

The UK report said while there was no evidence of Naik’s direct involvement in terrorism, “there are concerns about the radicalisation potential of Naik’s lectures”.

“Naik has had criminal cases registered against him by the Indian police alleging his involvement in the radicalisation of young people, as well as having transferred funds from IRF (Islamic Research Foundation) to Peace TV,” it added.

The report said Peace TV owned by IRF claims that donations to the channel are to be made through the charity.

In 2016, the report said IRFI received £951,356. Some £994,848 in excess of its annual income was paid to Peace TV, and an additional £11,000 to the Al Noor Foundation.

The channel continued to hold its licence from UK communications regulator Ofcom even after Naik was banned from entering the UK, it added.

It said there is a problem of stopping funds from reaching Islamist extremists “whose views are not illegal”.

“On occasion, the line between the two forms of abuse are blurred, with some charities connected to terrorism also showing signs of extremism, as is seen in the case of some humanitarian aid charities and those with other activities abroad.

“Producing credibility and disproportionate influence in the public domain, the relationships between these charities function like a cartel, with many among the network of Islamist extremist speakers being involved in multiple charities, presenting themselves as representatives of ‘true’ Islam, delegitimising moderate voices and effectively squeezing them out of the market.”

The report said Ofcom should be granted more powers and use its current authority more effectively to deal with individuals and organisations collecting funds.