Savio Rodrigues, the Goa spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), India’s ruling party with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the helm, said India should boycott the FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar for giving a platform to Zakir Naik, the controversial Islamic preacher. 

Rodrigues, speaking on Tuesday, appealed to the Indian government, Indian football associations and Indians travelling to Qatar for the World Cup to boycott the tournament. 

Zakir Naik, an Islamic televangelist and founder of the Islamic Research Federation (IRF) and Peace TV Network, is a fugitive from Indian law enforcement. In 2016, the Indian government charged Naik with money laundering while in Malaysia. Zakir Naik did not return to India and took up Malaysian citizenship. 

BJP’s Savio Rodrigues said Qatar World Cup was giving a platform to Zakir Naik ‘a terror sympathiser’ at a time when the world is battling terrorism. “FIFA World Cup is a global event. People from all over the world come to witness this spectacular sport and also millions watch it on TV and internet.” 

“Giving a platform to Zakir Naik, at a time when the world is fighting global terrorism is to give a platform to a terrorist to spread his radicalism and hate,” Rodrigues said in a statement. 

He further said people of India should boycott the World Cup event “in solidarity with the global fight against terrorism.” He alleged that Zakir Naik has been instrumental in spreading “Islamic radicalism and hate in India” and added that he is “no less than a terrorist himself.” 

“Zakir Naik is a wanted man under Indian law. He is charged with money-laundering crimes and hate speeches. He is a terror sympathiser,” the BJP leader said. 

Zakir Naik is in Qatar during the World Cup and will give several religious lectures throughout the tournament, Al Arabiya News quoted Faisal Alhajiri, a presenter at Qatar’s state-run channel Aikass, as saying on Twitter on Saturday. 

India’s Home Ministry had earlier stated that Zakir Naik’s speeches were objectionable as he has been extolling known terrorists. It further said the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) founder has been promoting forcible conversion of the youth to Islam, justifying suicide bombings, and posting objectionable comments against Hindus, Hindu Gods and other religions. 

“Naik has also been further inspiring the Muslim youth and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts,” the notification stated.