Being a Goan, I am a huge fan of football. Soccer is popularly referred to as football in India. We Goans live and breathe football.
Every FIFA World Cup is a celebration for us. It kindles in us a football fervor and fever.
Having grown up in the Middle East, I can confidently say that football is a sport of passion in many Gulf countries. Therefore, Qatar hosting FIFA World Cup 2022 is a huge sporting event in the Middle East and a phenomenal morale booster for Qatar globally. The first time a Middle Eastern nation is hosting the FIFA World Cup.
Being an Islamic nation, Qatar would have restrictions on alcohol, attire, and behavior of the millions of fans that attend the FIFA World Cup from around the world. The restriction imposed by Qatar, though a bit strict because football is a carnival for its fans, I can still grudgingly accept as a football fan and even adhere to it because of the sport.
However, when I read media reports, stating that Qatar has extended an invitation to controversial Islamic preacher Dr. Zakir Naik, I was appalled and disappointed.
Qatar is within its right to invite whomsoever it wants to invite to its grand sporting event. But Dr. Zakir Naik is not just anybody, he is a terrorist sympathizer. I see him as no less than a terrorist. To invite a terror sympathizer to the FIFA World Cup – a global event that is neither religious nor political – is to condone terrorism.
Global terrorism is a sad truth that many nations around the world are grappling to keep in control. Acts of terrorism have destroyed families and been responsible for the deaths of many innocent people over the years.
It is a harsh truth but truth nevertheless that at the forefront of terror attacks around the world, it has been radicalized Islamic terrorists that account for over 90 percent of the acts of terrorism.
Some Muslim men and women have been for the last several decades around the world have been indoctrinated to live in hate and to spread terror against people who oppose their radicalized Islamic faith or people who belong to a different religious faith.
Dr. Zakir Naik is one such Islamic cleric who worked to influence young Muslim minds to hate and terror.
In 1996, Dr. Zakir Naik gave a speech specifically about terrorism and addressing Osama bin Laden. Naik stated that “Every Muslim should be a terrorist. The thing is that if he [Osama] is terrorizing the terrorist, then he is following Islam.
Najibullah Zazi, the Afghan-American linked to Al-Qaeda was found guilty in 2009 New York City Subway and United Kingdom plot was an ‘admirer’ of Dr. Naik’s sermons.
The horrific Dhaka terror attack of July 2016 is a case in point. One of the bombers told Bangladeshi investigators that he was influenced by Dr. Zakir Naik’s preaching through his YouTube channel. In the bombing, 20 innocent people lost their lives.
He was also accused of his alleged links in instigating the Easter 2019 bombing in Sri Lanka that killed over 250 innocent people.
According to several media reports, Dr. Zakir Naik gained fame during the 1990s over his activities of dawah — proselytizing for Islam through his Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation (IRF). By the early 2000s, his videos had become the subject of debate as he attempted to establish the superiority of Islam over other religions. He launched Peace TV English, a Dubai-based channel for the propagation of Islam. Later he also launched Urdu and Bangla versions of Peace TV, which has been banned in many countries – Bangladesh, Canada, United Kingdom Sri Lanka, and India over allegations of a hate campaign.
Dr. Zakir Naik, who has nearly 17.5 million followers on Facebook, is unwelcome in several countries for his views, particularly after his declared support for Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
Dr. Zakir Naik fled India in July 2016 after his organization Islamic Research Foundation was banned and he was named in an FIR. He is being probed under terror and money laundering charges by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). The NIA had first registered a case against Naik under anti-terror laws in 2016 for allegedly promoting enmity between different religious groups
In 2019, he was also banned from delivering public speeches in Malaysia, where he had been living after leaving India. Naik has also been further inspiring the Muslim youth and terrorists in India and abroad to commit terrorist acts,” the Ministry of Home Affairs notification had said while banning IRF. Last week, the ban was extended for another five years.
Dr. Zakir Naik has called for the death penalty for homosexuality and the conversion of a Muslim from Islam to any other religion. He even said the men have the “right” to beat their wives “gently”. He has even defended the Islamic State for keeping sex slaves. He also supported the Islamic State over the destruction of non-Muslim religious places.
He is not just a terrorist sympathizer. He is no less than a terrorist. He is an indoctrinator of terrorism.
I do not for one moment think that Qatar inviting Dr. Zakir Naik is an error. Qatar wants to show the rest of the world its Islamic soft power when compared to other Islamic nations in the Middle East. It is positioning itself as a nation that will uphold the Islamic faith and bring the Western world to follow its diktats in Qatar, even if it’s a carnival-like the FIFA World Cup. Qatar will ensure that all fans mostly from non-Islamic nations follow their strict rules and laws during the World Cup. Inviting Dr. Zakir Naik to give lectures on Islam during the World Cup is the agenda for the promotion of Islam during the World Cup.
The FIFA World Cup in Qatar with the presence of the Indian fugitive Dr. Zakir Naik is an insult to the spirit of the game of football and the positive energy of the global tournament. Not only India and Indians but the world must boycott the FIFA World Cup in Qatar if a platform is provided to someone no less than a terrorist like Dr. Zakir Naik. We must not have any comprise in our fight against global terrorism.
Make no mistake Dr. Zakir Naik is a poisonous person on the prowl to fill innocent minds with hate, fear, and terror with his radicalized Islamic teachings.
I love football. But I will never support a nation or a tournament that gives a platform to a terror-spreader like Dr. Zakir Naik. So it is not FIFA World Cup for me this time.