Shiv Sena MP Arvind Sawant called radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik a "traitor and criminal" and said that he did not believe in the latter's claim that the government sought to trade his return to India and dropping cases against him in exchange for favourable statements on Kashmir and minority policy.
"Zakir Naik is a criminal. He has a channel which is telecasted in many countries and because of his sermons, many of our children have joined ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant). He is a man who promoted extremism. On record, it was said that boys who left Kerala and joined ISIL are because of his sermons," Arvind Sawant said.
The former Union Minister also recalled that it was he who raised the issue in Parliament after which the then Home Minister Rajnath Singh initiated action following which Naik fled India in 2016.
This comes amid a raging controversy over Congress leader Digvijaya Singh sharing of Zakir Naik's video where the radical Islamic preacher claims to have been approached by a representative of PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to support the government over its move to abrogate Article 370 from J&K and soothe its relations with Muslims. Digvijaya Singh has been accused in the past of backing Zakir Naik and has admitted to sharing a stage with him.
In the video, Naik claims that the government offered to drop cases against him and extend an olive branch to him to return to India from Malaysia.
On Twitter, Digvijaya Singh, while sharing the video, wrote, "Modi-Shah are engaged in deal-making with Dr. Zakir Naik while they have kept him in the category of traitor. What is their strategy?"
India has been seeking the extradition of Naik, a 53-year-old radical television preacher, who left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to Malaysia. Naik was booked by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2016 based on an FIR, registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, by the National Investigation Agency. The ED said Naik received funds worth crores of rupees in his and his trusts' bank accounts from unidentified "well-wishers" over the years for his speeches that spread "hatred and incited Muslim youths" to take up terrorism.