The name of fugitive Indian Salafi Islamist preacher Zakir Naik is little known in the West. Naik, the founder of the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, is currently being pursued by the Indian authorities on charges of money laundering and hate speech.
Naik is a popular Islamist preacher in his native country. He has been referred to as “perhaps the most influential Salafi ideologue in India” and “the world’s leading Salafi evangelist.” His views on subjects such as homosexuality, apostasy and the Jews are as might be expected (the first two deserve the death penalty, the third “control America”).
In himself, the fugitive preacher is of only passing interest. Naik’s activities are worthy of further note, however, because the list of his supporters and their activities on his behalf cast light on an emergent nexus in the Islamic world deserving of greater attention. This crystallizing alliance looks set to be of considerable consequence in the period opening up, not least for Israel and some of its partners in the region and beyond.
Fleeing from the Indian authorities, Naik has been the lucky recipient of permanent resident status in Malaysia. There, his case has become something of a cause célèbre. The Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS), which has a big number of ministers in the current government, had ferociously fought the calls for his Indian extradition amidst the protest from every other political parties in the country, of which even Mahathir eventually allowed him to stay, due to it incurring the wrath of the islamic community in Malaysia, whom are the majority of the country’s voters.
The Muslim Brotherhood in Malaysia has a special position among the religious leaders and Sunni scholars, and the leaders of PAS party have been in relation with this movement for a long time. Abdul Hadi Awang, the head of the Islamic Party (PAS) had a good relationship with some leaders of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood such as Saied Havy.
Naik, for his part, has offered lavish praise for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Speaking to an Islamist group, headed by Bilal Erdogan, in 2017, the Indian preacher referred to the Turkish leader as “one of the few Muslim leaders who has the guts to support Islam openly,” adding: “Oh Muslim world, wake up…. May Erdogan be the next leader of the Muslim world.”