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Digvijaya Singh faces flak for lauding Zakir Naik

New Delhi: Senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh, facing flak for having dubbed controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik a "messenger of peace" in 2012, on Thursday said that if the Indian or Bangladeshi government found any evidence linking Naik to the Islamic State terror group, they should act against him.

Digvijay Singh
Digvijay Singh

Naik is under the scanner following revelations that two of the five young militants who massacred 20 hostages, including an Indian, at a popular cafe in Dhakha on July 1 drew their inspiration from his speeches.

"If government of India (GOI) or the government of Bangladesh has any evidence against Zakir Naik's involvement with ISIS (Islamic State) they should take action against him," Singh tweeted.

Singh's tweets came after an online video surfaced showing him at an event sharing the stage and a hug with Naik, and at a conference in 2012 where he called the Islamic preacher a "messenger of peace."

"I have heard many times the name of Zakir Naik. I am happy to hear that he (Naik) is spreading message of peace all over the world," Singh said, praising the scholar in the controversial video.

The video was broadcast on Peace TV, which is run by Naik.

Reacting to the controversy, Singh in a tweet claimed that "the conference was for communal harmony and against terrorism. Also to explain that Islam is against innocents being killed."

Defending his presence alongside Naik at the event, Singh tweeted: "My speech at conference organised by Zakir Naik is being shown. I spoke against religious fundamentalism and appealed for communal harmony."

On Wednesday, Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters that Naik’s speeches are a "matter of concern for us" and that government agencies "are working on this".

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday said Naik's speeches are objectionable, and indicated that the government may take action against him.

"The Home Ministry will analyse everything," Naidu said.

Naik, founder of Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation, is banned in the United Kingdom and Canada for his hate speeches aimed against other religions.

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