Over the weekend, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman awarded a prestigious prize to Zakir Naik, a televangelist and religious scholar from India, heralding him as “one of the most renowned non-Arabic-speaking promulgators of Islam.” Naik, a trained doctor, founded the Peace TV channel, which supposedly reaches an audience of 100 million English-speaking Muslims. His popular YouTube stream includes videos titled “Who is deceived by the Satan, Christians or Muslims?” and “Does eating non-vegetarian food have any effect on the mind?”
Naik’s creed is an expansive one. “Islam is the only religion that can bring peace to the whole of humanity,” he said in a video biography aired at the ceremony.
The preacher is not short of controversy. His orthodox, Wahhabist views — affiliated closely with the Saudi state — are polarizing in India, which is home to a diverse set of Muslim traditions and sects. His conservatism has led him to make statements endorsing the use of female sex slaves and allegedly expressing sympathy for terrorists.