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In Bharuch, a family with links to Zakir Naik’s South African mentor

A village in Gujarat’s Surat district has hit the spotlight for being the birthplace of late Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, the mentor of Zakir Naik.

Written by Aditi Raja | Bharuch |
August 10, 2016 2:07:09 am
zakir naik, peace tv, islamic state, muslim preacher, peace tv preacher, mumbai muslim preacher, india terrorism, islamic extremesim, bangladesh terror attack, dhaka terror attack, india news, mumbai news Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. (File Photo)

A village in Gujarat’s Surat district has hit the spotlight for being the birthplace of late Sheikh Ahmed Deedat, the mentor of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik who is under the scanner of Indian intelligence agencies for “influencing” jihadists.

Tadkeshwar in Surat district is home to a famous Mahadev temple and has one of the oldest madrasas, Darul Uloom Falah-e-Darain. It is here that Deedat was born in 1918, before he migrated to South Africa at the age of nine. Naik has acknowledged the role of Deedat in his life and has admitted in interviews that he was “trained by him”. Naik’s official website lists the deceased Deedat as an “international orator” at the Islamic Research Foundation in India.

About 40 km from Tadkeshwar, seated in their luxurious bungalow at Ankleshwar in Bharuch, Deedat’s extended family — grandnephew Ghulam Ali, 68, and his son Mohammed, 42, who is a local BJP functionary — are discreet about their association with the preacher, but speak with pride about their family patriarch’s brush with fame in the Middle East and US.

They say they are not in “regular” touch with Deedat’s family that has moved to South Africa, although Mohammed met Ahmed Deedat’s son, Yousuf, who is a preacher himself, during his last visit to Durban.

Mohammed says, “I met Yousuf for the first time. It was a very formal meeting although we are family. The distance has meant that we are not in touch. Ahmed Deedat had moved to South Africa as a child and most of our extended family members are also there.”

Mohammed, a former BJP councillor of Ankleshwar municipality who is also into construction business, however, says that the family takes pride for being associated with a revered Islamic preacher. Mohammed says it is the “special treatmen” at immigration checks of Saudi Arabia and US that initially acquainted the family members with Deedat’s worldwide popularity. It is a known fact that Deedat enjoyed the patronage of the Saudi royal family and was allowed to use their personal airport for his visits to the country.

Mohammed says, “Originally, we are Sunni Bohra Muslims and do not belong to the clan of Sheikhs. However, the Saudi royal family had bestowed the title of Sheikh on Ahmed Deedat, a big honour.”

The family has heard Ahmed Deedat’s speeches only on YouTube, he says, but never had the chance to attend his discourses. While Deedat enjoyed much support from the Muslim believers, his critics slammed him as a “hate preacher”. He was reported to have close ties with Osama Bin Laden’s family that funded Islamic Propagation Centre International (IPCI), founded by Deedat in 1957. The organisation was initially called Bin Laden Centre.

The family in India, however, distances itself from his controversies. Mohammed says, “While Ahmed Deedat was knowledgeable and was putting forth only the Islamic perspective on Christianity, he was often misunderstood. So, he was also banned in many countries. Not everyone can understand a perspective. I don’t know much about Naik either. How a speech can influence someone is a subjective matter.”

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