Zakir Naik finally gets venue for media meet

Mumbai: Controversial Mumbai-based televangelist and Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who addresses audiences around the world, has finally found a venue for his media interaction here on Thursday, an aide said here on Wednesday. Naik will communicate with the Mumbai media via Skype at the Mehfil Hall, in Agripada, south Mumbai, from a venue abroad where he is currently on a lecture tour, Earlier today, the Islamic Research Foundation had rued that he was not getting any venue to address the media in Mumbai. At least four venues, including three five-star hotels and the World Trade Centre (WTC), had declined permission for conducting his press conference via Skype. The WTC had confirmed the venue for Thursday's media interaction with Naik who is abroad but cancelled it on Wednesday, an official spokesperson of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) said. "It's weird and unfair. What's going on? Apparently, hotels in Mumbai have been told not to give out venues for Naik's press conference," the spokesperson said. Critics say Naik's Islamic teachings are radicalizing the young. Earlier, Naik's spokesperson claimed that at least three hotels and WTC had confirmed availability of venue and some even took the bookings but cancelled them at the last minute, the WTC being the latest. It was the second time in at least four days that Naik's scheduled media interaction via Skype was called off amid speculation about his impending return to India. Naik -- at the centre of a storm -- is on a lecture tour in Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Africa. He is likely to return to Mumbai after some two weeks, the spokesperson said. While the Shiv Sena and others have called for his arrest, others like the IUML (Indian Union Muslim League) and AIMIM (All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen) have come out in support of Naik, saying he was a victim of a witchhunt.