Controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik addressed the Oxford Union on Friday despite the exclusion order against him entering the UK.
Naik gave a speech and answered questions via video link from India to a crowd of students and other onlookers at the event, organised by the famous debating society.
In his speech, Naik blamed the “virulent propaganda” in the media for the “misconception of Islam” and for his own ban on entry to the UK.
He claimed the media printed portions of his speeches “out of context” and so portrayed him as a “preacher of hate”.
Home Secretary Theresa May excluded Naik from the UK last June after his “unacceptable behaviour”, referring to comments he made in speeches, which were then posted as YouTube videos.
Naik defended himself during his address, declaring himself on a “mission is to spread peace”.
“Unfortunately today the media portrays Islam as a religion which promotes terrorism”, Naik said. “The media picks up on the black sheep of the Muslim community and portrays them as though they are exemplary Muslims.”
Despite the ban – a decision made as Naik’s presence in the UK “might not be conducive to the public good”, according to the Home Secretary – the controversial preacher was confident it would be temporary.
“I have full faith that very shortly this exclusion order will be reversed”, he said. “I hope that I will have the chance to meet the Home Secretary personally and explain to her the peaceful message of Islam.”
During the hour-long talk, Naik referenced the Koran and Islam’s message of peace, and declared: “The only solution to the problem of humanity is peace. Irrespective of the differences, one common factor between all the people of the world is that all want peace.”
After the talk, members of the audience queued to put questions to the speaker.
Over the course of the question-and-answer session, Naik responded to queries about Islamophobia and hijabs, among other topics.
He said that although the hijab is “prescribed” in the Koran, “Islam can’t force anyone to wear it” but that “if some women want to wear a hijab then no other women should disagree”.
On the subject of Islamophobia, Naik said: “It is the duty of us as Muslims that we should spread the true teachings of Islam.”
Naik was blunt in his statement that “Islam and I, too, condemn all forms of terrorism” and said: “Islam condemns the killing of any human being irrespective of caste colour or race, irrespective of nationality.”
In a speech before Naik’s talk, Oxford Union President James Langman said that the event promoted the society’s tradition of “organising debate and discussion”.