A cleric who has publicly stated that he is a 9/11 truther and previously described the attacks as an “inside job” received the prestigious “service to Islam” award from the government of Saudi Arabia on Sunday.
Zakir Naik, an Indian cleric who serves as president of the Islamic Research Foundation in his country, received the prize from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman at a 5-star hotel in Riyadh. Although Naik does not speak Arabic, he was honored due to his efforts to promote Islam through his Peace TV channel venue.
Peace TV has an audience of over 100 million people, according to The Guardian, citing Naik’s award citation. At the ceremony, Naik said he would donate his $200,000 prize money to his media network.
“Islam is the only religion that can bring peace to the whole of humanity,” Nakir said in a video shown during the award ceremony.
The Guardian reports that during a 2008 broadcast on the cleric’s Peace TV, he said that “even a fool will know that this was an inside job,” claiming that 9/11 was likely carried out by the George W. Bush administration. Shortly thereafter, the Indian cleric was banned from the UK for his “numerous comments” which displayed his “unacceptable behavior.”
Speaking about deceased al-Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, Naik has previously stated, “If bin Laden is fighting enemies of Islam, I am for him. … If he is terrorizing America–the biggest terrorist–I am with him.”
Naik has previously stated that he believes apostasy, or leaving Islam, should rightly be punishable by death. “Those who propagate the non-Islamic faith and speak against Islam … should be sentenced to death,” the Indian cleric said in 2010.