Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 15 December 2019

British regulator set to strip broadcasting licence of TV station linked to Qatar’s Al Rayan bank

Peace TV is caught up in allegations over client accounts at the Qatari-state controlled Al Rayan Bank in the UK

An Islamic tv station, whose founder Zakir Naik is banned from the UK, faces being stripped of its licence in Britain after a watchdog found it repeatedly broadcast hate speeches.   Zakir Naik speaks at the Dubai Airport Expo Centre on August 27, 2009. Jeff Topping / The National
An Islamic tv station, whose founder Zakir Naik is banned from the UK, faces being stripped of its licence in Britain after a watchdog found it repeatedly broadcast hate speeches.   Zakir Naik speaks at the Dubai Airport Expo Centre on August 27, 2009. Jeff Topping / The National

An Islamic television station, whose founder has been banned from the UK for almost a decade, faces being stripped of its licence in Britain after a watchdog found it repeatedly broadcast hate speeches.

The satellite Peace TV station is funded by the Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI) which is one of a number of controversial groups which banks with British-registered, Qatari state controlled bank, Al Rayan - which has come under scrutiny after it was revealed some clients have links to terror and extremist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

Britain’s media regulator OfCom found that four programmes on Peace TV breached broadcasting rules on incitement to crime, hate speech, abuse and offence after it aired shows describing gay people as “worse than animals” and more “corrupted and contaminated” than pigs and advocated the execution of magicians.

The UK regulator told The National on Tuesday it was looking at banning the station, which claims to reach 200 million viewers, following its inquiry.

“Our investigations found that programmes broadcast on Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu contained hate speech and highly offensive content, which in one instance could incite crime. This represents a serious failure to comply with our broadcasting rules,” an OfCom spokesperson said.

“Due to the seriousness of some of these breaches, we’ve told the licensees that we will consider imposing a statutory sanction.

Its founder Zakir Naik, 53, preaches on the station and is also the founder of the IRFI – two of the breaches related to him.

Indian Islamic preacher Mr Naik, who is based in Malaysia, is also banned from India and Bangladesh and is accused by the Indian government of laundering £23m.

Both countries have accused him of inspiring terror acts, after the perpetrators of two separate attacks had allegedly followed his sermons.

In one breach Mr Naik sanctioned the killing of apostates — Muslims who renounce their faith – in Islamic countries. In another broadcast entitled Better Half or Bitter Half, Mr Naik said that it was “no problem at all” for women aged under 18 to get married, even if it was illegal in their country.

The regulator has the power to impose a £250,000 fine or revoke a station’s licence.

Last week Interpol rejected an application by India to blacklist Mr Naik, who is already exiled from the country.

It had applied for an Interpol Red Corner Notice to put him on a wanted list

It wants to question him over suspected money laundering and support of terrorism – all of which he denies.

He was banned from Bangladesh following a terror attack on a tourist café in Dhaka in 2016 which it’s alleged one the perpetrators was inspired by his sermons and followed him on Facebook.

It has also been alleged that Najibullah Zazi who plotted a terror attack on the New York subway in 2009 was an “admirer” of his sermons.

In the past, Mr Naik has called music a sin. He once expressed support for Osama bin Laden, although he subsequently said that his statements were misunderstood and taken out of context. He is also accused of saying that men could beat their wives “lightly” and advocating the death penalty for apostates.

A week after the Dhaka siege, in which 24 people died, India’s information and broadcasting minister, Venkaiah Naidu, noted the Facebook connection between the Dhaka attackers and Mr Naik and said the preacher’s speeches were “highly objectionable”.

It then launched an investigation into the source of funds behind the Mumbai-based Islamic Research Foundation International (IRFI) set up by Mr Naik in 1991.

The latest accounts for the IRFI reveal it has given £1.7m to Peace TV over the last two years.

In 2010, Britain banned Mr Naik from entering the country, citing “unacceptable behaviour”, although it never spelled out the nature of the behaviour. He has previously said: “I condemn all terror activities and killing of innocents anywhere in the world, be they in Paris, Dhaka or Mumbai.

Despite his UK ban, his foundation banks with Al Rayan in Britain.

It was revealed this week that the bank has 15 controversial entities – four of which have had their UK accounts closed by leading banks including HSBC and Barclays – which are operating accounts on its books.

It’s client list includes groups accused of links to extremists and Islamists agendas from Hamas to the Muslim Brotherhood.The bank’s clients include Britain’s Finsbury Park mosque, which was formerly run by hate cleric Abu Hamza who is serving a life sentence for terror offences in the US, and had its account closed by HSBC in 2014.

It has been listed as being associated with terrorism on the banking system World-Check which institutions use when deciding on clients and their risk.

The Nectar Trust, the British arm of the Qatar Charity in Doha which is banned by a number of countries including the UAE, is also a customer.

The Qatar Charity, which has been connected with the Muslim Brotherhood and designated a proscribed organisation within the Arab Quartet for its links to terrorism, handed the Nectar Trust £28.2m between 2017-2018. It is behind a number of projects to build some of the largest multi-million-pound mosques across Europe.

The Ummah Welfare Trust, which has worked with organisations in Gaza that are banned in the US for funding Hamas, is a client, it was previously dropped by HSBC as a customer.

The UK government has been urged to investigate the bank.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has one of the strongest regimes in the world for deterring money laundering and terrorist financing.

"Banks are expected to apply due diligence measures when considering the services they provide to current or potential customers.

“It is for the Financial Conduct Authority and law enforcement to investigate where there are suggestions regulations or the law have been broken.”

The FCA has refused to confirm whether or not it is investigating Al Rayan.

OfCom has said it will issue its ruling on Peace TV later this year.

Updated: August 6, 2019 07:52 PM

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