Saudi Arabia gives top prize to cleric who blames George Bush for 9/11
Controversial Indian preacher Zakir Naik awarded the King Faisal international prize for promoting Islam through his hugely popular Peace TV channel
Zakir Naik siad ‘even a fool will know’ that the 9/11 attacks were an ‘inside job’. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Sunday 1 March 2015 18.48 EST Last modified on Sunday 1 March 2015 21.39 EST
An Indian television preacher who has called the 9/11 attacks an “inside job” received one of Saudi Arabia’s most prestigious prizes on Sunday, for “service to Islam”.
Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, was one of five recipients of the King Faisal international prize from Saudi Arabia’s King Salman during a ceremony at a luxury Riyadh hotel.
The annual prizes are a project of the King Faisal Foundation, established in 1976 by the children of King Faisal bin Abdul Aziz who died in 1975.
Naik was honoured for being one of the most renowned non-Arabic speaking promoters of Islam. He founded the Peace TV channel, billed as the world’s only channel specialising in comparative religion.
It has an estimated English-language audience exceeding 100 million, according to his award citation.
“Islam is the only religion that can bring peace to the whole of humanity,” he said in a video biography aired at the ceremony.
In a July 2008 Peace TV broadcast, Naik suggested that al-Qaida was not responsible for flying hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center on 11 September 2001, killing almost 3,000 people.
“Even a fool will know that this was an inside job,” he said in the video, claiming then-president George W Bush was behind the attacks.
In 2010 Naik was reportedly barred from entering Britain for “numerous comments” which showed his “unacceptable behaviour”.
Naik said on Sunday that he would donate all of his $200,000 prize money to Peace TV.