THE Muslim Council of Britain has denounced the decision to ban Dr Zakir Naik from the UK ahead of a peace conference in Wembley.

Dr Nair was yesterday banned from entering the country by Home Secretary Theresa May because of what she called “unacceptable behaviour”, just over a week before he was due to address the Al-Khair Peace Conference at Wembley Arena.

In a statement, the council, a leading voice in the Islamic community, said it “deplores” Mrs May's decision and described Dr Naik as a “renowned Indian mainstream Islamic scholar”.

It said: “The Home Secretary’s action serves to demonise the very voices within the world ready for debate and discussion.

“The tour would have been a golden opportunity for young Muslims who are eager to hear the true messages of Islam which promote understanding between communities.”

The council also accused Mrs May of succumbing to what it described as a “recent campaign of vilification against the scholar” in some media outlets.

Dr Naik has been quoted as saying “all Muslims should be terrorists”, but he argues these comments from a 1996 lecture have been taken out of context.

He has issued a statement in line of his ban from the UK saying he is “disappointed” and restating that he aims to dispel myths surrounding his religion in his talks.

Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said: “This exclusion order demonstrates the double standards practiced by the government concerning freedom of speech.

“While preachers of hate such as Geert Wilders are free to promote their bigotry in this country, respected Muslim scholars such as Dr Naik are refused entry to the UK under false pretenses.

“It is deeply regrettable this is likely to cause serious damage to community cohesion in our country."

A protest by the English Defence League and a counter demonstration by Unite Against Fascism, planned for the day of the Wembley Arena conference, are now in doubt following Dr Naik's ban.

It is still unclear whether the conference will take place at all, or whether Dr Naik will be able to appear via a videolink.