Hardline Preacher Zakir Naik Has Broken No Laws: Malaysian Deputy PM

N. Natha
Kuala Lumpur
171031-bangladesh-naik-620.jpg Indian protesters in New Delhi hold signs as they denounce Islamic scholar Zakir Naik, July 18, 2016.

Malaysia will not arrest a controversial Muslim televangelist from India who has been granted permanent residency unless he is involved in terrorist activities or breaks any local laws, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi assured parliamentarians on Tuesday.

Preacher Zakir Naik legally obtained a permanent resident I.D. card from the National Registration Department based on an entry pass issued by the immigration department, Zahid said in a written response to questions from opposition MP Teresa Kok Suh Sim.

She asked whether Naik, who is the subject of criminal charges in India, received special treatment or was offered citizenship.

“Throughout his stay in the country, Zakir Naik has never flouted any law. Therefore, there is no reason in terms of legal provisions to detain or arrest him,” Zahid said, adding that the preacher had not received any special treatment in Malaysia.

The home minister also responded that officials were waiting to hear from their Indian counterparts.

“The Malaysian government has yet to receive any official request from the India government on alleged terrorism offenses involving Zakir Naik,” Hamidi said. “Nevertheless, the government has always monitored Zakir’s activities in the country and will take action against him if he is found to be involved in terror activities.”

Despite Hamidi’s assurance that the preacher was being monitored, Naik is not in the country, an immigration officer who asked to remain anonymous told BenarNews.

Singapore bans two Muslims clerics

Also on Tuesday, the Malaysian deputy minister said that the government would not bar two other controversial Muslim preachers, Malaysian Haslin bin Baharim and Zimbabwean Ismail Menk from delivering sermons in Malaysia.

Zahid made the comment a day after the Singaporean home ministry banned the two preachers from entering the city-state that borders Malaysia, saying their preaching could foment social discord in Singapore, which is also a multi-racial and multi-religious nation.

“So far, these two religious speakers have not suggested anything that goes against our understanding of cultural and religious diversity to the point of causing social, racial and religious tensions in Malaysia,” Malaysia’s state-run Bernama news agency quoted Zahid as saying.

“Thus far, Malaysia is satisfied with what they are doing and does not intend to take similar action as they are not wrong in our eyes,” he said.

Singapore’s assessment of the two hardline preachers contrasted sharply with Zahid’s comments.

Menk preaches “segregationist and divisive teachings,” such as claiming that it is a sin for Muslims to wish Christians a Merry Christmas or to wish Hindus a Happy Deepavali (Divali), and Baharim has promoted disharmony by describing non-Muslims as “deviant,” Singaporean home ministry officials said in a statement.

“Such divisive views breed intolerance and exclusivist practices that will damage social harmony, and cause communities to drift apart. They are unacceptable in the context of Singapore's multi-racial and multi-religious society,” the ministry said on Monday.

Charge-sheet against Naik

An Indian official had previously said that Naik was believed to be traveling between the United Arab Emirates and Malaysia. The preacher left India a month before terrorists attacked a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh in July 2016, officials said.

In July, Naik cancelled a scheduled appearance at a gathering of Muslim scholars in Malaysia’s Kelantan state after India revoked his passport.

Naik’s inflammatory speeches allegedly inspired some of the militants who carried out the siege at the Holey Artisan Bakery café in Dhaka. Twenty-nine people, including 20 hostages and five gunmen, were killed during the overnight attack claimed by the extremist group Islamic State.

Last week, the Indian government filed a 61-page charge sheet against Naik alleging he was involved in a criminal conspiracy by lauding terrorist organizations. Officials announced plans to ask Interpol to help find him.

India’s National Investigation Agency also accused Naik of giving sermons through his Peace TV channel that praised the late al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden, supported suicide attacks by militants and denounced Hindu gods.

Naik’s now-forbidden Mumbai-based NGO Islamic Research Foundation partly funded the channel that is banned in India, Bangladesh and several other countries.

Hata Wahari in Kuala Lumpur contributed to this report.


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