Malaysia: Muslim Scholar Barred From Giving Talk On Islam-Hindu Relations

Fahirul N. Ramli
Kuala Lumpur
160411-my-zakirnaik620.jpg Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz (left) presents Zakir Naik, president of the Islamic Research Foundation in India, with the 2015 King Faisal International Prize for Service to Islam, in Riyadh, March 1, 2015.
AFP/ HO/King Faisal Foundation

Malaysia’s police have asked organizers to cancel a scheduled talk this week by a controversial Islamic preacher from India following protests from Hindu groups.

Zakir Naik, a popular Muslim televangelist who has been previously banned from entering Britain and Canada, was scheduled to deliver a talk on “Similarities Between Hinduism and Islam” on April 17, but police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said it could hurt religious sensitivities in multi-racial Malaysia where Islam is the official religion.

Zakir, who heads the Islamic Research Foundation, raised eyebrows several years ago when he called the Sept. 11 deadly attacks in the United States “an inside job.”

In a July 2008 TV broadcast, Naik suggested that the terror group al-Qaeda was not responsible for flying hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, killing almost 3,000 people.

“Even a fool will know that this was an inside job,” he said in a video, claiming then-President George W. Bush was behind the attacks, according to published news reports.

The U.S. State Department had strongly criticized Zakir for those remarks.

Malaysian Police chief Khalid said in a tweet Monday that the April 17 forum was scrapped to protect “public order and religious sensitivities in Malaysia.”

Khalid, when contacted by BenarNews, explained that the planned talk at the Universiti Teknikal Malaysia (UTeM) in the state of Malacca could be a “threat to security.”

“We the police will not allow this to happen,” he said.

However, Khalid declined to comment on the fate of other speeches by the preacher scheduled in several Malaysian states.

Zakir, who heads the Islamic Research Foundation, is already in Malaysia. His talk at a stadium in the northern state of Terengganu on Sunday night was attended by about 30,000 people.

Several ethnic Indian and Hindu groups in Malaysia had lodged police reports against Zakir, claiming the preacher had slandered other religions in the past.

His last visit to Malaysia in 2012 also received similar protests by Hindu groups, reportedly over his insults to Hinduism.

S. Subramaniam, the head of the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), thanked the police for canceling the talk and heeding “the voice of concerned citizens.”

“Needless to say, it will be a mockery to all that we have stood for, and will be putting our nation on the dangerous path of religious turbulence,” added Subramaniam who is also the Minister of Health.

The opposition Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) criticized the police move.

“Dr. Zakir Naik is only debating and giving his opinions on the beauty of Islam and doing a comparative study with other religions. Why can’t what he says be countered by others?” information chief Nasaruddin Tantawi said in a statement.

Zulkifli Mohammad Al-Bakri, a mufti (Islamic head) for the Federal Territories of Malaysia, described Zakir as a leading Islamic figure with expertise in comparative religion.

Zakir was conferred the Maal Hijrah Icon, an annual top Islamic award in Malaysia, in 2013 for his role as an international and influential Islamic scholar. He was also one of five recipients of the King Faisal International Prize from Saudi Arabia in 2015.

His most high-profile talk in Malaysia is scheduled to be held at the National Hockey Stadium on April 16. It is titled “Is the Quran God’s Word?”


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