[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]I[/dropcap]slamic televangelist, Zakir Naik, who was in Saudi Arabia when Bangladesh authorities accused him of fanning extremism and terrorism in that country, may have found a safe haven in Malaysia, where he believed to be staying for the past several weeks.
Malaysia’s minority communities, however, are agitated over the news that the rabid Islamist preacher may be allowed to settle down in that country, and are demanding explicit answers from their government.
Naik has been searching for a safe haven after Indian security agencies cracked down on his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) and certain charities run by him. New Delhi is keeping a close watch on developments in the case. In December last year, the Centre declared the IRF an unlawful association and banned it under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (37 of 1967).
Amidst reports that the controversial preacher is trying to secure citizenship or residency status in Malaysia, Indian government sources said they would prefer to let the investigating agencies complete their probe without hindrance. The sources said India has extradition treaties with both Saudi Arabia and Malaysia, and that government-to-government cooperation with both countries was “excellent”.
Malaysia’s minority communities, however, are agitated over the news that the rabid Islamist preacher may be allowed to settle down in that country, and are demanding explicit answers from their government. The Malaysian government has for decades been accused by Hindus of Indian origin, and ethnic Chinese citizens, of being biased against minorities. Hindus have alleged iconoclasm of their clan temples and overt acts of discrimination, including imprisonment and mistreatment of activists in jail, on account of a creeping Islamism in the predominantly Muslim nation.
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]A[/dropcap]fter weeks of evasion, the deputy home minister, Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed, told Malay Mail Online on December 23, 2016, that the controversial preacher was free to travel in Malaysia as he is not on the terror list there. Mohamed was asked how Zakir Naik was allowed to enter Malaysia when he was on the terror alert list in India, his home country. Naik has also been banned from other countries, namely, Bangladesh, Canada, and the UK. It is pertinent that the Malaysian government honoured Zakir Naik in 2013 with the Tokoh Maal Hijrah Award.
This is pertinent as India has found Zakir Naik to be a “threat” to its national security.
Early in December, Naik visited a private Islamic-centric university in Shah Alam, Selangor, which is being investigated for radical teachings after two students were arrested on suspicion of being Islamic State (IS) recruits and planning a terror attack locally. On December 14, he visited the Al Madinah International University campus and was warmly received by the management.
On December 16, Hindraf Chairman P. Waytha Moorthy demanded that Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirm or deny rumours that the government had given Zakir Naik permanent residency status in Malaysia. Moorthy pointed out that the deputy home minister’s statement to the Indian government denying that Malaysia has given Zakir Naik citizenship was an obfuscation of facts. Hindraf, he emphasised, wanted to know if Naik has received permanent resident status.
This is pertinent as India has found Zakir Naik to be a “threat” to its national security. “Why is Malaysia so adamant to protect him when he is a clear threat to Malaysian national security?” Moorthy asked, pointing out that according to some reports in the Indian media, Naik has allegedly received Malaysian citizenship and is hiding in the country after Indian authorities banned his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).
[dropcap color=”#008040″ boxed=”yes” boxed_radius=”8px” class=”” id=””]R[/dropcap]eports persist that Zakir Naik was offered some kind of deal when he was awarded the Tokoh Maal Hijrah award. What is known is that in April 2016, the state of Terengganu offered Naik three islands to open a branch of the IRF as well as a religious school.
Most notably, some of the militants who carried out Bangladesh’s worst terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka on July 1, 2016, that left 29 persons including two police officers dead, and many injured, claimed to have been inspired by Naik’s preaching.
According to the Government of India, the Islamic Research Foundation’s members, particularly founder-president Dr Zakir Naik, have been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote, on grounds of religion, disharmony or feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities and groups. The statements of some terrorists recently arrested in terrorist attack incidents or for being ISIS sympathisers reveal that they were inspired by Zakir Naik’s statements, which indicate the subversive and inflammatory nature of his preaching and speeches.
Most notably, some of the militants who carried out Bangladesh’s worst terror attack at a cafe in Dhaka on July 1, 2016, that left 29 persons including two police officers dead, and many injured, claimed to have been inspired by Naik’s preaching. This prompted the Bangladesh government to ban the broadcasting of Naik’s Peace TV channel.
Naik has admitted that in 2008 he applied for permission to air his channel, Peace TV, in India, but was denied on grounds of security. He alleged that permission was denied on grounds of it being an “Islamic channel”.
As Naik had publicly asserted that he would return to India on schedule sometime in 2017, the authorities may not like to take premature action. Naik also claims that so far no government agency has approached him to join the investigations into his activities, and that he would certainly cooperate.
Several Islamic groups in India have problems with Naik’s preachings. The president of the All India Shia Organisation, Mir Hadi Ali, welcomed the ban on IRF and said, “Zakir Naik has said some hurtful and objectionable things about the Shiite community. He has misrepresented the incidents of Karbala and has elevated Yazid, who killed several members of Prophet Muhammad’s family. He has created tension between sects and schools of thought within the Muslim community”.