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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

Zakir Naik barred from addressing event in Malaysia

On Friday, reports in the Malaysian media quoted a senior police officer as saying that Naik wouldn’t be allowed to speak at the Malaysia Reverts Camp 2019 being held in Perlis during August 16-18.

delhi Updated: Aug 17, 2019 06:41 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi
Yassin said in a statement that the police “will be taking stern action on this matter” and calling in Naik and two others for questioning.
Yassin said in a statement that the police “will be taking stern action on this matter” and calling in Naik and two others for questioning.(HT file photo)
         

Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has been barred by Malaysian police from addressing a religious event being held during August 16-18 even as a minister said he would be summoned for questioning over “racist statements” made last week.

Naik, who has lived in Malaysia for about three years after he was granted permanent residency in the country, has been at the centre of a storm since videos emerged of an August 8 event where he said Malaysian Hindus were more loyal to the Indian prime minister than their own country. Three ministers have demanded he be expelled.

Naik’s case figured at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, and a day later home minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the following day that some elements were spreading “fake news” and making “racist statements...without considering the sensitivities of Malaysians”.

Yassin said in a statement that the police “will be taking stern action on this matter” and calling in Naik and two others for questioning. “I wish to remind everyone, including non-Malaysian citizens, that enforcement agencies under my ministry will not hesitate to take legal action against anyone who threatens the harmony and public order of the country,” he added.

On Friday, reports in the Malaysian media quoted a senior police officer as saying that Naik wouldn’t be allowed to speak at the Malaysia Reverts Camp 2019 being held in Perlis during August 16-18. Billed as one of the largest gatherings of Muslim converts in Malaysia, the event was to feature speeches by Naik and his son Fariq and events with his wife and two daughters.

Perlis police chief Noor Mushar Mohamad told a news conference 150 police reports have been lodged against Naik. “Zakir can come to Perlis, but he can’t talk and action will be taken against him if he does so,” he said.

Federal territories minister Khalid Abdul Samad too called on Naik to respect Malaysia’s right to peaceful race relations. Malaysia has thrived socially and economically because of the respect accorded to everyone regardless of race or religion, he said.

Malaysia is able to have Zakir as a “guest” because of the country’s harmonious and safe political climate, Samad said. “Out of respect for his safety, he was allowed residency in our country. It is our hope that he too, can respect our rights for safe and peaceful racial relations,” he added.

Meanwhile, Naik on Friday demanded an apology within 48 hours from human resources minister M Kulasegaran, who first raised the issue of the preacher’s controversial remarks and demanded action against him. Kulasegaran has often criticised Naik in the past.

A letter drafted by Naik’s lawyers said the preacher was also expecting a “reasonable sum” as settlement for damage, embarrassment and dishonour caused by Kulasegaran’s statement against Naik. The letter said legal proceedings would be initiated if the demands are not met.

Naik described all the charges levelled by Kulasegaran as untrue. The preacher also filed a police report against Kulasegaran, four other politicians and a former diplomat in which he contended they had defamed him with their statements and articles.

The preacher faces charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, which is yet to hear from Malaysia on a request for his extradition. Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia, where Muslims make up about 60% of the population of 32 million. The rest are mostly ethnic Chinese and Indians.

State-run news agency Bernama quoted Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as saying this week that Naik cannot be sent back to India because of fears for his safety. “If any (other) country wants to have him, they are welcome,” Mahathir added.