Zakir Naik says won’t return to India till he feels ‘safe from unfair prosecution’
Zakir Naik, the controversial Islamic preacher, is facing various cases, including for hate speech and money laundering, in India and has been staying abroad to evade arrest.india Updated: Jul 04, 2018 23:42 IST
Reports of Zakir Naik returning to India or being extradited from Malaysia were dismissed on Wednesday by the controversial televangelist himself, who said he would come back only if he felt he wouldn’t face “unfair prosecution”.
Reports from Malaysia, however, suggest the new government headed by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad may not be as soft in its approach towards Naik as the previous Najib Razak administration, which granted the preacher permanent resident status.
Shortly after TV channels reported that Naik was set to return to India, he issued a statement that said: “The news of my coming to India is totally baseless and false. I have no plans to come to India till I don’t feel safe from unfair prosecution. Insha Allah, when I feel that the government will be just and fair, I will surely return to my homeland.”
Officials in New Delhi said they had not heard from Malaysian authorities about Naik’s possible return to India, where he has been charged with promoting enmity between religious groups through his speeches and lectures.
Naik currently lives in the city of Putrajaya, where he has a flat in gated community a short distance from the Prime Minister’s Office. In recent months, he was often spotted with top ministers of the Najib Razak regime, including former deputy prime minister Ahmad Hamidi, at Friday prayers in the main mosque of Putrajaya.
However, the new government’s home minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, said last month that Naik will have to answer to authorities if he breaks Malaysian laws. “I was informed that he was granted permanent resident status by the previous administration. He must abide by our country’s laws – if not, we will deal with it,” Yassin was quoted as saying by the local media.
The new education minister, Maszlee Malik, too had to issue a clarification after facing considerable criticism for his earlier support of Naik. Malik told the local media his support was limited to Naik’s freedom of speech and did not extend to his alleged preaching of hatred.
Several Malaysian groups have condemned Naik’s sermons, which they described as extremist and disrespectful of other religions. The groups have pointed out he is wanted by Indian authorities.
On June 20, the Bombay high court refused to grant any relief to Naik after he challenged the revocation of his passport. Saying that the allegations against him were “false”, Naik sought an independent inquiry into the allegations and the recording of his statement through video conferencing in the case registered against him by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
A division bench of the high court also noted that Naik had not presented himself for investigation in India.
The external affairs ministry cancelled Naik’s passport when he failed to appear before the NIA and Enforcement Directorate (ED) even after several notices were issued to him by the central agencies.
Naik is being investigated by NIA for allegedly radicalising youngsters, and by ED for money laundering. The ED had obtained a non-bailable warrant against Naik earlier this year and has alleged that videos of Naik’s provocative speeches were produced and exported to Dubai for telecasting.
Huge cash transactions, without leaving any trail of their origins or use of the funds, were allegedly conducted by Naik through his employee Amir Gazdar. The amounts were collected and provided to employees and officials of Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation.
The ED has also alleged that Naik established dummy companies in India and abroad “for the diversion of funds”.
It further alleged these dummy firms were used to camouflage the diversion of funds Naik received for making provocative speeches.
First Published: Jul 04, 2018 14:55 IST