Malaysia quizzes Zakir Naik as pressure mounts

Updated August 20, 2019

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Zakir Naik, a radical television preacher who has called the 9/11 attacks an  “inside job”, left India in 2016 and moved to largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency. — Reuters/File
Zakir Naik, a radical television preacher who has called the 9/11 attacks an “inside job”, left India in 2016 and moved to largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency. — Reuters/File

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian police on Monday questioned a controversial Indian Islamic preacher for allegedly making insensitive remarks about race in the multi-ethnic country, as pressure mounts on authorities to kick him out.

Zakir Naik, a radical television preacher who has called the 9/11 attacks an “inside job”, left India in 2016 and moved to largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency.

He is wanted in India for inciting extremism and money laundering, and New Delhi last year asked Malaysia to extradite him, according to reports — a request that was rejected.

Calls are now mounting for action after Naik said Hindus in Malaysia have “100 times” more rights than India’s Muslim minority, and suggested Chinese Malaysians should be expelled before he was.

Several cabinet ministers have publicly called for Naik to be kicked out, while even Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said he had crossed the line.

His lawyer, Akberdin Abdul Kader, said that Naik was “being interviewed by the police” for a second day Monday, after first being hauled in last week.

He is accused of making an intentional insult aimed at provoking a breach of the peace, according to state news agency Bernama.

Mahathir said that Naik “can preach but he wasn’t doing that... he was talking about sending the Chinese back to China, Indians back to India, that’s for me a political move”, according to the news agency.

The government has in the past appeared reluctant to move against Naik for fear it could upset some Muslims as well as provide ammunition to political opponents.

In 2010 Naik — who founded the Peace TV channel, which has a huge global following — was barred from entering Britain.

In a July 2008 broadcast Naik suggested that Al Qaeda was not responsible for the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

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

Published in Dawn, August 20th, 2019