Zakir Naik may lose residency after probe: Malaysian PM

Zakir Naik is being investigated over racially-charged statements

36-Zakir-Naik Zakir Naik at his home in Putrajaya | Sanjay Ahlawat

On Sunday, the Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said that Zakir Naik’s Permanent Resident (PR) status could be revoked if the country’s investigations show that he was causing harm to the country’s well-being.

Speaking at the 2019 World Statistics Congress, PM Mohamad responded to a question on his stand on calls for Naik to be deported back to Saudi Arabia following controversial statements. The PM said, “He has permanent resident status. We can take away that permanent resident status if he does something that is detrimental to the well-being of this nation. At this moment, the police are investigating whether he is doing that or not. Of course, he is doing that, it may be necessary for us to take away his permanent resident status and in that case, of course, we may need to take action to prevent him from making such speeches, provocative speeches, which tend to pit the different races against each other.”

In response to a question asking whether Naik should be made to issue a public apology for having riled up Malaysians, the PM responded, “I don’t know about demanding for public apology. I don’t think it is going to assuage the anger of many people. At this moment, we leave it to the police to investigate on the seriousness of the statements that he has made.”

Naik is being investigated by Malaysia's federal police for racially charged comments he made at a lecture in Kota Baru, Kelantan, where he reportedly claimed, “Indian-Malaysians were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government of India than the Mahathir administration.”

Spurring controversy, Naik responded to calls for his deportation by saying that people were calling him a guest, but that before him, the Chinese were the guests. He added that they were not born there, and that if they wanted the new guest [him] to leave, they should ask the old guests [the Malaysian Chinese] to go back first.

Speaking more on the topic, PM Mohamad said, “In first place, I don’t know who gave him Permanent Residence (PR). But to be PR, you cannot participate in politics. You can make religious...explain religious, you can preach. But he wasn’t doing that. He was talking about sending the Chinese back to China, and Indians back to India. That is politics! We are very careful about how we say things that are sensitive to different communities in this country.”

PM Mohamad added that it was clear that Naik wanted to participate in racial politics. “He is stirring up racial feelings, and that is bad. The police will have to investigate whether he is causing tension or not — obviously he is. Whatever action we take will be in accordance with the law. This government respects the rule of law.”

Naik faces charges of money laundering in India, from where the National Investigation Agency (NIA) has made repeated requests to Interpol and Malaysian authorities to detain the controversial preacher.

Prominent members of the PM's cabinet have called for Naik to be deported. On August 14, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman, the Youth and Sports Minister, said, "An attack against our Chinese and Indian brothers and sisters is an attack against all Malaysians."

Earlier, in June, PM Mohamad responded to a question over Naik’s possible extradition to Indiaby asking “Before we accept an extradition request [for Zakir from India], we need to know what will happen to the person who is to be extradited.” The PM had met with Naik in June of 2018.