Malaysia mulls expelling Zakir Naik after racist comments: Report

Naik had reportedly claimed Indian-Malaysians were more loyal to the Modi govt

Zakir Naik (File) Zakir Naik

A media outlet in Singapore has reported that the government of Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad is reviewing the permanent residency status of controversial Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik. Naik is wanted by Indian investigating agencies over charges of money laundering and links to Islamic extremists.

Naik had been granted permanent residency in Malaysia by the former Barisan Nasional government in 2015.

The reports come at a time when Naik has faced criticism in Malaysia for making racially provocative statements against people of Indian and Chinese origin in the country. On Thursday, the Malaysian government announced Naik would be questioned for his provocative statements.

The Straits Times in Singapore reported on Thursday the “Malaysian government will seek to force controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik out of the country, after his incendiary attacks on minorities last week fuelled criticism of its refusal to deport the fugitive Indian televangelist”. The newspaper added that a cabinet meeting on Wednesday decided to expel Naik.

Two ministers of the Mahathir government—Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo and Human Resource Minister M. Kula Segaran—said they explained their opposition to the presence of Naik in Malaysia at a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

The Malay Mail reported Naik is being investigated by Malaysia's federal police for racially charged comments at a lecture in Kota Baru, Kelantan, a week ago. At the lecture, Naik had reportedly claimed, “Indian-Malaysians were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government of India than the Mahathir administration.” Naik had also apparently referred to Chinese Malaysians as “old guests who should go back to their ancestral lands before he should be made to leave the country”.

Following the comments, the local government in Sabah state said it would ban entry to Naik if “he continued to make incendiary religious speeches”.

On Thursday, Malaysia's home minister warned action would be taken against anyone disrupting racial harmony in the country. According to the New Straits Times, a Malaysian newspaper, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said “enforcement agencies under his ministry will not think twice about taking action against all those who undermine the country’s peace and public order”. Yassin placed particular emphasis on actions of non-citizens, in an apparent reference to Naik.

Meanwhile, on Friday, authorities in the Malaysian state of Perlis barred Naik from speaking at a camp for Muslim converts being organised there. According to The Star Online, Perlis police chief SAC Noor Mushar Mohammed said “"Zakir can come to Perlis, but he can't talk and action will be taken against him if he does so.” The police chief said the restriction on Naik was prompted by the fact that there are nearly 150 police reports lodged against him. Naik and his entire family were to talk at the Malaysia Reverts Camp 2019 programme at Perlis.