Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday claimed his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had not asked Malaysia to extradite controversial Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who has been a permanent resident of Malaysia since 2015. Naik is wanted in India on charges of money laundering and terrorism.
Mahathir made the comment in an interview with BFM, a radio station in Malaysia. “Not many countries want him [Zakir Naik]. I met with Modi. He didn't ask me for this man,” Mahathir was quoted as saying to BFM by the Malay Mail. Modi and Mahathir had last met two weeks ago during the meeting of the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok, Russia.
Mahathir explained his government “was still looking for a place” to send Naik, adding no one wanted to accept him. Naik was severely criticised and subject to police interrogation in August after he made racially divisive comments against Malaysians of Indian and Chinese origin.
Mahathir told BFM Naik was no longer “allowed” to publicly speak in Malaysia after his racially divisive comments.
“Well, he's not a national of this country. He has been given, I think by the previous government, permanent residence status. A permanent resident isn't supposed to make any comments on this country's systems and politics. He has breached that. He is now not allowed to speak,” Mahathir was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
Naik had issued a statement apologising for his remarks and even threatened to sue Malaysian politicians who called for him to expelled from the country. Following the reports, the Malaysian government announced it was considering expelling Naik.
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Intriguingly, Mahathir's statement contradicts a claim by Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale that Modi had raised the issue of Zakir Naik during the meeting of the two leaders in Vladivostok. "Both the parties have decided that our officials will stay in contact regarding the matter and it is an important issue for us," the foreign secretary had then said.