Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has defended his decision to move to Malaysia after fleeing India in 2016. In a video uploaded on his Facebook page and YouTube channel on Wednesday, Naik extolled the purported virtues of Malaysia, calling it one of the “best Muslim countries” in the world.
Responding to a question, Naik denied he was absconding from India, where he faces charges of abetting terrorism and money laundering. Naik claimed he did Hijrah, the Islamic practice to flee to other places to avoid persecution.
Naik reiterated he was targeted unfairly by the BJP-led government in India.
Referring to Malaysia, Naik said, “Most of the Muslim countries in the world today have problems. Among the Muslim countries in the world... 50-60 [countries]... I feel Malaysia was the best.”
To support his argument on Malaysia being the “best” country, Zakir Naik gave multiple reasons.
The first reason Naik gave was Malaysia was away from war zones. Naik referred to the conflicts in Yemen and Syria to explain many Muslim countries were in war zones.
The second reason he gave was Malaysia was away from the “wrong influence” of the Western countries. “The Gulf countries and Muslim countries nearby and in Europe are under bad influence of the Western countries. Malaysia is away, there is very little influence of America and the Western countries,” Naik said.
Naik noted Malaysia has the “strongest passport among Muslim countries”. He claimed a Malaysian can travel to 185 countries without any visa. The 2021 Henley Passport Index, published in October, ranked Malaysia at 13th position, with its citizens being allowed to fly to 179 countries without visas.
Naik claimed that among “non-Arab Muslim countries”, the average Malaysian is “a more practising Muslim” than the average Indian or Pakistani Muslim. Naik claimed the number of Muslims going to mosques in India five times a day was “minute” while the percentage of people going to mosques in Malaysia was higher.
As a fifth reason, Naik said the federal religion in Malaysia was Islam. “You don't need to feel shy to call yourself a Muslim... there are many Muslim countries where you feel shy to call yourself a Muslim,” Naik argued, referring to “secular” governments in such countries.
Naik had made similar claims about Malaysia previously. In an interaction shared on his Facebook page in May 2020, Naik claimed Putrajaya, where he lives, is “one of the best Muslim cities in the world for a Muslim to live in as there is no alcohol, night-life...”