Up to states whether Zakir Naik can speak, says Mujahid

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa.

KUALA LUMPUR: Putrajaya today said it is leaving it to the state religious authorities to decide on giving controversial Indian Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik the required credentials (tauliah) to give speeches on Islam.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Mujahid Yusof Rawa told FMT the federal government would not intervene, saying the state religious authorities should be trusted to make their own decisions.

“If they say ‘yes’, then it’s a ‘yes’. If it’s a ‘no’, then it’s a ‘no’.

“There is no order to say ‘no’ or ‘yes’ from Putrajaya. So, we leave it to them,” the minister in charge of Islamic affairs said after an event here.

The Parit Buntar MP from Amanah said Putrajaya’s stance on this matter had not changed, pointing out that the federal government’s policy is that all religious speeches should not “deteriorate our multiculturality”.

“We have said it earlier. Malaysia is a multicultural society and everyone is living peacefully here.

“Everyone must preserve that multiculturality without trying to deteriorate that in any way,” Mujahid said.

Asked if Putrajaya planned to ban the controversial speaker, Mujahid said the government had made it crystal clear that it would not be doing that anytime soon, passing the buck to the state authorities again.

This comes in the wake of the Penang Islamic Department (JAIPP) confirming that the preacher will not be allowed to give a public speech on Islam in Penang this June because he did not have the necessary “tauliah” or teaching credentials.

JAIPP director Zulkifli Long said a person must apply for the permit from religious authorities before he is allowed to speak on Islam. He said Naik could apply for the credentials for a small fee.

Zulkifli’s explanation comes after the Penang Island City Council reportedly refused to allow a public talk by Naik, planned for June 14 at the City Stadium. The talk has since been postponed by its organisers.

Naik is accused of giving provocative speeches. These were cited by Bangladesh as a reason for an attack in Dhaka in 2016 which left 22 people dead. He is also being investigated for money laundering in his home country.

Mujahid previously said Putrajaya would not stop any religious preachers from holding talks so long as they comply with the set guidelines and do not touch on issues that can cause religious tensions.

Earlier today, Penang Mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor said Naik should be given the opportunity to give ceramahs in the state but that he should strictly follow certain set guidelines so as not to create “problems”.

Mujahid was earlier speaking at a forum at the “Stand with Yemen” symposium and photo exhibition at the International Institute of Islamic Civilisation & Malay World (Istac) in Taman Duta, Kuala Lumpur.

Some of the pictures on exhibition at the ‘Stand with Yemen’ symposium.

Call for greater transparency

This afternoon, a group of civil society organisations called for Putrajaya to be more transparent in any decisions made regarding the participation of the armed forces in overseas military campaigns.

Group spokesperson Brig-Gen (Rtd) Mohamed Arshad Raji, from the National Patriots Association, also called for Parliament to ratify the UN 1951 Refugee Convention and sign the convention’s 1967 protocol.

This follows criticism over the Barisan Nasional administration’s decision to join the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in 2015 to prop up the Yemeni government, despite saying its role was non-military in nature.

Some of those who attended the ‘Stand with Yemen’ symposium and photo exhibition.

A declaration was also made to urge Putrajaya to call for an end to the conflict, to take a more active role in ensuring more safe zones are created in Yemen and for pressure to be applied on the UN to put an end to the conflict.

Since 2015, the Saudis have been backing Yemeni government forces against the Houthi rebels, a predominantly Shia Muslim group.

Malaysian troops were deployed in 2015 but were recalled after the new government informed Riyadh that Malaysia would no longer be involved in the war.

Critics had warned that Malaysia could be guilty of the mass deaths caused by aerial bombardments of Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition.

The event was organised by Patriot, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia, moderates group G25, and vocal Muslim groups like Sisters in Islam and the Islamic Renaissance Front and others.