PETALING JAYA: Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin has welcomed the government’s refusal to deport Dr Zakir Naik to face money laundering charges in his home country, while accusing the preacher’s critics of being more loyal to India than Malaysia.
Asri, one of the preacher’s most vocal supporters, also urged Muslims to support the stand taken by Dr Mahathir Mohamad, saying it showed the prime minister would not bow to the “injustice and oppression in India”.
Yesterday, Mahathir said Putrajaya has the right to refuse any demand from New Delhi to extradite Naik, who is facing money laundering charges involving about RM115 million.
Mahathir said it was similar to Australia’s refusal to deport convicted killer Sirul Azhar Umar.
“We requested Australia to extradite Sirul and they are afraid we are going to send him to the gallows,” he said.
“Zakir in general feels that he is not going to get a fair trial (in India),” he said.
In a Facebook posting, Asri, whose office played host to Naik during his lecture tour in Perlis, said there are some Malaysians who seem to owe their allegiance to their countries of origin.
“In the Zakir Naik issue, it is obvious their loyalty is not to Malaysia but to India,” he wrote.
In 2017, current minister P Waytha Moorthy and 18 others filed a suit against the then-Barisan Nasional government for allegedly harbouring Naik and granting him permanent residency. The High Court threw out the suit in February last year.
Early last month, India’s Enforcement Directorate charged Naik in absentia with money laundering, accusing him of acquiring about Rs1.9 billion (RM114.5 million) worth of criminal assets.
A Mumbai court is expected to decide on June 19 whether a non-bailable warrant of arrest should be issued against Naik. India could seek Interpol’s help to have him detained and sent back for trial.
Naik has also been accused of inciting enmity and hatred between different religious communities in his preaching, charges he said were fabricated.
Last month, he told an Indian magazine that he was prepared to return to India to face charges but feared being jailed like many other Muslim suspects whom the courts found not guilty years later.
“If there is an assurance from the Supreme Court of India that if Dr Zakir Naik comes, they will not arrest me till I am convicted, I will come,” Naik told The Week.