Zakir Naik among attendees at KL Islamic summit

Dr Zakir Naik sits among the audience and invitees at the KL Summit in KLCC today.

KUALA LUMPUR: Controversial Indian Muslim cleric Dr Zakir Naik is among invitees to the Kuala Lumpur Summit which opens today amid criticism from Saudi Arabia.

It is the first appearance by Naik at a government-organised event since coming under a ban from making public speeches.

Naik however refused to speak to the press when approached.

Naik, who has sought refuge with the Malaysian government following a money laundering probe against him by Indian authorities, was investigated by Malaysian police in August over statements he made in Kota Bharu, seen as stoking communal discord. Naik has denied the allegations.

Among others, he had claimed that Malaysian Hindus were more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, and that Malaysian Chinese were guests in the country.

Police have since gagged him from speaking in public.

Naik has received support from Mahathir as well as leaders from the previous government over New Delhi’s attempts at extraditing him to face trial in India.

He claimed he was a victim of an anti-Muslim witchhunt by the Modi-led BJP government.

Today’s KL Summit will be attended by three heads of state – Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar’s Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

Iran’s key rival Saudi Arabia and its allies decided to stay away, while Pakistan’s Imran Khan backed out at the eleventh hour amid pressure from Riyadh.