Why is Zahid defending Zamihan?


Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, is wrong to defend the controversial preacher, Zamihan Mat Zin.

In February 2016, Zahid claimed Malaysia’s de-radicalisation programme was the best in the world. Malaysians have heard this “best in the world” claim before, when it was used to describe our education system.

The DPM also said 97% of the 130 militant convicts who underwent a de-radicalisation programme, were successfully rehabilitated.

How does Zahid measure success? Could he share his definition of success with us?

Zahid disagreed with Zamihan’s removal from the Prison Department’s de-radicalisation programme, and said, “My records have shown his success in restoring aqidah (faith) of (sic) Muslims who are associated with terrorism.”

Security consultant, HM Khen, of JK Associates, had a different view and said, “Matters of faith are not something which can be measured with a checkbox.”

Interestingly, in a paper published by the Journal of Public Security and Safety, Zahid admitted that there was no real way to measure success.

Does the programme include the vetting of the radicalised family members and close friends? How successful is the government in tackling the root causes of extremism? The Internet is not the only route to extremism.

Zamihan is the face of religious and racial intolerance. Most Muslims find that his interpretation of Islam contravenes the moral code and their Islamic education.

He courted controversy with his attack on the “unclean” Chinese. Such is his arrogance that he dared to publicly criticise one of the sultans.

Two Sultans have openly reprimanded him, and in Selangor, the Sultan has revoked his teaching credentials. Yet, he is active in the de-radicalising of prisoners and Islamic State (IS) militants who have been captured.

Zahid should read Prime Minister Najib Razak’s article, “As Security Challenges Rise, Malaysia Leads,” to be presented to world leaders when the 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) meet this week in Vietnam.

Saying he puts the safety and security of the Malaysian people first, Najib added, “This challenge needs to be dealt with in a number of ways: not just by prevention, but also by battling radicalisation and working to rehabilitate those who have been falsely lured away by criminals who blaspheme the name of Islam”.

If that is true, why is the extremist Zamihan part of the de-radicalisation programme?

Zahid has claimed that the manual and Standard Operating Procedure on de-radicalisation was also produced by Zamihan. Malaysians are outraged.

Zahid has endorsed Zamihan, and claimed he is “an asset” in “guiding extremists to the right path”. He is also rejecting any attempt to remove Zamihan from the de-radicalisation programme.

Can a man like Zamihan, who is as radical and has uttered allegedly seditious statements, be effective in the de-radicalisation of IS militants?

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.