Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik, who is wanted for money laundering and terrorism-related charges in India, has been allowed to stay in Malaysia. According to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, since other countries have closed their doors on Naik, Malaysia was forced to accept him.
Earlier, Mahathir said that Naik will not be extradited to India because he felt that he might not get a fair trial there. Within a matter of weeks or months, one can detect changes in Mahathir’s approach on the matter.
I am not sure whether Mahathir will change his stand if Interpol issues a red notice against Naik in the near future. Time will tell.
Meanwhile, Naik might not be making things easier for Mahathir. In his recent speech in Kota Bahru, Kelantan, as special guest of the PAS government, he praised Mahathir as the best Muslim leader in the Islamic world for standing up to the atrocities against Muslims in certain countries.
He even went to the extent of saying that if some former Western leaders showed up in Malaysia, they might be arrested for crimes against Muslims in Iraq and other Muslim nations.
I am not sure whether Mahathir will be happy or embarrassed by the excessive praises from Naik. I am not sure as to the real reason for it. Well, it might be due to the fact that Mahathir is an effective leader. Or maybe not.
Naik’s praise of Mahathir might have to do with his prolonged stay in the country and for the prime minister refusing to heed to the official request for his extradition to India.
Any person who is running from the law, whether it is Naik or someone else, will be naturally grateful to a leader who provides sanctuary.
Among the non-Muslims in Malaysia, Naik is not objectionable because he is a fugitive running from the law or for his lectures on Islam, but for his mischievous comparative perspective on religions.
By using this comparative perspective, Naik has unduly angered the non-Muslims by disparaging and belittling their faiths. In fact, by doing this, he has found a way to be accepted by some section of the right wing conservative Islamic forces.
By engaging in this comparative approach, which is hardly comparative in the true sense of the word, he has belittled faiths other than Islam.
This is the core of the problem and why Naik should not be allowed to touch on other religions because it allows other faiths to be used as a punching bag by him.
In Kota Bahru, while he praised Mahathir and commented on other issues pertaining to the Islamic world, he couldn’t help himself from a mischief that was hurtful to Hindus in Malaysia.
Why he wanted to touch on non-Muslims in Malaysia and whether he was sufficiently warned not to do so is not clear.
He compared the Hindus in Malaysia to the Muslims in India and said that the former enjoyed more than 100% rights in Malaysia compared to Muslims in India.
He further said that it was unfortunate that Hindus in Malaysia, despite the benefits, are more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than to Mahathir.
This mischievous and frivolous comment was uncalled for. What does he know about Indians or Hindus in the country? Does he know about the sacrifices made by Hindu plantation and urban workers in making this country prosperous and developed?
Isn’t it treasonous to say that Hindus are bunch of disloyal elements in the country? Does he realise that more than 80% of the Hindus voted for the PH government under the leadership of Mahathir?
The vast majority of the Hindus in the country are second, third and fourth generation Malaysians. Their loyalty is unquestionable.
Who is Naik to raise the loyalty issue? He himself is not loyal to India. Why run away from the country that has the second highest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia?
If Naik is true to his religion, he should return to India and face the government rather than create mischief in Malaysia.
About 18% of India’s population consists of Muslims who prefer to live in India rather than in Pakistan, a Muslim country. If Muslims are treated so badly in India, shouldn’t Naik be there to take up their cause rather than live comfortably with state protection in Malaysia?
Naik is the least qualified in advising Hindus and others to conduct their lives in Malaysia. He shouldn’t take it for granted that the offer made by the Malaysian government is perennial.
It is unfortunate that some Malaysians are allowing themselves to be manipulated by Naik for his selfish reasons. The end-result is that it is not Naik who will suffer the consequences of his actions but by Malaysians of all faiths.
P Ramasamy is the Penang deputy chief minister II.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.