The permanent resident status of controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik may soon be scrapped by the Malaysian government if it is proved that his actions have affected the well-being of the country. "Naik's PR status can be revoked if the authorities provide enough evidence to prove that his actions can disturb social harmony in the country", local media quoted Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as saying.
Meanwhile, the Malaysian police has barred Naik from addressing an Islamic event scheduled to be held between August 16 and August 18 amid reports that the government has summoned him for questioning over his "racist statements" made last week.
The development comes days after Malaysian authorities have initiated an investigation against the televangelist over his intent to provoke a peace breach while making alleged insensitive remarks on the Hindus and Chinese residing in the Muslim-majority nation.
"We have opened an investigation paper based on a report made in Gombak. Around 115 reports have been lodged on the matter so far," said Federal CID director Huzir Mohamed was quoted as saying by The Strait Times during a press conference last Thursday (August 15) at the Selangor police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
Zakir had asked the Malaysian Chinese to "go back" first, as they were the "old guests" of the country, during a religious talk titled "Executive Talk Bersama Dr Zakir Naik" in Kota Baru, Kelantan, in response to calls for his own deportation. His speech at the same venue was also condemned by many parties after he compared the Hindus in Malaysia to the Muslims in India, saying that the Hindus here enjoyed more than 100 per cent rights in Malaysia compared to Muslims in India.
Malaysian media quotes PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad: Permanent Resident status of televangelist Dr Zakir Naik (file pic) can be revoked should it be proven that his actions have harmed the country’s well-being. Police are investigating pic.twitter.com/TKKBCSvwwN— ANI (@ANI) August 16, 2019
In the wake of Naik's remarks, the Malaysian Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Mohamad has further decided to issue statements that Naik will no longer be allowed to stay in Malaysia. "We have expressed our position which is that action must be taken and that Zakir Naik should no longer be allowed to remain in Malaysia," said Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo and Human Resources Minister M Kulasegaran in a joint statement cited by Al Jazeera.
"The Prime Minister has taken note of our concerns. We leave it to him to consider the position and to decide soonest possible what will be done to deal with the problem," the statement read.
Naik had earlier also alleged that the Hindus in Malaysia are more loyal to Prime Minister Narendra Modi than Mahathir Mohamad. Naik, who was granted permanent residency in Malaysia by the previous government, has been living in the country for the last three years. He is facing charges of inciting communal disharmony and committing unlawful activities in India. He is also facing probe both in India and Bangladesh in connection with the terror attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka on July 2016.
The two suspects in the terror attack had claimed that they were inspired by Naik's radical preaching. India said it has made a formal request to Malaysia and will continue to pursue his extradition.
However, Mohamad had recently said that his country has the right not to extradite Naik, for similar reasons that Australia had turned down his country's request to extradite Sirul Azhar Umar in 2015. He also said that Naik believes that he would not be accorded justice in India. Muslims make up about 60 per cent of its 32 million people. The rest are mostly ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Hindus.
(With inputs from agencies)