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Islamic Preacher Zakir Naik Will Not be Deported to India, Says Malaysian PM

Islamic preacher Zakir Naik (left) with Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad

The Malaysian government has refused to extradite controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik to India. Naik, who holds a permanent resident (PR) status in Malaysia, met Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on July 7, after the government announced its decision of not deporting him unless he commits a crime in the country.

Naik is accused in India on charges of terror activities and money laundering. India made a formal request to Malaysia in January this year to deport him.

“As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him because he has been given permanent residency status,” Mohamad said at a news conference in administrative capital Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur on July 6, AFP reported.

Mohamad’s decision evoked conflicting reactions in Malaysia. The Malaysian Islamic Party welcomed the move, with the party’s deputy president Datuk Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man saying that it was the government’s responsibility to defend Naik, the New Straits Times reported. “PAS would like to congratulate the move by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad to allow Zakir Naik to remain in Malaysia as a permanent resident, from being sent back to India to face accusations created by the Indian government,” Tuan Ibrahim said in a statement, according to the report.

A strategist of Malaysia’s ruling Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM) has also defended the government’s decision, saying extraditing Naik would be akin to deporting Uighur Muslims to China, PTI reported. PPBM strategist Rais Hussin said that he could see no wrong in Naik’s activities and speeches in India, the report added.

Many religious groups, however, want Mohamad to reconsider his decision to allow Naik to remain in Malaysia, according to Today Online. Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism president RS Mohan Shan said that even though Naik is not organizing huge gatherings, he is quietly spreading negative views about non-Muslims, the report said. “We totally object to Zakir being in the country. We humbly request that Dr Mahathir rethink his decision and extradite him,” Shan was quoted as saying by the Malaysian Insight.

Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy also urged Pakatan Harapan leaders to take a stand, saying that the government should take the decision over Naik’s deportation keeping in view the crimes he is accused of committing in India, instead of waiting for him to commit a crime in Malaysia, according to Malaysiakini.com.

Naik, who is under probe by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) for allegedly inciting Muslims through his hate speeches, fled India in 2016. He is accused of using his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation, and company, Harmony Media Pvt Ltd, for anti-national activities and supporting terrorism.

His inflammatory preachings are said to have led to the attack at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in 2016, killing 20 people. At least two of terrorists behind the attack on Holey Artisan Bakery cafe were said to have been inspired by Naik’s speeches about Islam.

The Bangladesh government will extend full support to India over the issue, a close aide of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said following the Malaysia’s recent decision, PTI reported. “We will fully cooperate with India. Our government is committed to its declared policy of zero-tolerance policy towards terrorism. The soil of Bangladesh will never be allowed to be used by elements who are hostile to our neighbors,” Hossain Toufique Imam, political advisor to Hasina, said.