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Indian Islamic preacher stirs racial storm in Malaysia

Ministers call for Zakir Naik to be expelled but struggle to find anyone who will take him

Victor Merrick, Kuala Lumpur

Victor Merrick, Kuala Lumpur

Published: August 15, 2019 09:03 AM GMT

Updated: August 15, 2019 09:30 AM GMT

Indian Islamic preacher stirs racial storm in Malaysia

A file image of Indian protestors holding placards as they shout slogans during a protest denouncing Islamic scholar Zakir Naik in New Delhi on July 18, 2016. Zakir now resides in Malaysia where he is causing controversy with contentious remarks about race and religion. (Photo by Sajjad Hussain/AFP)

Zakir Naik, an Indian Muslim scholar living in Malaysia, is at the center of a heated racial and religious storm in the multi-ethnic Southeast Asian nation.

The popular Islamic preacher caused outrage when he doubled down on a speech he made accusing Malaysia’s ethnic Indians and Chinese communities of being “guests” with questionable loyalty to the Muslim-majority country.

The outrage comes after Zakir suggested that Hindu Malaysians were more supportive of the right-wing Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

He made the comments as he explained how Islam had spread peacefully in the region through traders and how Malaysia had become fully Muslim.

”Then you have the Chinese coming, the Indians coming, the British coming. They are our new guests,” he said during the talk arranged by the Islamist party PAS, which rules Kelantan state.

”You know someone called me a guest. So I said that before me, the Chinese were the guests. If you want the new guest to go first, ask the old guest to go back too.”

He later claimed that his comment about ethnic Indians had been taken out of context and that he was speaking about them supporting Modi’s call for him to be sent home at the same time as Mahathir had defended him.

MPs and senior figures in Malaysia’s new government are appalled by the disquiet he has caused in the multi-racial country after being granted permanent residency by the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) government.

The minister for Youth and Sports Syed Saddiq from Mahathir’s Bersatu party has joined growing calls for Zakir to be deported for making racially and religiously sensitive comments.

”An attack against our Chinese and Indian brothers and sisters is an attack against all Malaysians,” he tweeted on Aug. 14.
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Chinese Malaysians, the minister said, were not “guests” but Malaysian citizens who loved the country. Likewise, he said people should not question the loyalty of Malaysians.

“I know many Chinese and Indians who are willing to die for this country that they love. It is ridiculous to even think that my fellow Malaysians are my guests.

”They are my family for god’s sake. Enough is enough.”

Respected MP Lim Kit Siang said in a posting on his blog: “He has trespassed into a territory he knows nothing about to make a totally unsolicited offence.

”Malaysia can have no place for a foreigner who abuses the country’s hospitality and privileges, sowing trouble in a plural society and creating inter-racial and inter-religious misunderstanding, tension and conflict while running away from his native India [while wanted for] for criminal charges of money-laundering.”

Zakir was charged in absentia in India in May with money-laundering but Malaysia has refused requests to extradite him.

While denying the charges, Zakir said he was prepared to return to India but feared he would not get a fair trial and would be jailed.

Last month, the Malaysian prime minister admitted his government did not want Zakir in the country but that it was difficult to deport him as “many countries” would not accept him.

”We have a multi-racial, multi-religious population in Malaysia. We don’t want anybody who comes up and expresses extreme views about race relations and other religions,” he said during an interview with Turkish international news media TRT World.

“The problem that we face is that we cannot send him back. Because he runs the risk of being killed. So he is here today, but if any country wants to have him, they are welcome to do so.”

The high-profile Indian Muslim preacher was banned from entering the UK and Canada after he praised Osama bin Laden and said “all Muslims should be terrorists.”

He claims the statement was taken out of context and he was talking about terrorizing thieves.

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