KUALA LUMPUR, April 13 — Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik has thanked opponents of his comparative religion lectures for bringing together political rivals Umno and PAS in his defence.
According to a report in Malay daily Berita Harian, the India-based preacher acknowledged the unease caused by his presence in the country, but was thankful that it at least united the Muslim community.
“I am happy when the resistance opened the eyes of the two Islamic political parties in Malaysia, Umno and PAS, and united them.
“As can be seen, when enemies appear, the Muslim community becomes more unified,” he was quoted as saying in the report.
Dr Zakir also said he would have no issue amending the topic of his remaining lectures in the country, following requests by authorities, calling himself a versatile lecturer.
In a separate article, Berita Harian reported that the topic of the Dr Zakir’s previously cancelled talk in Malacca was now “Women’s rights in Islam”, which was previously to cover similarities between Hinduism and Islam.
Indian and Hindu groups including MIC have complained about the preacher and his talks since Sunday, lodging numerous reports against him.
The preacher’s talk in Malacca had been cancelled on the Inspector-General of Police’s (IGP) instructions, but was restored after Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Shahidan Kassim met with IGP Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
The cancellation had rallied Umno and PAS to defend the preacher, with the latter offering to host Dr Zakir in Kelantan if other venues for his talks were barred from holding the events.
Shahidan yesterday also warned MIC not to interfere in Muslim affairs, and the Indian party has also softened its stance on Dr Zakir, saying his talks could continue if he did not denigrate Hinduism.
PAS and Umno have continued dalliances ostensibly for Malay and Muslim unity, which have become more overt and frequent since the Islamist party fell out with former allies in the opposition over its plans for hudud, the Islamic penal code.
Although PAS continues to deny any possibility of political cooperation with Umno, the perception remains.
Dr Zakir’s religious talks have drawn criticisms due to his views in comparing Hinduism and Islam.
Dr Zakir, who received the government’s Tokoh Maal Hijrah award in 2013, previously angered the Hindu community here by allegedly insulting their deities along with the vegetarian practises of the faith.
The Islamic Research Foundation president had also been denied entry to Canada and United Kingdom in 2012 after he reportedly expressed his support of terrorist group al-Qaeda.