KUALA LUMPUR, March 1 — A group of 19 human rights activists filed a civil suit against the Malaysian government today, accusing it of failing to protect the country from controversial televangelist Dr Zakir Naik.
The suit, among others, sought a government declaration that Dr Zakir was a threat to national security, called for a ban to prevent him from entering the country, and for him to be arrested and deported immediately.
The group, comprising plaintiffs from different religious and ethnic backgrounds, said Dr Zakir was an "undesirable person" and "a preacher of hate" who was currently roaming free in Malaysia.
“This application is not meant to insult or question the teachings of Islam and/or insult the feelings of any parties whether Muslim or not, Zakir Naik’s fans, or observers of his speeches,” the group’s spokesman, P. Waytha Moorthy, read to the press from an affidavit.
“There’s nothing on Islam, we’re strictly going on the issue of national security. Strictly on that,” added Waytha Moorthy, who is also chairman of the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf.
Besides Waytha Moorthy, the 19 plaintiffs included academic Dr Lim Teck Ghee, Sabah lawmaker Datuk Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, lawyers Siti Kassim and Asiah Abd Jalil, and Sarawak activist Peter John Jaban.
Other reliefs sought by the plaintiffs include a declaration that Dr Zakir is a threat to country’s security, unity as well as the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of its various faiths and races.
Among the evidence the group included to support its case was the involvement of three Bangladeshi students involved in the July 2016 Dhaka bombings, who were students of Monash University between 2012 and 2015.
At least two of the five attackers had publicly said they were inspired by Dr Zakir’s teachings, and the group pointed out that the preacher had conducted eight public speeches in Malaysia between 2012 and 2016.
Although the application called for an order for Dr Zakir to be arrested and deported, the group did not provide any proof that the preacher is currently residing in Malaysia, save for his recent public appearances such as in Shah Alam and Perlis.
The four defendants named in the suit were Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Immigration Department director-general, the National Registration Department director-general, and the Government of Malaysia.
Although a fugitive in India, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said the controversial Islamic preacher is free to travel in Malaysia because he is not on any security watch list here.
He has been reported by several Indian newspapers to be on the run to avoid prosecution in India.
The Salafist preacher has also been banned from several countries such as Bangladesh, Canada and the UK.
In November last year, Times of India reported the Indian government has imposed a five-year ban on Dr Zakir’s NGO, the Islamic Research Foundation.
The daily reported that India’s authorities are also mulling terror charges against Dr Zakir, reportedly based on testimonies of about 50 terror suspects and convicts recorded from various jails, with those caught citing the medical doctor as their motivation and source of inspiration.