KUALA LUMPUR, July 31 — Malaysia is not keen for Dr Zakir Naik to be here, but is hard-pressed to deport him elsewhere as “many countries” will not accept the controversial Islamic preacher either, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
The prime minister added that Malaysia is not in favour of hate speech, but indicated that the government is also committed to the rule of law and a fair trial for anyone, even non-citizens.
“We have a multi-racial, multi-religious population in Malaysia. We don’t want anybody who comes up and address extreme views about race and other religions.
“So to that extent, we cannot have him. But on the other hand, it is difficult to send him anywhere else because many countries don’t want to have him,” Dr Mahathir told host Imran Garda of the Turkish news channel TRT World in an interview aired on Monday.
The prime minister was asked if he agreed with Indians who find Dr Zakir to be an extremist and the West who believe the Mumbai-born preacher propagates hate speech.
Dr Zakir continues to be a divisive figure in multi-religious Malaysia with many Muslims revering him and others who have called for his deportation.
Last Monday, Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said Putrajaya’s refusal to extradite Dr Zakir to India was based on concerns about justice and fairness.
He said India must convince Malaysia about the validity of its request and provide safeguards to Dr Zakir.
Dr Mahathir had last month claimed that Malaysia has the right to not extradite the fugitive Indian national, since the latter alleges he will not be accorded justice back home.
The prime minister had also reportedly compared the situation to Australia refusing to extradite Sirul Azhar Umar, former police commando, who was sentenced to death here for murdering Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu.
In May, the televangelist conceded that he is willing to face justice back in India, but only if he is not arrested there until he is tried in court and convicted.
Dr Zakir has been evading Indian authorities since 2016, when files were opened against him for allegedly making hate speeches and laundering money after five militants launched an attack at a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that ended with 29 dead.
Indian authorities filed money-laundering charges against him earlier this year and a Mumbai court granted the country’s Enforcement Directorate a warrant to arrest Dr Zakir in order for him to stand trial there.
Banned in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and Bangladesh, Dr Zakir is now a Saudi citizen and Malaysian permanent resident.