SEPANG, Aug 13 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad alleged today that Dr Zakir Naik runs the risk of being killed if the controversial televangelist is deported back home to India to face charges of money laundering and inspiring terrorism.

However, the prime minister said he is open to the idea of sending the fugitive Indian national to other countries, following renewed backlash against the preacher for his remarks against local ethnic Indians.

“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,” Dr Mahathir said following the 21st anniversary of the KLIA airport. 

Last month, Dr Mahathir had said that Malaysia is not keen for Dr Zakir to be here, but is hard-pressed to deport him elsewhere as “many countries” will not accept the controversial Islamic preacher either.

When asked for his opinion on Dr Zakir’s recent inflammatory remarks questioning the loyalty of Malaysian Hindus to the country, the prime minister cryptically said this should instead be referred to the community in question. 

In a speech in Kota Baru recently, Zakir was reported to have compared the Hindus in Malaysia to the Muslims in India, saying that the Hindus here enjoyed more than 100 per cent rights in Malaysia compared to Muslims in India.

He also alleged that the Hindus here were more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than to Dr Mahathir.

Among those who have voiced their criticism include Jelutong MP RSN Rayer, Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran, and Klang MP Charles Santiago.

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.