SEPANG, Aug 16 — The Permanent Resident (PR) status of televangelist Dr Zakir Naik can be revoked by Putrajaya should it be proven that his actions have harmed the country’s well-being, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said today.
However, the prime minister said the government will first wait for the result of the police investigation into the fugitive preacher’s alleged inflammatory remarks against minorities in this country.
“He has PR status. We can take that away that if he does something that is detrimental to the well-being of the nation,” he told reporters here, referring to Dr Zakir’s status.
“At this moment the police are investigating if he is doing that or not. If he is doing it, then it is necessary for us to take away his PR status.
“We will need to take action to prevent him from making such speeches, which tend to pit races against each other,” he added after an official visit to AirAsia RedQ headquarters here.
When asked whether Dr Zakir should issue a public apology for the statements he has made, Dr Mahathir said he does not think the move would appease the public.
“I don’t know about demanding a public apology. I don’t think it will assuage the anger of many people.
“We leave it to the police to investigate the seriousness of the statements that he has made,” he said.
Dr Zakir was granted Malaysian PR status in 2015 under the Barisan Nasional administration.
Federal police are currently investigating him under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace after getting 115 public complaints over his latest remarks during a lecture in Kota Baru, Kelantan last Saturday.
There, Dr Zakir was reported by news portal Malaysiakini to have claimed Indian Malaysians were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government of India than the Mahathir administration. The Mumbai-born was also reported to have called Chinese Malaysians “old guests” who should go back to their ancestral lands before he should be made to leave the country.
In a statement last night, Home Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin issued a warning that action will be taken against anyone who disrupts Malaysia’s harmony and public order, whether they are citizens or not.
Dr Mahathir was previously seen as protective of the 53-year-old Islamic evangelist when he rejected an extradition request from India where Dr Zakir is wanted money laundering and hate speech charges.
But the prime minister has said that he is willing to send Dr Zakir to any other country that wants him and where the latter does not run the risk of being killed.
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 on a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that ended with 29 dead.