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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 31 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad was not agreeable to the idea of Malaysia expelling fugitive Muslim preacher Dr Zakir Naik, as the then prime minister said no third country wanted to accept the Indian national, former attorney general Tan Sri Tommy Thomas has reportedly said in his latest book.
Dr Zakir, a preacher said to have controversial views, was previously given permanent resident status by Malaysia. He is, however, wanted in his home country India to face criminal charges, including for alleged money-laundering and links to the alleged funding and alleged inciting of terrorist activities.
News portal The Vibes noted Thomas as saying however that the home minister and deputy prime minister in the previous Barisan Nasional government, Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, had allowed Dr Zakir to be a permanent resident in Malaysia against the advice of the police’s Special Branch.
During his time as the attorney general from June 2018 to February 2020, Thomas said India’s high commissioner had told him that India would be happy even if Malaysia chose to only expel Dr Zakir instead of extraditing him.
“Instead, India just wanted Malaysia to expel him from our shores. Where Zakir travelled thereafter was not Malaysia’s concern, and India would be happy that a thorn in bilateral ties had disappeared,” Thomas was quoted saying in his memoir released to the public yesterday.
In his memoir titled My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, Thomas said he had then communicated on this with the Inspector-General of Police and was told that the police did not object to this, The Vibes reported.
Thomas said he had then raised the recommendation of expelling Dr Zakir with Dr Mahathir who was then the prime minister.
“Over time, I brought up the subject of Zakir a couple of times with the prime minister. On each occasion, the response was the same. No third country wished to accept Zakir.
“My observation that that would mean Malaysia was hostage to Zakir and would have to provide him with a home did not move Tun,” Thomas was quoted saying in the book by The Vibes.
Thomas reportedly further discussed Dr Zakir’s matter with IGP Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Bador, and was informed that there was no Muslim country — such as Bangladesh, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia — that wished to accept Dr Zakir.
Published by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD), the 573-page book by Thomas is available for purchase from Gerakbudaya.
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.
One of the attackers was reported to have claimed that he had been inspired by the preacher’s speeches.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs in June 2019 said the Indian government had made a formal request to Malaysia for Dr Zakir’s extradition and would continue to pursue the matter with Malaysia, while a court in India had also in June 2019 ordered Dr Zakir to show up there.
Locally, Dr Zakir has been accused of denigrating other faiths and being a threat to Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multicultural harmony.
In July 2019, Dr Mahathir said that multiracial and multireligious Malaysia cannot have Dr Zakir as the country does not want anyone who gives extreme views about race and religion, but noted it was difficult to send him anywhere else as “many countries” do not want the preacher.
In August 2019 during Dr Mahathir’s administration, the authorities in Malaysia banned Dr Zakir from delivering public talks in all states in the interest of national security and to preserve racial harmony.
Prior to the ban, Dr Mahathir had in August 2019 said that Dr Zakir had overstepped the line when he told ethnic Chinese Malaysians to “go back” and questioned the loyalty of Malaysian-Indians in two separate instances, also saying that the latter had transgressed his privilege as a foreigner with permanent resident status by issuing political statements.
Dr Zakir was spotted in December 2019 attending the four-day Kuala Lumpur Summit 2019 which was chaired by Dr Mahathir, but did not speak to the media then.
The Muslim missionary foundation Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (Yadim), which had in September 2019 received a visit from Dr Zakir, had in September 2020 invited him to speak to young Muslim missionaries in one of its events. Yadim had previously also posted a video clip from news outlet TV Al-Hijrah on Dr Zakir sharing tips in the event to the participants on how to use social media to spread Islam.
Dr Zakir had on his official Facebook page also posted posters featuring photographs of him, where he said he was addressing the 10 finalists of the same September 2020 event dubbed “Young Da’ee Yadim 2020”.