Activist renews push for preacher Zakir Naik’s deportation from Malaysia

•Indian Muslim evangelist banned from public talks

IT is not enough for Indian Muslim preacher, Zakir Naik, to issue an apology for his racially-charged remarks, he should leave Malaysia, moderation advocate, Mohamed Tawfik Ismail, has said.

The police in Malaysia had pronounced Zakir banned from public activities after the racial slurs in his recent speeches sparked outrage in that country.

Zakir’s comments were reported to have pitted Malaysia’s ethnic and religious minorities against the predominantly Muslim Malay majority.

The 53-year-old Islamic evangelist, who has lived in Malaysia since he was granted permanent residency status in 2016, had previously been banned from speaking in the United Kingdom, Canada and Bangladesh for what the authorities in those country deemed as his hard-line religious views.

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Mail Online reported that Zakir was grilled a second time, on Monday, by police for 10 hours after they received more than 100 complaints over remarks he made questioning the loyalty of minority Hindus and saying that ethnic Chinese are guests in Malaysia.

Police spokesman, Asmawati Ahmad, said all public activities involving Zakir have been banned to “avoid any controversy and hostility, and the potential to cause a tense atmosphere” in the multiethnic country.

She said police would advise all parties organising public talks involving Zakir to halt the events.

But Mohamed Tawfik Ismail said it was high time the controversial preacher was deported.

“The Islamophobia generated by his talks has come to a stage where all conservative Muslims are seen as possible terrorists and the distinction between conservatism and extremism is blurred.

“So apologies are not enough; I think he should be deported,” The Jakarta Post quoted Ismail to have said on Wednesday.

“There are reports that he inspired a person to commit terrorist acts in Bangladesh recently, and a person in Johor threatened non-Muslims with knives because of perceived threats to Islam propounded by him.

“It’s the singer, not the song, that is dangerous,” said Mohamed Tawfik, adding that while Zakir was still in Malaysia, his movements should be monitored and his visitors screened and limited.

“He has fanatical followers who will commit violence on his behalf and insist on his right to preach,” he claimed.

The embattled preacher had said in a public apology contained in a statement that it had been his mission to spread peace throughout the world.

He said: “Even though I have clarified myself, I feel I owe an apology to everyone who feels hurt because of this misunderstanding. I do not want any of you to harbor ill feelings towards me.

“It was never my intention to upset any individual or community. It is against the basic tenets of Islam, and I would like to convey my heartfelt apologies for this misunderstanding,” he added.

Zakir maintained that his statements regarding Chinese Malaysians were taken out of context.

“It worries me because the ones who are hurt have not heard my speeches but based their impressions on out-of-context quotes of me.

“That is a cause of concern for me because it brings harm to the image of Islam and serves to drive people away from it. Racism is an evil I am staunchly against, as is the Qur’an, and it is the exact opposite of everything I stand for as an Islamic preacher.

“I would like to make a humble appeal to all of you, especially to the non-Muslims. Please take out time to listen to my speeches in their entirety,” he said.

Ismail also said the government should not blame the issue on the previous government, as they did not make their views forceful enough or take firm action against the preacher when they were in the Opposition.

Although Zakir’s apology was welcomed, Bukit Gelugor lawmaker, Ramkarpal Singh, said it did not detract from the fact that he could have breached the conditions of his permanent residence (PR) status.

“(It) should be the main consideration in deciding if the same ought to be revoked or not. In other words, Zakir’s apology does not, in any way, repair the damage that had been done as a result of his words.

“This country has always been multiracial. Foreigners who wish to stay here must respect and understand this, failing which, they should not be allowed to stay,” said Ramkarpal, who is also the legal bureau national chairman of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), a multi-racial, centre-left Malaysian political party advocating social democracy and secularism, social justice.

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