Dr Mahathir Mohamad has suggested that Putrajaya has no choice but to allow Dr Zakir Naik to reside in Malaysia as other countries are not keen to accept the controversial Muslim preacher who is wanted by Indian authorities. “We have a multiracial and multi-religious population in Malaysia. We don’t want anybody who comes up and expresses extreme views about race relations and about other religions,” the prime minister said in a recent interview with Turkish news channel TRT World, when asked on his view about Naik who is accused of propagating hate.
“So to that extent, we cannot have him, but on the other hand it is difficult to send him anywhere else because many countries do not want to have him.”
Indian authorities have filed money laundering charges against Naik, who has been granted permanent residence status in Malaysia.
In May, anti-graft authorities charged him in absentia with money laundering involving about Rs1.9 billion (RM114.5 million) worth of criminal assets.
Putrajaya has so far resisted requests for Naik’s extradition, with Mahathir questioning the likelihood of him receiving a fair trial.
Naik has denied the charges against him, but says he is prepared to face them. However, he wants assurance from New Delhi that he will not be arrested until he is found guilty.
During his interview, Mahathir, who made his first official trip to Turkey after returning to power last year, also touched on the Chinese crackdown on Uighur Muslims in the Xinjiang province, as well as his stance on the Sunni-Shia conflict.
He said Malaysia’s response to Chinese actions would be similar to how it reacted to the US.
“And there is no question of us taking any violent action against China but if we have the facts, yes we should condemn,” he added.
He also criticised those stoking rivalries between Sunni and Shias, saying both are Muslim.
“Of course each claims to be the correct interpretation of Islam and we may dispute, but the fact is the world regards both Sunnis and Shias as Muslim,” he said.
He said those out to label Muslims as terrorists ignore such sectarian differences.
“They don’t make a distinction and they consider both interpretations to be terroristic, that Islam advocates terrorism, whether they are Sunnis or Shias.”