KUALA LUMPUR: Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad says controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik has overstepped the boundaries of Malaysia’s multicultural and multireligious environment with his public comments on politics and race.
“The rule of law will be imposed on controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik as he is alleged to have preached on racial politics and riled up racial tension, ” said the Prime Minister.
Dr Mahathir said he was not sure who had given Zakir permanent residence status, but regardless, those holding the status could not take part in politics.
“Religious teachers can preach but he was not doing that. He was talking about sending Chinese back to China and Indians back to India. That’s politics, ” he said after launching the 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress 2019 here yesterday.
“I have never said this kind of things. But he tells the Chinese to go back. If you want to talk about religion, go ahead, then it is permissible. We don’t want to stop him from that. But it is quite clear he wants to participate in racial politics in Malaysia. Now, he is stirring up racial feelings. That is bad, ” he said.
Because of that, Dr Mahathir said the police would have to investigate whether Zakir was causing tension or not, which in his opinion, he obviously was.
“Whatever action we take will be in accordance with the law. This government respects the rule of law, ” he said.
Meanwhile, more doors are being closed to Zakir after seven states – Melaka, Johor, Selangor, Penang, Kedah, Perlis and Sarawak – decided to bar the controversial preacher from speaking in public.
Yesterday, Kedah, Penang and Johor became the latest states in announcing their objections towards Zakir’s religious talks, which have drawn public flak over his combative style of propagating Islam.
Johor Religious Islamic Department (JAIJ) director Datuk Md Rofiki A. Shamsudin said it had never given Zakir any approval to conduct religious talks in the state.
“Any religious preacher must get the necessary approval coming from JAIJ first before they are allowed to conduct religious talks. This is to ensure these preachers do not say anything against our creed or aqidah, ” he said.
Shortly after, Penang Deputy Chief Minister I Datuk Ahmad Zakiyuddin Abdul Rahman said the state would not welcome Zakir to its shores to speak at any public event, adding that this was a decision made six months ago.
“When Zakir visited us, we discussed several things, including his wish to have talks here in Penang.
“But we immediately told him that we felt whatever he wanted to talk about would not be suitable for the state, ” he said.
In Kedah, state Religious Affairs Committee chairman Datuk Dr Ismail Salleh reiterated that Zakir was barred from getting involved in any public event, adding that any of his ceramah would be put on hold as per police advice.
“Not only is Zakir Naik banned from giving ceramah in Kedah, we will also disallow anyone who poses a threat to the unity, harmony and security of the state, ” he said.
“We will not compromise on anything that will jeopardise the unity of the people, ” he added.
Selangor Islamic Council (Mais) chairman Datuk Mohammed Khusrin Munawi said the decision to prohibit Zakir from speaking or preaching in Selangor was made given the controversy surrounding him currently.
“We believe it’s best to not have him deliver talks in Selangor because of what is happening currently, ” he said when contacted.
According to Mohammed Khusrin, other preachers and religious scholars who want to deliver talks or hold events will also be first vetted by a committee that is chaired by the state mufti.
The Negri Sembilan government, however, had yet to decide whether to bar Zakir from giving public lectures in the state, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Aminuddin Harun.
“Till now, we have not received any application asking for Zakir to be allowed to deliver talks here. If there is, then we will discuss it and decide, ” he said.
The Perak Religious Committee chairman Asmuni Awi said the state would not stop Zakir from speaking publicly but he must get permission first.
“Any ceramah where he will be speaking needs to get permission from the state Islamic Religious Department and the police.
“There are also procedures to follow before a permit is given. This is to ensure any activities held will not affect harmony in the state, ” he said.
“As of now, there are no applications to bring him into the state so the question of whether he is banned does not arise.”
The Sarawak government has banned Zakir from entering the state since the time when the late Tan Sri Adenan Satem was chief minister.
Last Friday, Sarawak confirmed that it had barred Zakir from entering on grounds that he could pose a potential danger to the ethnic and religious harmony of Sarawak.
Perlis banned Zakir from speaking at the “Malaysia Reverts Camp 2019” last Friday, citing concerns that his controversial remarks could affect racial harmony in the state.
On the same day, Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal said Zakir would be banned from entering the state if there were reports of the preacher having extremist views.
“This is the state government’s jurisdiction but such a report hasn’t come to my knowledge yet, ” he said.
Cabinet Ministers, Opposition leaders and NGOs have also spoken against Zakir.
Federal Territories Minister Khalid Abdul Samad called upon parties to refrain from using the controversial speaker to gain cheap political mileage.
“It is disheartening to see that certain parties which claimed to be fighting for Islam are using him as a tool to advance their selfish political interest, ” he said.
Khalid claimed that Zakir’s safety is now jeopardised after certain parties got him involved in local politics.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa said preachers, especially those from abroad, should have a better understanding of Malaysia’s social setting, where people from different cultural, racial and religious background had been living together peacefully for many years.
“Their approach may not be appropriate for Malaysians so outsiders should respect the peace and unity enjoyed by Malaysians today.
“I’m not aiming at anyone in particular, but Muslims or non-Muslims should take note of this, ” said Dr Mujahid, who is in charge of Islamic affairs.
The PAS Supporters Club secretary S. Barathidasan also urged Zakir to refrain from commenting on the religious beliefs, loyalty and the citizenship of non-Muslims in the country.
“We are not disputing Zakir’s permanent residency status. We are only asking him to respect the principles of human rights by not issuing statements that touch on racial and religious sensitivities, ” he said.
Young Buddhist Association Malaysia secretary-general Hoi Jung Wai, in a statement issued yesterday, said Zakir’s speech, which incited racial hatred, was not characteristic of a foreign preacher.
“The speech that belittled the nation for personal agenda has not only insulted the foundation of Malaysia’s multiculturalism, but also undermined the nation’s harmony. “As Malaysians, we love and are loyal to the country regardless of race and religion. We do not allow anyone to question our loyalty towards the nation, ” said Hoi.