New Delhi, Nov 2: Hardline Islamic preacher Zakir Naik is a popular figure in Malaysia and according to reports, his popularity has to do with the nation’s tilt towards politics in the name of Islam. Naik was reportedly seen emerging from the Putra mosque in Malaysia surrounded by fans, where he made a public appearance. Noteworthy that there are several offences registered against Naik in his home country, India.
According to Reuters, as published in Times of India, a female reporter at his arrival at the Putra Mosque, questioned Naik about the investigations to which he said it is not the right time for him to speak ‘with ladies in public’.
The report also claimed that support for a more politicised Islam increased under the Prime Minister Najib Razak. It also attributes this appeasement policy to Razak’s defeat in the popular vote in 2013 general election.
The government is reportedly trying to appease the increasingly conservative ethnic Malay-Muslim base ahead of the mid-2018 elections.
Apart from India’s charges against him, the United Kingdom also banned Naik, but was welcomed by Malaysia. Naik is known for his controversial remarks and has been charged with inciting communal disharmony. His organisation Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) has also been linked with terrorist groups by India’s counter-terrorism agency National Investigation Agency (NIA). NIA also reportedly prepared charges against Naik over promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups.’ A YouTube video also shows Naik saying he supports Osama bin Laden for his war against US.
Experts are of the opinion that the primary reason for Naik being welcomed warmly in Malaysia is that the government did not wish to lose ‘religious credibility in the eyes of the public’.
Reuters quoted an analyst with the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore Rashaad Ali, who said, Naik is ‘a reasonably popular character amongst Malays’.
However, a group of Malaysian activists reportedly filed suit in the High Court to deport Naik stating him as a threat to public peace. On the other hand, according to Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Naik has not broken any law or regulations and there is no reason from the ‘legal standpoint to detain or arrest him’. Photos of Zahid and PM Razak with Naik were also reportedly posted on Facebook last year, Reuters claimed.
Similarly, Malaysia’s opposition Islamic Party, PAS, defended Naik and urged the Government to disregard any potential request of extradition by India.
Naik had also denied all allegations against him by Indian security agencies and said he was being targeted because of his popularity in India.