Malaysiakini Opinion

Zakir, Asri and Ramasamy: Cutting through the sound and fury

Nathaniel Tan  |  Published:  |  Modified:

COMMENT | The first remarks made the by the new de facto National Unity and Social Well-being Minister P Waythamoorthy concerned the preacher Zakir Naik.

The latest development in the saga is Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin’s call for a debate between Zakir and Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy, which Waythamoorthy believes is not necessary.

Following up from my previous article, there are a few things to unpack here.

I would say that in general, public debate or dialogue should be a welcome feature in our revitalised democracy.

Asri’s remarks surrounding this particular call for a debate, however, contained remarks that were made in extremely bad taste, and have no place in a united Malaysia.

Sinar Harian quotes him as saying “Based on their demands, I propose that whoever clearly loses the debate be sent back to India as is their wish. One of them will return there.”

Esteemed fellow columnist S Thayarapan correctly points out that neither in fact want to 'go back’ to India, and that there is an element of racism in this statement.

Asri is a colourful individual, who has long resisted any attempt to be put in box A or box B, as far as his stances go.

Personally, I think he often says things I think are healthy for the country, and he also often says things I think are unhealthy for the country.

Just last week or so, he penned a lengthy column in Malaysiakini espousing what by Malaysian standards are extremely progressive views regarding Islam and LGBT rights in Malaysia, following the controversy regarding Numan Afifi. For this, I laud him.

On the whole, I get the impression that he is generally guided by attempting to interpret Islam to the best of his intellectual ability, and to base his views on those interpretations, rather than any pre-existing ideological predilections, which is a respectable...

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