Malaysiakini Letter

Does the presence of ‘controversial’ foreigners undermine Malaysia’s multi-racial composition?

Jacob George  |  Published:  |  Modified:

After the UK and Canada, two more democratic countries with an overwhelming number of moderate Muslims, I mean both India and Bangladesh, have blocked the biggest source of radical Islamist televangelism in the region, Peace TV.

According to Dhaka Tribune, the mainstream Islamic scholars in Bangladesh had already demanded banning Peace TV in 2016, calling it a misguiding channel for Muslims.

But the government of Bangladesh has banned it now, in the wake of the July 1 terror strikes.

In that July 1 attack there were 22 murders.

On similar grounds of inciting religious intolerance and violent extremism, India has now also banned Peace TV.

The allegations are that a particular controversial preacher’s talks and speeches have been declared ‘highly objectionable’ by the government of India.

After the Maharashtra government ordered an investigation into this issue, it has become patently clear that Peace TV is not licensed in India, but uplinked from Dubai.

The Hindustan Times quoted the deputy secretary of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, Shankar Lal, as saying that he has issued a directive to officials to take action against channels airing Peace TV.

Just when you thought this is all that is happening, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has issued a notice to controversial TV preacher Zakir Naik to present himself for questioning on March 14, according to India’s Hindustan Times.

The newspaper said this was the first time the security agency had issued a formal summons to Zakir Naik.

The NIA said the notice was received by the accused’s brother, Mohammad Abdul Karim Naik.

The NIA registered a case against Zakir Naik after his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was banned under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The Enforcement Directorate has also registered a separate money-laundering case against Zakir Naik.

It has been reported that that agency recorded a statement from Zakir Naik’s sister, Nailah Noorani, under the provisions of the Prevention of Money-Laundering Act.

Shockingly, the NIA has charged Zakir Naik and the IRF with inciting Muslim youth to indulge in violence, and promoting enmity between different communities on the basis of religion and race.

All which, according to the authorities in India, spreads communal discord and indulging in activities prejudicial to national integration.

On his part, this preacher has stayed out of India, and is now believed to be in Malaysia, allegedly having secured a Permanent Residence (PR) status, for his many family members and himself.

Strict decorum and guidelines

That is not all.

International decorum and guidelines are strict when one is given a Permanent Residence privilege.

One is expected to not attract or indulge in controversy which puts the state that has given the PR in bad light!

Here in Malaysia, his religious talks have upset the multi-racial and multi-religious fabric of the country.

And now, it is unbecoming of him.

Instead of making a physical appearance to address the allegations and chargers against him, in India, Zakir Naik is using the Malaysian vernacular media, urging the Indian government to take up any case against him in an international court, or even in Malaysia.

This is unfortunate and in international law, firing salvos against the Indian government, or others, from Malaysia obviously pits in this case, Putrajaya against New Delhi.

This is a mischievous thing to do, trying to use local sentiments to beef up his defence, and thus create bilateral issues between two independent countries and trade partners.

We are already having major bilateral issues with North Korea.

Will we now have issues with New Delhi?

It is possible, as there has been inaction on another couple of Indian warrants against two Malaysian corporate figures, on separate issues and controversies.

Now here with Zakir Naik, we have another case in point and it is only a matter of time before more names and figures appear, perhaps from other countries seeking either their citizens or individuals ‘hiding’ in Malaysia?

This will be an acid test for Putrajaya, which is currently sitting in the UN Security Council.

We have a decision to make.

We cannot speak with a forked tongue.

We must decide whether we are a part of the international community, and if so, must act as such, where we need to make rather tough decisions that show we are not providing a safe haven or closing both eyes, frustrating efforts by members of the UN against individuals for whom they have warrants out?

Like the North Korea saga, we should stay clear of issues that puts us in international spotlight, for the wrong reasons.

We are a very well-respected country.

Nations will avoid us if they think we are ‘hunting with the hounds and running with the hares’.

Or frustrating and undermining any attempt by foreign nations seeking cooperation from us to deliver individuals wanted to answer chargers in their jurisdiction.

The rights, interests and future of more than 30 million Malaysians and Malaysia must not be put in harm’s way by any controversial foreigners.

DR JACOB GEORGE is president, Consumers Association of Subang & Shah Alam, Selangor (Cassa).

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