In response to calls for him to be deported to India, controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik has dismissed accusations of extremism made against him and thanked the Malaysian government for allowing him to stay in the country.
This came after Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad reiterated his stand yesterday not to deport Zakir to his home country of India, where he is wanted by authorities.
The prime minister said the preacher, who is a permanent resident of Malaysia, had not broken any law.
In a statement, Zakir expressed his gratitude for the prime minister's stand and claimed his image had been tarnished by a group of "religious fanatics".
“An unbiased observer would realise that never in my 25 years of lecturing on Islam and peace have I ever promoted terror, in the name of Islam or otherwise.
“In fact, not a single lecture, out of the thousands that I have delivered, has ever received objections from non-Muslims in India until in September 2012, when a group of religious fanatics sought to tarnish my image. My aim has always been to foster communal peace and harmony - the exact opposite of the accusations hurled at me,” Zakir said in a statement yesterday.
The Indian government is reported to have applied for Malaysia to extradite Zakir in January this year over terrorism and money laundering allegations.
Among Zakir’s most vocal critics are from within Harapan itself, among them Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy (picture, below).
Ramasamy had previously compared Zakir Naik to fugitive Malaysian businessperson Jho Low, saying Malaysia should respect its extradition treaty with India in the same manner in which it was requesting help from other countries to nab and send the fugitive Jho Low to Malaysia to facilitate the 1MDB investigation.
He also pointed out that Zakir was not going to be sent straight to the Indian prison, but merely to face trial.
Previous gov't: Zakir never promoted terrorism
Zakir was reportedly granted permanent residence in 2012. Following criticism over his presence in Malaysia several years later, the previous BN administration had concluded after an investigation that the fugitive preacher had never promoted terrorism.
Nevertheless, then home minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said then that Zakir would be extradited to India should there be a request from that government.
Below is Zakir’s statement in full:
"Lately, there has been a flurry of news reports in the media regarding my status and continued presence here in Malaysia. Some sections of the media have attacked me for my supposed “incitement to terror”, and it would be naive not to assume that this was done with a broader objective of demonising Islam and Muslims.
Unable to find any evidence against me, they resorted to doctored video clips, out-of-context quotations and a host of dishonest schemes to accuse me of terrorism, hate speech and even money laundering.
Over the last few years, thousands of 'news' articles, YouTube videos and social media posts have attributed to me appalling statements that I did not make. Often these lies come in the form of images displaying a message alongside a photograph of me.
To anybody who does not want Islam to be presented as a religion of peace, this is a quick and dirty way to discredit the faith. I implore anybody who comes across such material to verify it before jumping to conclusions.
Because the simple truth is that any statement ascribed to me that is against humanity is a fabricated statement. Time and time again, I have reiterated that a Muslim cannot be a good Muslim unless he is a good human being.
So, an unbiased observer would realise that never in my 25 years of lecturing on Islam and peace, have I ever promoted terror, in the name of Islam or otherwise.
In fact, not a single lecture out of the thousands that I have delivered has ever received objections from non-Muslims in India until in September 2012, when a group of religious fanatics sought to tarnish my image. My aim has always been to foster communal peace and harmony - the exact opposite of the accusations hurled at me.
I thank the Malaysian government for examining the issue from an unbiased perspective, and Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad for his decision to allow me to stay here, as long as I continue to abide by the law and support the peace and harmony of this country.
This decision reaffirms my faith in Malaysia’s justice and communal harmony, and is a testimony to the success of the multiracial diversity of this country. I am humbled to be a part of this diversity, and I also acknowledge the sensitivities it entails.
I would never wish to disrupt or jeopardise this balance in any way, or to break the rule of law of this country, because it is my primary concern to foster the social harmony currently enjoyed by its citizens.
Allah says, “O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise each other)…” (Al-Qur’aan 49:13).
Finally, while I hope that justice and peace return to my homeland, India, I remain indebted to Malaysia - not just as one seeking fair treatment, but as an individual with a love of humanity.
I pray that Allah continues to bless the nation of Malaysia and its fearless leader Dr Mahathir, and that He makes it, through its leaders and citizens alike, a superpower, a role model nation, and a paragon of virtue for the rest of the world."
Servant of Allah