As Malaysians, we are well aware of the obsessive love-affair between prime minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Indian radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
But it is far from endearing. Rather, Mahathir’s infatuation and consequent protection of the Indian fugitive reeks of hypocrisy and ulterior motives, which must be addressed.
Naik, the controversial preacher, has been accused by India’s counterterrorism agency of unlawful activities and promoting religious hatred. His radical lectures and Islamic Channel were thought to have inspired a gunman attack in Bangladesh in 2016. He is also accused of economic crimes such as using his non-profit Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as a front for money laundering.
Accusations revolving around terrorism and money laundering are no light matter. However, Naik has found a snug space in the arms of PM Mahathir, who has offered Malaysia as a safe haven for the fugitive while Indian officials try to figure out how to extradite him to India and get him to stand trial.
The most ridiculous and ironic part of this saga is Mahathir’s response as to why on earth he continues to defend Naik and continues to offer up Malaysia as a safe space, despite the effect on Malaysia’s relationship with India and other states.
Mahathir responded by saying that the government must first determine without a doubt that Naik would be treated fairly in India before extradition would be on the table.
Firstly, since when does Mahathir care about India’s justice system. let alone any other country in the world?
Malaysia has never had a problem extraditing foreigners... heck, the PH government has even sent people back to places like Egypt and Saudi Arabia where we know ‘fair treatment of prisoners’ is not on the top of their list of priorities.
Secondly, and more importantly, doesn’t this story sound familiar? A fugitive hiding in a foreign country, claiming that the judicial system is corrupt?
Can no one smell the total hypocrisy of Mahathir’s two-faced behaviour? While Naik’s story is going on, Mahathir is simultaneously insisting that Jho Low, the Malaysian fugitive, be extradited to Malaysia, despite Low’s claims that the Malaysian judicial system is corrupt.
Naik has demanded that Indian officials come to Malaysia to interview him before extraditing him to India, and Naik is requesting a written agreement that he would not be detained pending his trial. Why?
Because he has no confidence in the neutrality of the justice system and believes he has gone through a trial by media and pronounced guilty.
Mahathir claims that he will keep Naik safe till he gets his demands and is treated with justice.
Now consider Low’s case. We cannot kid ourselves into thinking Low will be receiving the fairest of trials in Malaysia. He has been pronounced guilty by the media, and Mahathir and his government have made their stance known by freezing Low’s father’s bank account and seizing his family’s bungalow, despite the bungalow being bought years before 1MDB was in existence.
Low, too, has requested to be interviewed in a third country - a request which Mahathir ignored.
Low fears he will not receive a fair trial in Malaysia - a fear which Mahathir rejected.
Mahathir get your story straight. If you truly believe that aiding in the extradition of Zakir Naik will be an insult to a fair justice system, then you should implement one single standard, whether you like or dislike the persona in question.
And if not, find another excuse as to why you insist on keeping your manipulative bosom buddy under your protection.