Malaysia appears to be in a Catch-22 predicament regarding controversial Muslim preacher Zakir Naik, according to Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In an interview with Turkish international news channel TRT World, the premier pointed to Malaysia's multireligious composition and how the Indian-born preacher posed a problem to this social fabric.
"We have a multiracial and multireligious population in Malaysia. We don't want anybody who comes up and expresses extreme views about race relations and about other religions.
"So to that extent, we cannot have him, but on the other hand it is difficult to send him anywhere else because many countries do not want to have him," he said.
Mahathir was asked about India describing Zakir as an extremist while Western nations consider him a proponent of hate speech.
Zakir, who is now a Malaysian permanent resident, is also wanted by Indian authorities for money laundering charges, which the preacher claims are false.
On June 28, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah confirmed that Malaysia received a request from India for the extradition of Zakir.
Before this, the preacher said he would return to India if the Supreme Court guarantees that he would not be arrested or imprisoned until he is convicted.
Mahathir, likewise, had said Putrajaya wanted to ensure Zakir would be given a fair trial in India before agreeing to the extradition request.
Yesterday, Zakir said the Interpol's refusal to issue a red corner notice (RCN) against him proved his innocence.
“Interpol's decision does not come as a shock. It only shows how flimsy the Indian government’s charges against me have been,” he added.
Furthermore, he pointed out that the Interpol rarely refused an RCN when charges of terrorism were involved.
Speculation has been rife that the Mahathir administration's decision not to acquiesce to India's extradition request could be rooted in fear of a backlash from the Malay and Muslim community.