Malaysian PM Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has said that the country has the ‘right not to extradite’ Islamist preacher Dr. Zakir Naik as Naik feels he won’t get a fair trial in Bharat, Malaysian outlet The Star has reported.
Mohamad made an incongruous comparison to justify his stance. He mentioned a case where Australia refused to deport a convicted Malaysian, Sirul Azhar Umar, who was sentenced to death for murder in Malaysia, but managed to flee to Australia while his review petition against the conviction was being heard. Capital punishment has been abolished in Australia.
Radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, once called a ‘gentle, rock-star televangelist…preaching modern Islam’ by Indian liberals like senior journalist Shekhar Gupta, fled Bharat on 1 July 2016 after Islamic terrorists in neighbouring Bangladesh claimed that they were inspired by his speeches.
Bharat’s premier investigative agency NIA had on 18 November 2016 registered a case against Naik for inciting terror and delivering hate speeches. Naik’s Mumbai-based NGO, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), was declared unlawful by the Union home ministry in December 2016 and his ‘Peace TV’ channel is also banned in Bharat. Naik is also facing a money-laundering probe by ED.
Apart from Bharat, Naik’s preaching is also banned in Bangladesh, Canada and the United Kingdom. The Saudi king has granted Naik Saudi citizenship to protect him from arrest by the International Police Organisation, Interpol. He also has permanent residency status in Malaysia.
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad’s contrived comparison between Sirul Azhar Umar and Zakir Naik falls flat because of the following reasons –
- Australia is not challenging the fairness of Malaysian court which convicted Umar. In fact, Umar was jailed in 2015 in the highest security section of Sydney’s Villawood detention centre, the week after he was sentenced to death in absentia by a Malaysian court and an Interpol red alert was issued for him. In contrast, Zakir Naik is moving around freely in Malaysia, and getting full support of the Malaysian state despite the serious nature of the charges against him.
- In Feb this year, a Sydney court this week rejected Umar’s appeal for political asylum. He now faces eventual deportation, once Malaysia abolishes the death penalty as a new bill promises. Let’s assume the court in Bharat finds Naik guilty in absentia, and Interpol issues a red alert against him. Will Malaysia then arrest Naik like Australia did with Umar, and start deportation proceedings in compliance with Interpol and international norms?
Other senior Islamic leaders and clergy in Malaysia have also rallied to Zakir Naik’s support and welcomed the PM’s decision not to extradite him to Bharat, saying it showed Malaysia would not bow to the “injustice and oppression in India”. Mufti Dr. Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin accused Zakir Naik’s Malaysian critics of being ‘more loyal to India than Malaysia.’
In 2017, current minister P Waytha Moorthy (a Malaysian Tamil Hindu), and 18 others filed a suit against the then-Barisan Nasional government for allegedly harbouring Naik and granting him permanent residency. The Malaysian High Court threw out the suit in February last year.
Moorthy is also the founder of human rights organization HINDRAF or Hindu Rights Action Force that has consistently stood up against the routine discrimination faced by Malaysian Hindus in the Muslim-majority country which recognises Islam as its official religion.
What can Hindus do?
Anyone who has listened to Zakir Naik’s ‘preaching’ knows what a venomous, albeit smooth-talking, Islamic supremacist he is.
Malaysia has made it clear that it will stand with Dr. Zakir Naik, irrespective of the validity of the grave charges against him & in consonance with principles of global Ummah (Muslim community) brotherhood against kafirs. Influential Malaysians are even branding those Malaysian Hindus who dared to protest their country harbouring a globally notorious hate-monger as ‘traitors.’
The Government of Bharat should, of course, exercise all the tools of diplomacy and geopolitics at its disposal to ensure Malaysia honours its international commitments. But it would be foolish to expect our foreign policy establishment, steeped as it is in Nehruvian secularism, to take matters beyond a point.
1 billions Hindus, most of whom reside in Bharat, need to make their voice heard and send a clear message to Malaysia. Bharat accounts for 6th largest contingent of foreign tourists visiting Malaysia, with Malaysia eyeing 1 million Bharatiya tourists to the country by 2020.
The fast rising upper middle-class segment of young Hindus in Bharat is travelling abroad more than ever. If even a fraction of them decided to shift their travel plans from Kuala Lumpur to other destinations in South East Asia like Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam etc., it would definitely force Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to think again whether harboring a notorious jihadi preacher like Dr. Zakir Naik is really worth it?
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