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When Zakir outstays welcome

Zakir Naik - Photograph: Maapu - Creative Commons, commons.wikimedia.org

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With the interests of all Malaysians in mind, our political leadership must have the willpower to show Zakir the door, writes Mustafa K Anuar.

Indian preacher Zakir Naik has overstayed his welcome, what with his questioning of the loyalty of Malaysians, particularly Hindus, in this multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multicultural country of ours.

As if emboldened by the support of the state and certain religious groups and three islands in Tasik Kenyir to boot, the man, who is wanted by the Indian government for alleged money laundering, even had the gall to tell the so-called “old guests” in the Chinese community to go back where they came from, which is most likely Malaysia.

He reportedly expressed this uncalled-for statement in a series of religious events in Kelantan recently.

While the refrain of “go back to where you came from” is nothing new among certain Malaysians, the fact that it was expressed by this new kid on the block, who was granted permanent residency (PR) not too long ago, is indeed outrageous. Mind you, he is not even a citizen.

Not that it is okay if it is expressed by locals – because it can give rise to social and political restlessness and even ethnic and religious friction. Besides, it is downright abominable.

Zakir’s misconduct, to put it lightly, perhaps suggests the wisdom of having PR applicants wait for a spell of time to enable them to familiarise themselves with local cultures, laws of the land, politics and, last but not least, ethnic and religious sensitivities.

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He should have confined his public talks to the various aspects of Islam that would benefit the followers, instead of poking his nose into Malaysian politics and as a result, riling up segments of the population.

A blatant expression such as this could stoke the fire of ethnic hatred and suspicion among Malaysians, especially if encouraged by certain quarters and worse, if not censured by the authorities.

As it is, there is a fair share of venomous remarks coming from both Zakir’s supporters and detractors in the local social media, which obviously do not foster good ethnic and religious relations in the country.

In other words, his presence does not add value to ethnic and religious harmony in the country. If anything, it could tear apart the country’s political, social and cultural fibre that has been seriously frayed of late.

It appears, therefore, that the hurried granting of permanent residence by the past Barisan Nasional government to this man was a grievous mistake.

Incidentally, if it is true that Zakir has a penchant for mocking religions other than Islam, then the preacher (and his local supporters) surely are aware that Islam prohibits its followers from insulting other religions, just as Islam does not want adherents of other faiths to ridicule it.

When once asked about Zakir’s continuing presence in Malaysia, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the preacher would stay here for as long as he does not break local laws.

Zakir’s latest spiel on citizens’ loyalty and his “go-home” exhortation make the above justification of the authorities untenable. He has squandered the government’s goodwill.

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In a month when Malaysians are supposed to gear up to celebrate the 62nd anniversary of Merdeka in the peninsula, and later the 56th anniversary of Malaysia’s formation, we don’t need a celebrated outsider to be a killjoy and divisive factor.

Moreover, we have too much on our plate in our endeavour to focus on attaining substantial reform since the last general election. The Indian preacher is indeed not a happy diversion for concerned Malaysians.

With the interests of all Malaysians in mind, our political leadership must have the willpower to show Zakir the door.

Source: themalaysianinsight.com

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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Dr Mustafa K Anuar, a longtime executive committee member and former honorary secretary of Aliran, is, co-editor of our newsletter. He obtained his PhD from City, University of London and is particularly interested in press freedom and freedom of expression issues. These days, he is a a senior journalist with an online media portal
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Ravi Nair
Ravi Nair
30 Aug 2019 10.43am

Dear Dr. Mustafa you are absolutely correct in your statement. It just took 1 fanatic foreigner to stear up a racial anger / frustration in our beloved country. Prior to 1982 Malaysians of all Races & religion never had such nonsense. This so called Indian Fanatic preacher must be chased out immediately & going forward anyone who antigonish any religion in Malaysia should be put in Prison.

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