See More on Facebook

Analysis, Opinion

The foreigner who stoked political chaos in Malaysia

For Asia News Network Editor’s Circle by Chong Lip Teck of Sin Chew Daily.


Written by

Updated: September 16, 2019

Controversial Indian Muslim preacher Zakir Naik is on the wanted list in India due to his extreme religious remarks and alleged involvement in money laundering. Many Muslim countries have denied him entry. But in Malaysia, he is well received by the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government. Within the coalition, however, there is a split because of him. The ground sentiment is also divided into two, on  racial and religious lines. One side has defended him while the other side asked for his repatriation. As a Muslim preacher, Zakir Naik is popular in the Muslim community.

He has his charm. While promoting Islam, he would  downgrade other religions, especially the Hindus and Christians. But, as a guest in Malaysia, he has crossed the red line. If he is merely promoting Islam, no one is against him. But he insults other religions in his speeches and utters racist remarks, questioning the loyalty of Malaysian Indians. He has also described Malaysian Chinese as guests too.

This obviously runs against the Constitution that calls on people of all races and ethnic groups to live in harmony, under the same roof. Political leaders such as the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman have condemned him for his improper remarks.

But he claimed that the content of his speech has been distorted and even issued legal notice to politicians such as Human Resources Minister M. Kulasegaran and Penang Deputy Chief Minister II Dr P. Ramasamy who slammed his remarks. Police have since stepped-in to investigate. Zakir  was banned from making public speeches. Many states have also banned him from speaking.

Sensing the turn of events, Zakir apologised for his racial remarks. He was called up by the police for interrogation, but no legal action has since been taken against him and he is still free to move around in Malaysia.

The latest development is that he has been invited to attend an event in Malacca. Zakir is still well-received among Muslim leaders and Muslim community. In fact, even though Dr Mahathir has criticised his racist remarks, this does not mean that he has changed his attitude towards Zakir.

Dr Mahathir still insists on not repatriating Zakir on the ground that no country would take him. He even stressed that if Zakir is extradited, he risks being killed. Zakir is allowed to remain in Malaysia as he has political value. Dr Mahathir’s Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM), needs Zakir to win the support of Malay voters. His rival Umno collaborates with the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party, Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) and this has put pressure on the ruling PH. Dr Mahathir’s aim is to unite the Malays.

Hence, he would not risk revoking Zakir’s permanent residency in Malaysia or repatriate him to India. Under international extradition rules, Malaysia should handover Zakir to India for the latter to prove his innocence in local court. Under political need, Pribumi has followed Dr Mahathir on this matter.

Syed Saddiq, who has condemned Zakir earlier, made a 180 degree turn in his attitude towards Zakir. He invited Zakir to dinner, urged all Malaysians to move forward by letting go and not to be trapped by Zakir’s acts and remarks. Those open-minded Malays are stunned by Syed Saddiq’s remarks too. Malacca state Executive Councillor Mohd Rafiq Naizamohideen is another Pribumi leader who defended Zakir and clashed with his counterpart in PH. The stand of Malay leaders in other parties under PH is also ambiguous.

Parti Keadilan Rakyat chairman Anwar Ibrahim disagreed with Zakir’s racial remarks. But he also said Zakir should be grateful to the government for allowing him to remain in Malaysia. Anwar supported Dr Mahathir’s move of not extraditing Zakir and said he hoped that local organisations should stop holding rallies over the matter which will cause more tensions in racial ties. Parti Amanah Negara secretary-general Mohd Anuar Mohd Tahr in a statement, claimed that Zakir has been used by someone as propaganda in order to incite hatred among ethnic groups and religions. On the opposition side, former Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who granted Zakir permanent residency, has been extremely low profile on this matter. Najib has assumed Zakir is someone convenient for him to garner Malays’ support as well.

PAS president Hadi Awang shares the same stand with Dr Mahathir on the latter’s refusal to repatriate Zakir and claims the move is in line with Geneva Convention. Hadi also accused the Democratic Action Party, one of the coalition members of Pakatan Rakyat, for playing up the issue. Nik Abduh, vice president of PAS said those Muslims who want to expel Zakir are hypocrites while those non-Muslims are traitors and enemy of Islam. All these clearly show that Zakir commands value in the politics of Malaysia.

Even if Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made a request for Zakir to be extradited during his talk with Dr Mahathir in Russia recently, Dr Mahathir remains unmoved. Racial ties among ethnic groups in Malaysia are deteriorating. Even if political power has changed hand, the situation remains the same and is even more challenging now. It is time for PH to look after the interests of Malaysians and not to comply with extremism. People who incite hatred ought to be stopped. PH should revoke Zakir’s permanent residency and expel him to prevent racial and religious harmony from being damaged.

The author is a leader writer with Sin Chew Daily.

This article is part of the latest series of the Asian Editors Circle, a weekly commentary by editors from the Asia News Network (ANN), which will be published by members of the regional media group. The ANN is an alliance of 24 news media titles across the region.


Enjoyed this story? Share it.


ANN Members
About the Author: Asia News Network is a regional media alliance comprising 24 media entities.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Opinion

North Korea beefs up self-defense capabilities in military reorganization

The North have been making many changes ahead of talks. North Korean leader Kim Jong-un presided over a meeting of the top military decision-making body to accelerate the development of self-defense capabilities ahead of key events that will decide its national strategy, its state media reported Sunday. Discussions on ways to bolster its military capabilities through organizational restructuring and personnel reshuffle were highlighted during the third expanded meeting of the seventh central military commission of the ruling Workers’ Party. Details on what measures were discussed were not disclosed. “At the meeting, Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un


By The Korea Herald
December 23, 2019

Analysis, Opinion

Modi defends citizenship decision

PM Modi says it has nothing to do with Indian Muslims. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, that unity in diversity is integral to India while addressing ‘Aabhar Rally’ at Delhi’s Ramlila Maidan today to kick start Bharatiya Janata Party’s Delhi Assembly Elections campaign slated for early next year, amid protests in Delhi and all over the country against the contentious Citizenship Act and the National Register of Citizenship(NRC). Modi raised slogan of ‘vividhta me ekta, Bharat ki visheshta’ (Unity in diversity is India’s speciality). PM Modi while giving his party and government’s view on CAA and NRC said, “Muslims being misled, I have always ensured that documents will never come in way of development schemes and their beneficiaries.” Citizenship law and NRC have nothing to do with Indian Muslims or with Indian citizens, he clarified. “We have never asked


By The Statesman
December 23, 2019

Analysis, Opinion

Rallies rage on in India over citizenship law

Thousands of students flood streets of Delhi; Assam state sees five protesters shot dead. Thousands of university students flooded the streets of India’s capital yesterday, while a southern state government led a march and demonstrators held a silent protest in the north-east, to protest against a new law giving citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India illegally to flee religious persecution in several neighbouring countries. The protests in New Delhi followed a night of violent clashes between the police and demonstrators at Jamia Millia Islamia University. People who student organisers said were not students set three buses on fire and the police stormed the university library, firing tear gas at students crouched under desks. Members of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party said opposition parties were using th


By The Straits Times
December 17, 2019

Analysis, Opinion

The Chinese version

Muhammad Amir Rana asks what is the Chinese version of Islam.  TENSIONS between China and the US have escalated after the House of Representative’s Uighur Human Rights Policy Act, 2019. The move is of a piece with the allegations of many international media and human rights organisations that China is persecuting the Uighur community and violating their rights — allegations that Beijing has denied. Calling the US action a political move aimed at damaging its international image, China says it is running a deradicalisation programme to mainstream its communities. Read: Amid global outcry, China defends internment camps of minorities in Xinjiang The Chinese claim has not been verified by independent sources and mystery shrouds its deradicalisation or re-education programme. China needs to demonstra


By Dawn
December 16, 2019

Analysis, Opinion

Myanmar to be sincere in implementing Rohingya repatriation deal

This according to the Bangladeshi Foreign Minister. Bangladesh expects that Myanmar would be more tolerant towards Rohingyas after facing trial at the International Court of Justice, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said today. “My expectation is that Myanmar would be sincere in implementing the bilateral deal that signed with Bangladesh on repatriating Rohingyas from Bangladesh,” he told journalists at his ministry office in Dhaka. “Myanmar has invited me before a case lodged with the International Court of Justice. In response, I told that I would go there when the Rohingyas will go back to Myanmar,” the foreign minister said. “I also invited Myanmar to visit Bangladesh to talk to their Rohingya people and to understand their expectations,” Momen said. Globally it has been established that there was a massive crime committed against the Rohingyas, that was des


By Daily Star
December 16, 2019

Analysis, Opinion

10 US senators criticise Suu Kyi for representing military’s interest

Suu Kyi is in the Hague defending Myanmar from genocide accusations. Ten US Senators have severely criticized Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi for representing the military’s interest before the International Court of Justice and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingyas and other ethnic minorities. “Representing the Burmese military’s interest before The Hague and defending the mass atrocities committed against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities would undermine what remaining credibility you have before the international community, including in the US Congress,” said a letter to Suu Kyi issued on December 9. The Senators said a defense of the Burmese military at this high-profile international forum is also an affront to the inclusive, multi-cultural and democratic Burma that she claims to champion. They said when Buddhist nationalism is on the rise in


By Daily Star
December 13, 2019