Zakir Naik, was granted permanent resident (PR) status by Malaysia five years ago. Since then, Naik has made Malaysia his transitory home during his world tour as an Islamic evangelical preacher who appears regularly on television to promote Islamic beliefs.
Malaysia, a multi-ethnic nation, has always taken pride in practicing moderate Islam, thus accommodating people belonging to different religions.
Najib’s United Malays National Organization (UMNO), and the alliance Barisan Nasional (BN), that has ruled Malaysia since independence in 1957, has been leaning towards hard-line, conservative Islam as he faces crucial elections next year. His party and his ruling alliance have lost control of three states. Significantly, these three states witnessed the rise of pan-Islamic party (PAS).
In supporting Naik, Both Najib’s party and PAS are supporting Naik and he was the star at a religious conference that PAS had organized in July, 2017.
Malaysia and other Muslim groups form 61 per cent of the population of 29 million. The Malaysian establishment is striving to boost this majority by including Muslims from neighbouring Thailand and Indonesia and even distant Sri Lanka. Ethnic Indian Muslims are also striving to be included as ‘Boomiputeras’.
A bulk of Indians are Tamils who form 8% of the population and they are also the largest Indian diaspora.
Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), president, Dr S. Subramaniam, who is also Malaysia’s Health Minister has opposed the hosting of Zakir Naik. He said that “Malaysia’s Islamic foundation, and its multi-religious national texture are not going to be nourished by Dr Zakir’s preaching. He further added that that “On the contrary, it would only be inciting divisive forces to distort the unifying tenets of Islam as currently practiced in the country.”
However, his senior in the Najib government, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said that “Over the time spent in this country, he has not broken any laws or regulations. As such, there is no reason from a legal standpoint to detain or arrest him.” He added that Kuala Lumper has not received any official request from India “related to terrorism allegations involving Naik”.
Critics see Naik’s presence in Malaysia as another sign of top-level support for hard-line Islam.
Rashaad Ali, an analyst with S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore says that “he remains a reasonably popular character amongst Malays, who gloss over his more controversial aspects.” He also said that “If the government were to kick him out of the country, it causes them to lose religious credibility in the eyes of the public.”
Courtesy: Malladi Rama Rao, Asian Tribune