Tommy Thomas: Dr Mahathir not keen on expelling Zakir Naik

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The Pakatan Harapan government was bent on ridding Malaysia of Zakir Naik, the foreign preacher whose constant criticism of other religions had sowed seeds of division in the country.

Lim Huey Teng/Reuters

Police, who apparently didn’t support the Najib Razak government’s decision to give the Indian-born preacher permanent residency, also had no objection to expelling Zakir, wrote Tommy Thomas in his memoirs.

But then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad was not keen on expelling the preacher, preferring instead the option of a third country accepting him.

Only problem was this: Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and Qatar were unwilling to open their borders to the controversial man.

In his memoirs titled My Story: Justice in the Wilderness, the former attorney-general said that shortly after he took office, the Indian high commissioner visited him and said that bilateral relations would not be on an even keel unless the Zakir Naik issue was resolved satisfactorily.

The preacher is facing a slew of charges in India. But the Indian diplomat agreed that extradition proceedings would exacerbate tensions and the court process could take years. In the meantime, Malaysia would be torn asunder by religious rhetoric being spewed in the courtroom.

“The high commissioner stated it was not necessary for Malaysia to extradite Zakir to India to face criminal charges. Instead, India just wanted Malaysia to expel him from our shores,” Thomas recalled.


Thomas gave Dr Mahathir an opinion on the matter and briefed him on India’s position.

“Tun agreed that resorting to any form of court action in Malaysia must be avoided at all costs because this was exactly what Zakir would prefer: a platform for him to spew his poison.

“Tun stated that he had no objection to a third country accepting Zakir.

“My suggestion that Zakir be expelled from Malaysia, so that it would be his responsibility to find a home other than India, was not acceptable to the prime minister. Tun asked me to leave the matter to him,” he wrote.

Periodically, Thomas would ask Dr Mahathir about the Zakir Naik case and the answer was always the same: no third country wanted him.

“My observation that that would mean Malaysia was hostage to Zakir…did not move Tun,” Thomas recalled.

Zakir continues to enjoy Malaysian hospitality. – TMI

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