Calls are mounting for the arrest of Islamic preacher Syakir Nasoha, with civil society groups urging Putrajaya not to turn a blind eye to hate speech, which will injure race relations.
They expressed concern that Syakir will get off scot-free like others before him, such as Muhammad Zamri Vinoth Kalimuthu, Firdaus Wong Wai Hung, and Zakir Naik, all of whom had gotten away with ridiculing other religions.
Syakir had accused non-Muslims of wanting to kill Muslims in a speech at a mosque in Sungai Petani, Kedah in 2017. The video of him speaking went viral last week.
Close to 3,000 police reports were lodged nationwide against Syakir, who had also made inflammatory remarks about other religions.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism (MCCBCHST) urged Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob to intervene and act against Syakir.
“We urge the prime minister and relevant authorities to take stern action against ustaz Syakir in accordance with the law as he has clearly breached Malaysian laws and his utterances are likely to cause ill will and disunity among the different faiths in Malaysia,” said a spokesman for the group.
“As an ustaz (religious teacher) he is held in high esteem by the Muslim community. Syakir Nasoha’s statements tend to incite Muslims against Non-Muslims, thus (harming ties).
“Such incitement by any person should be condemned by all and the person must be severely dealt with so that it is a lesson to all,” he said.
The interfaith group called Syakir’s speech attempt to sow hatred between Muslims and non-Muslims.
“It is tantamount to instigating harm against peaceful Malaysians. The ustaz is clearly a threat to the peaceful and harmonious co-existence of Malaysians,” the spokesman said.
Global Human Rights Federation president S Shashi Kumar hit out at Putrajaya for keeping silent on the issue, adding there is no political will to penalise the preacher.
“He must be apprehended immediately. How is it that others are arrested immediately when they insult Islam but when a Muslim insults other religions, it takes the police weeks to act?” said Shashi.
“The government, which recently came out with the slogan ‘Keluarga Malaysia’, has said nothing about the incident.
“What has the Ministry of Unity done? Nothing. What does Suhakam (Human Rights Commission of Malaysia) or Jakim (Department of Islamic Development) have to say? There’s no voice at all.”
“Keluarga Malaysia”, or Malaysian Family, was coined by Ismail in his maiden speech as the PM in August.
Shashi expressed his disappointment in the police for their lack of effort in probing the matter.
“I am not satisfied. This is about the image of the country, not so much about the man. How will the world see us, a third world country still living along racial lines?” he said.
“If we want to be a modern country as many of our leaders have claimed, we cannot have people like Syakir giving sermons to ordinary people that create fear and judge others.”
Following the police reports, Syakir said his speech was misunderstood, adding the edited one-minute video clip that went viral was taken out of context and meant only for Muslims.
“I wasn’t criticising other religions, but just preaching what is in the al-Quran,” he had said.
Last week, Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Abd Jalil Hassan said police had opened an investigation into the preacher but no further action had followed his announcement.
Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin stressed that more interfaith discussions should be held to avoid similar incidents from reoccurring.
“The problem is that we do not understand other religions. Saying that all non-Muslims are after the Muslims is like the west calling all Muslims terrorists.
“That is why we are prejudiced because we do not know our neighbours. Education is important, more important than arresting and charging those who make hate speeches.
“We need to educate Malaysians that we live in a multiracial society,” Wan Ji said.
Syakir is not the first Muslim preacher to have made disparaging remarks about non-Muslims.
In 2019, Zamri was detained by the Perlis Serious Crime unit for allegedly insulting Hinduism during a lecture.
Zamri, an Indian who converted to Islam, was arrested for disrupting harmony and transmitting offensive communications.
A devout follower of Indian-born Zakir Naik, another controversial preacher, Zamri had 13 police reports lodged against him.
Multiracial Reverted Muslims founder and president Firdaus Wong Wai Hung was also hauled up for ridiculing other religions. Firdaus has also been linked to Zakir.
However, in April, the Attorney-General’s Chambers said it had no plans to prosecute the two Muslim converts after police determined that the cases would require “no further action”.
Zakir is himself accused of spreading terrorism and wanted by authorities in India.
Having found refuge in Malaysia, he accused Malaysian Indians of being more loyal to India than to their home country.
At an event in Kelantan two years ago, he told the Chinese community – whom he called “old guests” of Malaysia – to leave first if they wanted him, a “new guest” to go.
He has since apologised for his comments. He was called up for questioning by police, but no charges were brought against him.
There are calls for Zakir to be deported, but he remains in Malaysia. – TMI