PETALING JAYA: Despite the controversies surrounding fugitive Indian preacher Zakir Naik, there is still a huge segment of Muslims who support his teachings and look up to him for guidance.
This is evident even in Malaysia, where Malay right-wing group Perkasa honoured Naik with an award for his contributions to Islam.
According to Azrul Mohd Khalib of rights group Bebas, there was always an appeal for the version of religion promoted by individuals like Naik.
“(The version is) one that is self-victimising, disempowering and xenophobic. One that looks at blaming others for its trials and sufferings, rather than looking inwardly,” he said to FMT.
“And one that believes in conspiracies such as the United States deliberately inflicting 9/11 on itself – which Naik has publicly stated – to explain certain events.”
Azrul was referring to the Sept 11, 2001 attacks on the US by terror group al-Qaeda.
“Most alarmingly, the version of religion that uses messages of hate, bigotry and prejudice to mobilise others to commit acts which they themselves would not do, and later deny responsibility for inspiring,” he added.
Naik is no different from Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the militant Indonesian group Jemaah Islamiah, said Azrul, who is also external relations manager for the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (IDEAS).
“He (Naik) just wears suits, speaks English and has YouTube videos.”
But Azrul added that Naik had the right to speak his mind and share his opinions with the masses.
“And he has a right to be an idiot, and for us to treat him like one who belongs in the fringe groups.”
The Times of India (TOI) on April 15 reported that India’s National Investigation Agency would seek an Interpol notice against Naik to curb his movements if he fails to turn up for a probe on his activities, after defying repeated summonses.
And in November last year, India banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years, citing his “objectionable and subversive” speeches. This action was part of investigations into IRF by the country’s authorities.
According to a TOI report that month, the authorities cited criminal cases filed against Naik and other members of IRF in Mumbai and Sindhudurg in Maharashtra and Kerala, as well as his “dubious” links with Peace TV which allegedly features “communal” and “pro-jihad” content, as reasons for banning the “unlawful organisation”.
Despite this, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday disclosed that Naik was given permanent resident status five years ago.
The government also awarded Naik the “Tokoh Maal Hijrah” award in 2013. -FMT