Indian authorities have filed charges against the Islamic preacher. According to Bangladeshi investigators, there is a direct link between Naik’s TV sermons and one of the Holey Artisan Bakery Café attackers. Activists call for the deportation of the Islamic televangelist.
Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Government of Malaysia has granted permanent residency to Zakir Naik, the Indian Islamic preacher who is thought to have inspired the Dhaka massacre of 1st July 2016.
Whilst Indian authorities have accused him of terrorism, and several Western countries (including Canada and the United Kingdom) have banned him from their territory, Naik has appeared in public in Malaysia, taking selfie with admirers and praying in the same mosque as Prime Minister Najib Razak.
In the Southeast Asian country, the Indian preacher is very popular among Islamic radicals. Experts believe that if the government expels him, it would lose religious credibility among the population. This includes Prime Minister Razak.
For years, Mr Razak has been trying to shore up his Malaysian Muslim base by increasing censorship and boycotting moderate Islamic texts for electoral purposes.
Last week, Naik made a public appearance at the Putra mosque in the capital, accompanied by a bodyguard who struggled to keep admirers away.
Other eyewitnesses have spotted him at different mosques, hospitals and restaurants in Kuala Lumpur.
The Indian televangelist is one of the most famous supporters of radical Salafi Islam. After the bombing of a bar in Dhaka's Gulshan neighbourhood, Bangladeshi and Pakistani authorities blocked his TV channel from which he broadcasts sermons full of religious hatred.
Bangladeshi investigators have found a direct link between Naik and Rohan Imtiaz, one of the terrorists involved in the bar massacre of foreigners.
Later, the Indian government banned Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) for five years after audio-visual evidence shows the preacher advocating jihad and calling on all Muslims to become terrorists.
Last June, the Maharashtra Education Ministry shut down a Mumbai's school linked to the foundation after the principal came under investigation.
For his part, Naik has always rejected charges against him, blaming instead India’s Hindu nationalist government of Narendra Modi of being envious of his popularity.
Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who supports Naik, told parliament that the preacher was not given any “preferential treatment”.
He added that the Malaysian government had not received any official request from India “related to terrorism allegations involving him”.
Conversely, a group of Malaysian activists has filed suit in the High Court to have Naik deported, saying that he is a threat to public peace in Malaysia’s multiracial society where about 40 per cent of the population is non-Muslim.
Recently, Malaysia’s nine sultans, who take turns as ceremonial monarch and are the official guardians of Islam in the country, slammed intolerance in the name of Islam, and called for unity and national harmony.