Zakir Naik (HT file)
Zakir Naik (HT file)

Opinion | Zakir Naik gagged for good reason

Zakir Naik, the firebrand Indian Islamic preacher who fled India in 2016, has stirred up trouble in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where he has been living in exile for three years

Zakir Naik, the firebrand Indian Islamic preacher who fled India in 2016, has stirred up trouble in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where he has been living in exile for three years. He reportedly made offensive remarks about the loyalty of Malaysian Hindus, a minority group, and has found himself gagged for his exertions. For his divisive conduct, he is no longer allowed to make public speeches. If legal charges against him are upheld, his permanent residency status could be revoked, too.

The Indian government, presumably, would want Naik repatriated rightaway. Once a televangelist popular among some of India’s Muslims, he is simply a wanted man in India now—for money laundering and making inflammatory speeches. He attained notoriety in mid-2016, after allegations surfaced that his so-called sermons had inspired a terror attack on a café in Dhaka, Bangladesh, that left 20 people dead. After that, the Indian government knocked his Peace TV channel off air, domestically, and banned his Islamic Research Foundation, a probe of which resulted in charges of financial wrongdoing as well.

Race and religion are sensitive issues not only in Malaysia, but also globally. With sensitivities running high and inter-group empathy levels low, crude messages against “the other" tend to fan bigotry and incite attacks on people marked out by such invective. While freedom of speech is value to be upheld, hateful group labelling should have no place in a civilized society.

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