Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said on Friday a controversial Indian Islamic preacher allegedly wanted in his home country for terror-related activities and hate speech will not be sent back.
Zakir Naik, a radical television preacher, reportedly left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency.
The Malaysian prime minister’s refusal came days after some news reports in the Indian press said Naik’s extradition was impending. Naik’s lawyer Mobin Solkar, who had dismissed the reports before, said in response to Friday’s development: “Government of India is free to go ahead with extradition proceedings and the outcome will be dealt accordingly.”
Newsreports said New Delhi asked for him to be extradited in January. The two countries have an extradition treaty.
“As long as he is not creating any problem, we will not deport him because he has been given permanent residency status,” Mahathir said at a news conference in administrative capital Putrajaya outside Kuala Lumpur, when asked about the reports.
Naik, 52, has described the media reports as “totally baseless and false”, adding that he has no plans to return to India until he felt “safe from unfair prosecution”.
In 2010 Naik was reportedly barred from entering Britain after the Home Secretary cited “numerous comments” which showed his “unacceptable behaviour”.
In a July 2008 TV broadcast, Naik suggested that Al-Qaeda was not responsible for flying hijacked airliners into New York’s World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, killing almost 3,000 people.
Naik is facing various cases, including for hate speech and money laundering, in India. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) first booked the 51-year-old Naik under anti-terrorism laws in 2016 for promoting enmity between different religious groups, and later conducted raids with Mumbai Police at 10 places related to the preacher, including residential premises of some of his foundation’s office bearers. The Home Ministry later put restrictions on foreign funds his foundation could receive.