Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday raised the issue of extradition of Zakir Naik during his bilateral meeting with his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad in Vladivostok.
Both the countries have decided to remain in contact regarding the matter as it is an important issue for both sides.
Zakir Naik, the controversial Indian Islamic televangelist and the founder and president of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was last month banned from giving speeches in Malaysia in the interests of “national security”.
Naik has been charged with making inflammatory speeches and questioned by local police over his intent to provoke a breach in peace by making remarks about Hindu and Chinese communities living in the Muslim-majority nation.
He has now been barred from holding religious talks in several Malaysian states.
Zakir Naik, 53, a controversial figure who labelled the 9/11 terror attacks an “inside job”, fled India three years ago and moved to Muslim-dominated Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency by the previous government.
In July last year, India had made a formal request to Malaysia asking for his extradition.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s former police chief Rahim Noor has urged the government to rescind his Permanent Resident (PR) status and return him to India.
In his racial comments, Naik had said that Hindus in Malaysia get “100 times more rights” than the Muslim minority gets in India, and yet they support the “Prime Minister of India and not the Prime Minister of Malaysia.”
Despite facing calls for deportation by multiple parties, Naik called on the Malaysian Chinese to “go back” first as they were the “old guests” of the country.
“Later on, more people came and Malaysia became fully Muslim. Then you have the Chinese coming, the Indian coming, the British coming. They are our new guests. People call me a guest. So I said, before me, the Chinese were the guests. They aren’t born here. If you want the new guest to go first, (then) ask the old guests to go back. The Chinese weren’t born here, most of them. Maybe the new generation, yes.”
“If you want the guest to go back and those guest which (sic) are bringing peace in the community, they are benefit (sic) for the family,” he said while addressing a religious talk last month.
Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has backed the Muslim scholar several times before, said the preacher has gone too far with his recent racial comments. Naik is wanted in India in cases of financial irregularities and hate speech.
Malaysia’s impatience with Naik also comes days after Malaysian Minister P Waytha Moorthy, special envoy of the PM, visited India and met Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar.
The Malaysian government has previously appeared reluctant to move against Zakir Naik for fear it could upset some Muslims as well as provide ammunition to political opponents.
Meanwhile, in his talks with the Malaysian PM, Modi also explained the reasons behind the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.