KUCHING – Leaders from both sides of the political divide in Sarawak do not want controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, who is sought by India for alleged money-laundering investigations, in the multi-religious state.

Deputy Chief Minister James Jemut Masing said Naik’s permanent residence (PR) issued by the federal government five years ago would not shield him from having his movements in Malaysia restricted.

“The PR doesn’t make Naik immune to being banned as an unwanted person. We have banned Malaysian legislators from (entering) Sarawak before,” he said.

Naik has yet to be officially banned from entering Sarawak, which has autonomous power in immigration matters.

The state has a unique demographic make-up, with Christians forming the majority and Muslims comprising less than a quarter of the population.

Parti Pesaka Bumiputera (PBB) supreme council member Idris Buang said the state’s “political setting” would not be welcoming for Naik.

“Personally, I think he is one of the best Muslim scholars out there. For many Muslims, he has done a good job explaining the teachings of Islam. He is a preacher of peace.

“However, he would not be well understood in a place like Sarawak. So my advice is for him to spare Sarawak his presence,” Idris said.

Batu Kitang assemblyman Lo Khere Chiang, from Sarawak United People’s Party (SUPP), said it was in the state’s interest to block individuals who are detrimental to the peace.

“We are Sarawakians and we will always remember what our late Tok Nan (former chief minister Adenan Satem) said: no extremists and religious bigots, please!” said Lo.

“He may have PR but Sarawak will not welcome political or religious extremists, the likes of Zakir Naik, to step foot here.”

Meanwhile, state PKR leader Baru Bian said Naik should not only be banned from Sarawak, but deported or charged by Malaysian authorities.

“How can we be harbouring someone who is wanted elsewhere? And not only that, we have given him PR status.

“He has been creating disharmony, making sensitive statements that have affected our multi-religious society in Malaysia. That itself should be grounds to deport him or charge him.

“This kind of person should not be allowed to stay in Malaysia.

“If they are serious about creating a harmonious situation in Malaysia, he should be deported back to India.

“Our leaders must make an example out of him. Otherwise, they are not walking the talk,” Baru said.

Naik’s PR was confirmed by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi yesterday.

On April 15, India’s Enforcement Directorate filed a charge sheet against Naik’s company Harmony Media Ltd and his colleague Aamir Gazdar for alleged money-laundering.

The country’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) is also reported to be seeking an Interpol “Red Notice” to bring Naik back to India to face questioning.