When Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad meets his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, in Russia on Sept 5 ahead of a 3-day Eastern Economic Summit, everyone was wondering if Mr. Modi will raise the issue of Zakir Naik, the controversial Indian Islamic preacher accused of spreading hate speech, laundering money, and funding terrorism by the Indian government.
Like it or not, Mr. Mahathir had to face Mr. Modi because on the same day (Sept 5), India raised the tax on refined palm oil from Malaysia to 50% from 45%. Effectively, Malaysia will no longer enjoy the 5% preferential tariff after close to 10 years – making the import tax on the country’s refined palm oil “same” as those from Indonesia (which pays 50% import tax rate).
After a failed mission by Primary Industries Minister Teresa Kok to convince New Delhi not to raise the tariff, Mahathir wanted to talk with Modi about Kashmir and palm oil – and secretly hoped Modi would somehow forget about hate preacher Zakir. Modi, however, wanted to talk about money launderer Zakir and hoped Mahathir would not divert attention on the issue of palm oil tariff.
Based on a video clip of the meeting of both leaders, it appeared there was a moment where Mahathir’s body language suggests that he didn’t get his wish. At least, his facial expression indicated the displeasure of being lectured by Modi. It seemed like the Indian leader was telling Mahathir that unless Zakir Naik is extradited, the 5% tariff on Malaysian refined palm oil will stay.
Subsequently, after the meeting in Vladivostok, Russia, Malaysian Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah admitted that Zakir Naik was mentioned by Modi but did not elaborate. However, The Times of India quoted Indian foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale as saying that PM Modi had raised the issue of Zakir’s extradition and that both countries will stay in contact over the issue.
Fast forward about 2 weeks later, PM Mahathir claimed that Indian PM Narendra Modi did not make any extradition request for controversial preacher Zakir Naik during their recent meeting in Russia. Speaking during the Breakfast Grille on BFM89.9 on Tuesday (Sept 17), Mahathir said – “I met Modi. He did mention Zakir Naik. But, he didn’t ask for Zakir Naik to be sent to India.”
Seriously? So the public is supposed to believe that the foolish Indian prime minister was merely asking about the welfare of their wanted fugitive and whether he had any difficulty adjusting to the local culture and local food, not to mention sending regards to the money launderer? Perhaps the 94-year-old Mahathir thought he could still insult people’s intelligence.
Indian Minister of External Affairs – S Jaishankar – has rubbished Mahathir’s jaw-dropping claim that India was no longer interested in extraditing their citizen. On the same day the Malaysian prime minister said the hate preacher would be “troublesome for India”, India said it has been “persistently and relentlessly” pursuing the extradition of the controversial televangelist Zakir.
Jaishankar told reporters on Tuesday (Sept 17) at a media interaction – “Let me make it very clear for the record. There is an extradition request (sent in January 2018). We want Zakir Naik back and that is what we are working on.” In response, Mahathir defiantly maintains on Sept 18 that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not make any extradition request for the man.
Obviously, someone is lying here. As much as Mahathir deserves the benefit of the doubt, his track record suggests he has not only lied, but increasingly becoming a serial liar like his predecessor – crooked Najib Razak. In fact, to justify the protection he accorded to Indian Muslim preacher Zakir Naik, the premier has consistently lied through his teeth.
While Zakir is a wanted man in India, he was stunningly granted permanent resident by former Najib government. When the new government of Mahathir Mohamad took over, the newly crowned prime minister said that Malaysia would not deport Zakir “as long as he is not creating any problems” in the country. Fine, perhaps it was fair to give the preacher the benefit of the doubt.
Despite receiving an application from New Delhi to extradite Zakir Naik, an Indian national, Mahathir decided to ignore the request and keeps harbouring Zakir. On June 10, the defiant premier made it known that he won’t send Mr. Zakir back to India even if officially requested. When asked by journalists, Mahathir said – “Zakir in general feels that he is not going to get a fair trial (in India).”
Comically, Mahathir likened his stance to how Australia declined to send back a Malaysian fugitive, Sirul Azhar Umar, as Canberra was worried that the man would be hanged in Malaysia. Mr. Sirul, a former Malaysian police commando who was sentenced to death in 2015 for the murder of Mongolian model Altantuya Shaariibuu, managed to escape to Australia.
Australia has refused to send him back to Malaysia, which practices capital punishment. Zakir, on the other hand, has not even been arrested by the Indian government, let alone put on trial. Hence, Mahathir’s attempt in comparing Sirul and Zakir was laughable. But the premier’s decision was not surprising as Malaysia is considered a popular terrorist breeding ground in the region.
However, after news broke that India was seriously considering raising import duties on refined palm oil from Malaysia from 45% to 50% – the same as the duty imposed on the commodity from Indonesia, Mr. Mahathir had twisted a new story. The 94-year-old premier said despite Zakir Naik is an “unwelcome guest” in Malaysia, the hate preacher still can’t be sent away.
Mahathir argued – “We have a multi-racial, multi-religious population in Malaysia. We don’t want anybody who comes up and expresses extreme views about race relations and other religions. But on the other hand, it is difficult to send him anywhere else because many countries do not want to have him.” His statement was an admission that Zakir was indeed an extreme radicalised Muslim.
After Zakir’s inflammatory remarks questioning the loyalty of Malaysian Hindus to the country, Mahathir came out with another silly excuse not to send the preacher back to India – “The problem that we face is that we cannot send him back. Because he runs the risk of being killed. So he is here today, but if any country wants to have him, they are welcome to do so.”
As a permanent resident, the preacher had even dared inciting the Muslim world to fight China over its treatment of Muslim Uighurs in the Xinjiang region – a dangerous suggestion that could radicalise extreme Muslims to launch terror attacks against China interests worldwide. Worse, it would give an impression that the Mahathir government had given the blessing to Zakir to do so.
Zakir then happily attacked local ethnic Chinese. He falsely said the Malaysian Chinese aren’t born in the country so they, as the “old guests”, must go back to China first before he (the “new guest”) can be asked to leave. The hate preacher had also accused the Hindus in Malaysia were more loyal to Indian PM Narendra Modi than to Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad.
The premier finally announced on August 18 that Zakir Naik, whom he had protected numerous times in the past, had crossed the red line when he touched on racial politics and stirred racial tension in the country. But the hope of finally ejecting the instigator out of the country soon vaporised as the old man cooked up more excuses. Like Najib, the PM blamed everyone – and lied extraordinarily.
Mahathir said – “In the first place, I don’t know who gave him PR status, but as a PR, you cannot participate in politics. Religious teachers can preach, but he was not doing that. He was talking about sending Chinese back to China and Indians back to India. That’s politics. I have never said this kind of things. But he tells the Chinese to go back.”
“It is quite clear he wants to participate in racial politics in Malaysia. Now, he is stirring up racial feelings. That is bad. People here are trying their best not to say those things. Even I would not dare say those things. Whatever action we take will be in accordance with the law. This government respects the rule of law,” – said the world’s oldest prime minister.
Yes, PM Mahathir lied again and made a shameful U-turn, declaring that the hate preacher can continue staying in the country, despite agreeing earlier that Zakir had indeed ventured into “racial politics”. That was the last insult from the premier before he went to meet Modi, and lied about New Delhi giving up on extraditing the money launderer back to India.
Interestingly, in his interview with BFM89.9 on Sept 17, the premier said “it was complicated”, when asked why no action was taken against Zakir over his racial remarks made in Kelantan recently. Indirectly, Mahathir admits that the Indian Muslim preacher cannot be extradited due to political reason, and absolutely not because Modi didn’t ask for his extradition. So the old man lied again.
Suggesting he is being held hostage by Zakir’s popularity, Mahathir revealed – “I am afraid he was speaking in English and the audience, while most of them couldn’t speak English, they think that this man is a great fighter and they like him. When we take any action against him that means we are going against that group. In Malaysia, you have to be very careful about how you deal with this.”
If indeed Modi did not ask for the return of their citizen, why the heck Mahathir had to explain at great length about offending the Malay Muslims – his vote bank – should the preacher be extradited? Why he keeps babbling and bitching about no country wants Zakir when the fugitive possesses Saudi Arabia citizenship?Actually, Zakir boastfully claimed in 2017 that he was offered citizenship by at least 10 Islamic nations.
– Finance Twitter