New Delhi: Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who seemed reluctant to extradite controversial preacher Zakir Naik a few months back, on Tuesday claimed that India hadn’t really pressed its extradition request. The 94-year-old Malaysian PM also suggested that this could be because the preacher could be “troublesome for India” as well.
He also emphasised that PM Modi did not seek Zakir Naik’s extradition when the two leaders met earlier this month. The Malaysian prime minister’s new stand is now contrary to India’s official position that PM Modi did raise Zakir Naik’s extradition and the two leaders decided to let the officials work on the details, reported Hindustan Times.
In an interview to Malaysian radio station BFM’s show the Breakfast Grille, Mahathir Mohamad suggested that Zakir Naik had exhausted his goodwill in the Malaysian government and there weren’t many countries that were willing to take him in.
“We are trying to find a place where he can go but no one wants to accept him,” said Mahathir upon being asked that if Naik such a trouble, then why the government allow him in the country.
While Zakir Naik is still in the country, the Malaysian prime minister said the authorities had gagged him.
“He has been given permanent status by the previous government. And permanent residentship is not supposed to make any comment on his country’s system and politics He has breached that and now he will not be allowed to speak,” Mahathir said.
Mahathir Mohamad’s signalling over Zakir Naik through the interview is at sharp variance with how he had gone about declaring just a month earlier that the preacher could not be sent back to India because of fears for his safety.
The polarising preacher has been on the radar of Indian security agencies for years but it was only after the men involved in the 2016 terror attack in Bangladesh’s Dhaka described Naik as their inspiration that the crackdown really started.
Zakir hasn’t returned to India since then and shifted base to Malaysia which has granted him permanent residency. But over the next year, Indian agencies have forced him to shut operations in the country and banned his NGO, Islamic Research Foundation, under the anti-terror law.