KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia was looking for a country except India to send Zakir Naik, but not many countries are willing to accept the controversial preacher, former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad has said.
Naik, a 54-year-old radical Islamic preacher wanted by the Indian authorities for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches, left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to the largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency when Mahathir was the prime minister.
Claiming that the fugitive Islamic preacher "would not be safe from the Indian public", the 95-year-old politician, who is eyeing a comeback, said he would like to send Naik to some country "where we feel he will be safe."
"For the time being he (Naik) can stay here but we would like to send him to some other country where he would be safe. Unfortunately, not many countries are willing to accept him," Mahathir was quoted as saying by the WION news channel.
When asked whether he would extradite Naik if he becomes the Prime Minister of Malaysia again, Mahathir said, "Well, we would like to send him to some country where we feel he will be safe."
He once again refused to send Naik to India, saying "at this moment we feel that he would not be safe from the Indian public."
Naik has been banned from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country after his controversial remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Chinese last year.
When Mahathir was the prime minister he had said that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi did not request the extradition of Naik during a bilateral meeting in Russia in September 2019, a claim contested by India which has sought the extradition of the fugitive preacher.