KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Monday (Aug 26) said Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman's remarks defending controversial Indian Islamic preacher Zakir Naik will not disrupt ongoing investigations.
This came after Mr Syed Saddiq hosted dinner for the preacher and stirred controversy by calling for those who took offence at Mr Naik’s insensitive remarks about race to “move on” from the issue.
When asked if pictures of the minister with the preacher suggested that the latter was enjoying political protection, Mr Muhyiddin said Mr Syed Saddiq had only represented himself in the matter.
“His actions do not speak for the government or the party. Many have met with Zakir, so it is nothing unusual,” Mr Muhyiddin was quoted as saying by Malay Mail.
“Whatever the case, it will not disrupt the ongoing investigations,” added Mr Muhyiddin, who is also the president of Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (PPBM). Mr Syed Saddiq is PPBM’s youth chief.
The Malaysian Insight also quoted the home minister as saying: “For me it doesn’t matter; we aren’t bound by their views. We are bound by the rule of law.”
The preacher, who faces charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, has come under fire for comments that pitted Malaysia's ethnic and religious minorities against the predominantly Muslim Malay majority.
He has been grilled by the police twice about a speech in which he said Hindus in Malaysia had "100 times more rights" than the Muslim minority in India, and that Malaysian Chinese were guests of the country.
The preacher, who has lived in Malaysia as a permanent resident (PR) for around three years, has apologised to Malaysians for his remarks. He has insisted that he is not a racist.
The youth minister had earlier criticised the preacher for his remarks and urged that he be deported to India.
In an abrupt U-turn, Mr Syed Saddiq said at the weekend that people make mistakes and the preacher had apologised.
“There’s no need to beat on chests and make the situation worst. No need to belittle and insult. Let’s move on. The country needs healing,” he wrote on Facebook.
“NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW”
On Monday, the home minister said that PRs are required to abide by the laws because the PR status is an award.
“There is no exemption. No one is above the law … It is the same for Zakir Naik as with everyone else,” he said.
He added: “There are Muslims who want to defend him. True, he is a preacher and a (Muslim) expert, but if he touches on certain (sensitive) matters like what he has (purportedly) done, we cannot allow that.”
“Do we want to remain silent if that triggers instability due to widespread feelings of dissatisfaction?”