Following the outrage surrounding Zakir Naik's remarks about Malaysian Hindus and Chinese-Malaysians, a petition calling for the controversial evangelist to be deported has amassed over 78,000 signatures and counting since it went up on 12 August
Backlash against the Indian Muslim preacher escalated after he allegedly suggested that Chinese-Malaysians - whom he referred to as "old guests" - should "go back" before he is asked to leave the country
Malaysiakini reported that Zakir Naik made such remarks during a talk hosted by the Kelantan state government on Thursday, 8 August.
He was reportedly talking about how Islam was peacefully spread in the region through traders when he brought up how "new guests" Chinese, Indians, and British came to Malaysia (then Tanah Melayu) after it became "fully Muslim".
"[…] Someone called me a guest. So I said, before me, the Chinese were guests. If you want the new guest to go first, ask the old guest to go back," he said.
"The Chinese aren't born here, most of them. Maybe the new generations, yes," he added.
In the same event, Zakir also allegedly claimed that Hindus in Malaysia are more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than to Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
"[Hindus in Malaysia] are half the percentage, in terms of numbers much less, half the (population) percentage of Muslims in India. Yet, the rights they get here is 100 times more than what India gives to minorities," he was quoted as saying by Malaysiakini.
"So much so that they support the prime minister of India, but not the prime minister of Malaysia," he added.
Malay Mail reported that Zakir has since denied the allegations, saying that his remarks are specifically referring to the charges against him, in that some Hindu groups in Malaysia "opted to support the Modi government in its extradition request despite there being no evidence against me".
Zakir Naik's racially-charged remarks have triggered a fresh wave of calls to deport the fugitive televangelist, who has been living in Malaysia as a permanent resident for three years
Zakir Naik had been on self-imposed exile from his native India since 2016, where he is wanted for allegedly inspiring terrorism and laundering money.
Putrajaya is reported to have refused India's repeated requests to extradite the man, with Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir himself saying that he is an "unwelcome guest" who cannot be sent back to India because he runs the risk of being killed.
His preaching is also banned in India, Bangladesh, Canada, and the United Kingdom.
Some politicians, including Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq, have also criticised the preacher for "belittling our unity and loyalty"
Minister of Water, Land & Natural Resources Dr. Xavier Jayakumar (statement below) joins fellow Cabinet ministers Gobind Singh Deo and M. Kula Segaran in expressing concerns about the preacher's continued stay in Malaysia and urged Tun Dr. Mahathir to disallow Zakir Naik from remaining in the country.
Many Malaysians also took to Twitter to reject Zakir Naik's statements about their fellow countrymen
In response to the backlash, UMNO secretary-general Annuar Musa as well as several of the preacher's supporters have also come out in defence of his quoted remarks
Some also pointed out that his remarks may have been taken out of context as they were lifted from an hour-long talk
At the time of writing, police revealed that they have received 115 reports against Zakir Naik nationwide and that the India-born televangelist is currently under investigation for provocation for the remarks made in his speech last week
Malay Mail reported that Zakir is being probed under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace, according to Federal Criminal Investigation Department director Commissioner Datuk Huzir Mohamed.
“Investigation papers were opened following a number of police reports we received. As of today, we received a total of 115 police reports nationwide,” he was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the Sarawak government has banned Zakir Naik from entering the state
Sin Chew reported that Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing and State Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Dr Sim Kui Hian confirmed the decision today, 15 August.
Masing was also quoted as saying that the preacher's seditious remarks pose a potential danger to the ethnic and religious harmony of the state, hence the state government's decision to bar him from entering Sarawak.