It was reported in the media on April 16 that Perkasa, a Malay right-wing group has honoured fugitive Indian preacher Zakir Naik with its warrior award for his contributions towards the struggle of Islam.
This comes days after reports that India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) has decided to seek an Interpol notice against Naik citing his “objectionable and subversive” elements in his speeches.
Perkasa had previously given the award to former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and former Information Minister Zainuddin Maidin and Naik is the first foreign recipient of the award. Naik was also given the Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah award in 2013 by the Malaysian government.
There were rumours for quite some time that Naik was given Malaysian citizenship and DPM Ahmad Zaidi finally confirmed on April 18 that he was only given PR status about five years ago.
There was consternation amongst the public when our DPM confirmed Zakir status as many people have been unable to get PR status despite years of waiting. It seemed that Naik has jumped queue and was given special treatment.
Naik is a controversial Islamic preacher and he is banned from entering UK and Canada. In March 2017, nineteen people including Dr Jeffrey Kitingan, Assemblyman from Sabah, filed a lawsuit against the government for allegedly harbouring controversial preacher Naik.
The group of 19 claimed that Naik who is a citizen of India was capable of threatening national security and harmony and has encouraged terrorism in public.
The group also claimed that Naik’s presence in Malaysia was a serious threat to the country’s safety.
We can very well understand Dr Jeffrey’s concerns and many Sabahans that I talked to support his action.
James Masing, the DPM of Sarawak stated that “The PR doesn’t make Naik immune to being banned as an unwanted person”, and Sarawak which has autonomy on immigration matters like Sabah will prevent Naik from entering Sarawak.
In UK, Canada and India, where Islam is the second largest religion after Christianity, Naik is not welcomed.
If UK, India and Canada consider Naik a threat, why is he welcomed with open arms in Malaysia?
It’s very puzzling.
Admittedly, Naik has not committed any crime on Malaysian soil and we only know about his activities and preaching style mostly from the internet. Nevertheless, why would these three countries with a large Muslim population ban him or issue warrants for his arrest.
We can only assume that his preaching style is considered toxic and that he may influence radical Islam.
If this is the case he can create the same situation here in Malaysia.
Whilst Naik is banned from entering Canada, progressive Canadians set a good example to the Muslim world.
Prime Minister Trudeau on April 12 invited Nobel Peace laureate Malala Yousafzai to Canada.
Malala was bestowed honorary citizenship of Canada and became the youngest person to address the country’s Parliament. She’s only the sixth person to receive the honour and the youngest ever. The 19-year-old activist was 15 when she was shot in the head by Taliban militants while returning from school.
She was reportedly targeted for advocating women’s education.
She won world acclaim for her campaign and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
Malala is an inspiration to the youth of the world especially for Muslim Girls who are traditionally supressed in the male dominated Muslim culture in many countries.
What a stark difference between Malaysia and Canada! Malaysia gave honours to a Muslim fugitive and granted PR status secretly. Canada gave a 19-year-old Muslim woman Noble Peace Laureate honorary Citizenship openly.
Many people will recognize a disconnect here.
Given our current political environment and the negative campaigning for peoples’ votes using race and religion as bait, it’s no wonder that the youth in Malaysia find it difficult to search for a role model to emulate.
We could find some in sports with the likes of Lee Chong Wei in Badminton, Nicol David in women’s squash and Malaysian track cyclist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang in Keirin Cycling.
Apart from sports there is a dearth of role models which they can relate to in this country.
Even the Youth and Sports Ministry which is supposed to help youth develop their potential is mired in corruption.