Free speech for all, not just for Zakir Naik, says G25

G25 notes with increasing concern the tolerance shown by Malaysian authorities on the extreme statements made by Zakir Naik in his preachings.

We believe in free speech but when it is allowed in favour of a certain person and denied to others who have different views – that is not a healthy kind of freedom for our multi-cultural society.

While we respect Zakir’s democratic rights to express his views on Islam and compare it with other religions by quoting from various scriptures to illustrate such views, he has often created anger among Muslims and non-Muslims alike by his frequent mocking of other religious doctrines and practices.

He is also inextricably linked to extremist views and intolerance towards freedom of religion and as a result, he has been banned from preaching in the United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, India and Pakistan.

Zakir loves to debate but only with those that he and his private foundation approve. There are also allegations that he will not debate with scholars from other religions.

He evades serious debates with internationally known religious scholars by laying down his own conditions. By insisting to debate in a setting of his own choice, Zakir shows the true colours of a preacher who wants a big crowd to cheer him loudly so as to drown out his opponents.

We are also concerned that Zakir’s negative remarks about other religions are emboldening Malaysian clerics to follow his intolerant style.

The responses that we see on chat groups indicate that non-Muslims are dismayed at the new trend where high-ranking religious officials seem to have immunity in expressing their opinions so freely without regard for the feelings of other races.

Zakir’s attitude on religion has no place in today’s world and can cause serious social harm in a multi-racial and secular country like Malaysia.

It is disturbing to know that he was able to obtain permanent resident status from the Home Ministry without the public knowing whether he has met the strict criteria and qualifications for eligibility applicable to others.

The hundreds of thousands of stateless children in Malaysia certainly deserve to know. Alternatively, if an exemption was granted to Zakir, then the justification should be made known.

Ultimately, Malaysian authorities should not be seen as championing an individual with such a reputation and we encourage them to proceed with caution.

Should Malaysia be called upon to cooperate in the fight against dangerous religious extremists, we strongly encourage our government to do so. – May 8, 2017.

*G25 is a movement of eminent Malay moderates.

* This is the opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malaysian Insight. Article may be edited for brevity and clarity.

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