Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has been banned from giving public speeches anywhere in Malaysia, a day after he was quizzed for over 10 hours by police for his remarks against Malaysian Hindus, local media reports said.
The 53-year-old, who is wanted in India for fuelling extremism, is a controversial figure who labelled the 9/11 terror attacks an "inside job". He fled India three years ago and moved to Muslim-dominated Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency.
Malaysian police said the ban on him has been imposed in the interest of national security. Datuk Asmawati Ahmad, head of corporate communications, The Royal Malaysia Police, confirmed the development to the Malay Mail. Naik has already been banned from the Malaysian states of Johor, Selangor, Penang, Kedah and Sarawak.
Naik is alleged to have made controversial remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Malaysian Chinese during a talk in Kota Baru on August 3, prompting calls for him to be deported to India.
Responding to calls for his deportation from Malaysia by suggesting Malaysian Chinese should leave the country first as they were "old guests." He also said that ethnic Hindus in Malaysia enjoyed "100 times more rights" than Muslims in India and that they believed in the Indian government more than the Malaysian one, media reports said.
Naik apologised for his remarks but insisted that he was not a racist. He said his detractors had taken his comments out of context and added "strange fabrications to them". "It was never my intention to upset any individual or community," he said in a statement on Tuesday.
"It is against the basic tenets of Islam, and I would like to convey my heartfelt apologies for this misunderstanding," Naik said.
Reacting to Naik's controversial comments, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir on Sunday said it was "quite clear" that Naik wanted to participate in racial politics. "He is stirring up racial feelings. The police will have to investigate whether it is causing tension; obviously, it is," he said.
Mahathir added that as a permanent resident, Naik was not allowed to participate in politics. "You can preach (religiously). But he wasn't doing that," he said.
"He was talking about Chinese going back to China and Indians going back to India. I have never said such things. But he did. That is politics," the annoyed Malaysian prime minister said.
Meanwhile, more Malaysian provinces have banned Naik from making public speeches. On Monday, Melaka became the latest state to ban his speeches. Naik has been banned from speaking in Melaka, said the Malaysian state's Chief Minister Adly Zahari.
Adly said the state government wants to avoids any issue that could strain ties between races, the Star reported on Monday. "We want to maintain this. So we decided not to allow Mr Naik to hold talks or gatherings here," he was quoted as saying.
Last week, the northern state of Perlis banned him from speaking at an event, following public uproar over racially insensitive remarks which he had made.