KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 ― Perkasa president Datuk Ibrahim Ali today announced plans to defend both Dr Zakir Naik and Islam by intervening in a lawsuit seeking the arrest and deportation of the controversial Muslim preacher from Malaysia.
Ibrahim said he applied today to be a party to the lawsuit by 19 human rights activist, claiming that the court case affected the “rights and interests of Muslims to hear and obtain knowledge directly through the talks and sermons presented by Dr Zakir Naik”.
Speaking at the High Court here, Ibrahim noted that Perkasa’s goals include the strengthening of Islam as the religion of the federation.
Ibrahim said Perkasa’s 700,000-strong members are mostly Muslims except for some Bumiputera members from Sabah and Sarawak, and that they therefore have the right to come to court as Malaysian citizens to defend Dr Zakir.
“It’s related because Zakir Naik is an Islamic preacher, a Muslim; I am also a Muslim, I must defend him, because I believe that he is not wrong and he is doing the right thing,” he told reporters here after filing his application.
Ibrahim confirmed his intervener application is also aimed at defending Islam, saying: “It goes together, Zakir Naik represents the symbol of Islam, the symbol of Muslim preaching, so that’s why we come and defend him.”
Ibrahim had highlighted both the Malaysian government and the Saudi government’s awards to Dr Zakir of the national Tokoh Maal Hijrah 2013 award and the 2015 King Faisal International Prize for service to Islam.
On March 1, 19 human rights activists filed a civil lawsuit against the Malaysian government for failing to protect the country from Dr Zakir.
Among other things, the lawsuit sought a government declaration that Dr Zakir was a threat to national security, called for a ban to prevent him from entering the country, and for him to be arrested and deported immediately.
The multi-ethnic and multi-religious group’s spokesman P. Waytha Moorthy had previously said their lawsuit is not intended to insult the teachings of Islam, but revolves solely around the issue of national security.
The four respondents named in the suit are Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the Immigration Department director-general, the National Registration Department director-general, and the federal government.
The lawsuit was filed following news reports of Dr Zakir being on the run to avoid prosecution in India, as well as a report of a five-year ban by the Indian government on his NGO, the Islamic Research Foundation.
The Times of India newspaper had last November reported that India’s authorities are also mulling terror charges against Dr Zakir, reportedly based on testimonies of about 50 terror suspects and convicts recorded from various jails, with those caught citing the medical doctor as their motivation and source of inspiration.
Dr Zakir is also banned from several countries such as Bangladesh, Canada and the UK.
But Ibrahim claimed today that Dr Zakir preaches “peace”, insisting that the famous Islamic preacher has never taught anything that is unlawful or causes terrorism.
Ibrahim accused those linking Dr Zakir to talks encouraging terrorism and terror activities as attempting to create a negative perception against the Indian national.
“If there are those who commit terrorism and are caught in India or anywhere, then make the excuse that they did it merely because of Zakir Naik’s talks, I feel that is not right, you have to see case by case,” he said, claiming that these were isolated cases.
He went on to assert that Perkasa never stopped any famous Hindu priests from India from delivering talks during the Hindu community’s Thaipusam celebrations or barred any Muslims from attending such talks, arguing that others should similarly not bar Dr Zakir from coming here to deliver talks which may even be attended by non-Muslims.
“As much as when the Hindu priests come from India to Batu Caves, there are Muslims who go, we never stopped. So let’s be fair, be gentleman,” he said.
“Why I want to come to court today? I want to give a message, don’t insult and don’t fool us around, there are still Muslims who are brave, who are ready to stand on the truth, upholding the law and to fight at whatever cost to protect the Islamic vision and the country’s Constitution,” he added, insisting that Perkasa never provoked anyone but only acts after being provoked.
Ibrahim urged the group of 19 activists to not oppose his bid to intervene in their lawsuit, saying that this will allow all of them to present their arguments in court together.