With Putrajaya doubling down on its refusal to deport Zakir Naik to India, the founder of an NGO claims that the controversial Muslim preacher is merely a "tool" used by the country’s elites to serve their own political ends.
N Ganesan, founder of NGO Freedom, dismissed views by certain quarters that Zakir is a hero.
"Do we really need Zakir in 'Malaysia baru' especially when we are supposed to have come away from bigotry, or so we think?
"If he is no longer needed in 'Malaysia baru' but he continues to stay, then someone is benefiting from this, and wants to protect him so he is allowed to stay in the country.
"He may be erudite, very learned in Quran and Hadith, but if he continues to be the source of division, we do not need him," Ganesan said in a seven-minute message uploaded to YouTube yesterday.
Ganesan was responding to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad saying that Zakir, who has been granted permanent resident status, can remain in Malaysia as he has not committed any crime in the country.
Mahathir also said today that Putrajaya cannot bow to pressure to deport Zakir, as it has to consider many factors under the law.
Yesterday, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy said that the world is wondering why Malaysia is so reluctant to deport Zakir when he is being sought by India for a slew of alleged crimes, like money laundering and terrorism-related activities.
Zakir's message, Ganesan said, may be accepted by some but will divide others.
"So if he is not needed in Malaysia Baru, authorities here have to say it clearly. But no, there are still elements within elites of this country, who appear to want to keep him here for reasons of their self-preservation, because they do not want to be seen as anti-Islam.
"That is one of the cases Umno Malays are making, that those who join Pakatan Harapan are anti-Islam," he added.
"For its interests, the current regime allows him to help it maintain that pro-Islam image. In Malaysia, that is the story."
However, Ganesan also called into question India's own reluctance to make their stand on Zakir explicit, saying that there has not been a "clear and unequivocal" stand from the country on an extradition request.
"They may not want to alienate Muslims in India, so since Zakir Naik is out of the country, it is all well and good. If he is creating trouble here (it is like) 'Malaysia, you deal with it'."
Ganesan then questioned why Zakir does not leave for Saudi Arabia, where he also has permanent residency.
"Whatever it is, we must send him out of the country positively. If he cannot go to India, then let him go to Saudi (Arabia). That's one clear option.
"The other option is for India to come out clearly and say: ‘send him back so we can charge him in court'.
"We don't need him in Malaysia Baru. Mahathir has to listen to voices of the people and not be influenced by any of the elites," he stressed.