Malaysia bans controversial televangelist Zakir Naik from public speeches after 'racial incitement' accusations
Muslim televangelist Zakir Naik has been banned from giving public speeches in Malaysia, police said on Tuesday.
The decision was revealed to local media outlets after Naik was quizzed for 10 hours by police in Kuala Lumpur on Monday.
Naik, an Indian citizen who accused in his home country of money laundering and promoting terrorism, caused outrage in Malaysia after making public statements about the country's ethnic minority groups.
In speeches given earlier this month, the preacher reportedly suggested that Malaysia's Indians had more loyalty to India's Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi than Malaysian leader Mahathir Mohamad. He caused further outrage when, in responding to calls for him to leave the country, suggested that Malaysia's Chinese population should "go back" first.
Several Malaysian government ministers have called for the preacher's permanent resident status to be revoked. Naik, meanwhile, says his words were taken out of context and has started legal proceedings against four Malaysian politicians.
Speaking to the Malay Mail, Royal Malaysia Police Head of Corporate Communications, Datuk Asmawati Ahmad, said the decision to ban Naik from public preaching had been made "in the interest of national security and to preserve racial harmony."
Prime Minister Mahathir on Sunday said the preacher had gone too far by wading into the country's sensitive racial politics. Prior to this, the 94-year-old leader had admitted that the preacher was an "unwelcome guest Malaysia can't send away" due to concerns over how he would be treated if returned to India.
On Tuesday, Naik issued a public apology while insisting his critics had spun his words and added "strange fabrications into them".
"It was never my intention to upset any individual or community. It is against the basic tenets of Islam, and I would like to convey my heartfelt apologies for this misunderstanding," the statement read.
Follow us on Twitter: @The_NewArab