Mahathir: Indian preacher stirred racial tensions in Malaysia

KUALA LUMPUR • A controversial preacher overstepped boundaries when he touched on racial politics and stirred racial tensions in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said yesterday.

Tun Dr Mahathir said he was not sure who had given the India-born Muslim preacher permanent residence status in Malaysia, but regardless, those holding the status cannot participate in politics.

Dr Zakir was granted permanent residency by the former Barisan Nasional administration.

"Religious teachers can preach, but he was not doing that. He was talking about sending Chinese back to China and Indians back to India. That's politics," Dr Mahathir said at a press conference, after launching this year's 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress.

Recently, it was reported that Penang, Perlis, Kedah and Sarawak have banned Dr Zakir from speaking publicly in their states.

Dr Mahathir said the government was careful about how it said things that were sensitive to the different communities in Malaysia.

"I have never said this kind of thing. But he tells the Chinese to go back. If you want to talk about religion, go ahead, then it is permissible. We don't want to stop him from that. But it is quite clear he wants to participate in racial politics in Malaysia. Now, he is stirring up racial feelings. That is bad," Dr Mahathir said.

Because of that, Dr Mahathir said, the police will have to investigate whether Dr Zakir was causing tensions or not which, in his opinion, Dr Zakir obviously was.

During a religious talk in Kota Baru, Kelantan, on Aug 8, Dr Zakir responded to calls for his deportation by saying that the Malaysian Chinese should "go back" first as they were the "old guests" of the country. Prior to that, Dr Zakir had said Hindus in Malaysia were more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than to Dr Mahathir.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Mahathir: Indian preacher stirred racial tensions in Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe