KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Controversial preacher Zakir Naik overstepped boundaries when he touched on racial politics and stirred racial tension in Malaysia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said.
Tun Dr Mahathir said he was not sure who had given the India-born Muslim preacher Malaysian permanent residence status, 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 the 62nd International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress 2019 on Sunday (Aug 18).
It was reported recently 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 the country.
"I have never said this kind of things. 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 is causing tension or not - and in his opinion, Dr Zakir obviously was.
Dr Mahathir also said the rule of law will be imposed on Dr Zakir as he is alleged to have preached on racial politics and aroused racial tension.
"Whatever action we take will be in accordance with the law. This government respects the rule of law," he said.
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 this, Dr Zakir had said Hindus in Malaysia were more loyal to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi than to Dr Mahathir.