Preacher calls Najib's action 'unintelligent'

Controversial Islamic officer criticises govt decision to set aside land for Saudi centre

KUALA LUMPUR • Controversial Malaysian preacher Zamihan Mat Zin has appeared in a video clip criticising Prime Minister Najib Razak's decision in July to set aside land to build Saudi Arabia's international peace centre in Putrajaya, calling the move "unintelligent".

According to news site The Malaysian Insight, Mr Zamihan said the government's decision in July to allot 16ha of land in the administrative capital for the King Salman Centre for International Peace to combat terrorism was unrealistic.

The centre was first announced during King Salman Abdulaziz Al Saud's state visit to Malaysia at the end of February.

In the two-minute video uploaded on YouTube on Oct 23, the preacher is seen speaking in Malay.

"The proposal to give land to Saudi to fight terrorism is not realistic. And it is fine if Saudi doesn't come to Malaysia to counter terrorism. We already have the police, the Home Ministry, Prisons Department and other security institutions like the National Security Council," he said in the clip.

"These should be enough. Why do we need to rely on the Saudis to fight Daesh? The Saudis are the ones who gave birth to Daesh," he said, using the Arabic name for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Mr Zamihan, who works for the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (Jakim) and helps rehabilitate jailed terrorists, went on in the video to question why the government had not sought the views of academics, security experts and people like him on counter-terrorism. "Why don't they ask us for our opinion? It is Zamihan who goes in and out of prisons to interact with the terrorists," he said.

"For me, the PM's action is not intelligent. Is it because we have borrowed money from them (the Saudi Arabians) and taken their funds and obtained assistance with the MoU on the haj quota that we have decided to give them the land?" he said.

Mr Zamihan is being investigated by the Malaysian authorities for sedition after he criticised the Sultan of Johor for barring a Muslims-only laundrette from operating in the state. He was also in the news recently for attacking a mosque official in Penang who allowed non-Muslims to shelter in a surau during disastrous floods.

He has been barred by Johor and Selangor from giving sermons in those states due to his extremist Islamic views.

Last Thursday, however, he was described by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi as an "asset" in the country's de-radicalisation programme.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 12, 2017, with the headline 'Preacher calls Najib's action 'unintelligent''. Print Edition | Subscribe