KANGAR (Perlis) • Controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik, wanted in his home country of India, said he has not broken any Indian law and was being targeted by the "enemies of Islam", in a rare public speech in Malaysia where he has sought refuge.
Naik, 53, is facing charges of money laundering and hate speech in India, where the authorities last year said he has been "promoting enmity and hatred between different religious groups in India through public speeches and lectures".
He has been living in Malaysia, where he has permanent residency, since India began investigating him, but has kept a low profile the past year amid criticism he is a threat to peace in multi-ethnic Malaysia.
Naik said in a speech late on Saturday in Kangar, capital of Perlis state, that he had never broken any Indian law. "But because I was spreading peace, I was giving a solution for humanity, all the people who don't like peace to prevail, they don't like me," he said, adding he was being targeted because of his work to spread Islam. "This doesn't go down (well with) the enemies of Islam. Be it Western countries or the country I was born in: India."
Naik has been controversial because of his puritan brand of Islam - recommending the death penalty for homosexuals and those who abandon Islam as their faith, according to media reports. In a clip on YouTube, Naik had said that if Osama bin Laden was "terrorising America the terrorist, the biggest terrorist, I am with him". Bangladesh suspended a television channel that featured his preachings after the media reported that militants who attacked a Dhaka cafe last year, killing 22 people, were admirers of him.
Militant group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the attack. Britain banned Naik from entering in 2010.
About 1,000 people turned up for Naik's speech, along with the Perlis Chief Minister, the state's Crown Prince and religious officials.