Former attorney-general Tommy Thomas said he had tried hard to get the authorities to expel Dr Zakir Naik following a request from the Indian envoy to make the preacher stateless.
In his newly released book “My Story: Justice in the Wilderness”, the lawyer revealed a meeting with the Indian high commissioner to Malaysia, who told him that New Delhi was not interested in getting Naik deported to India due to the publicity it would generate in favour of the preacher.
“Instead, India just wanted Malaysia to expel him from our shores. Where Zakir travelled to thereafter was not Malaysia’s concern, and India would be happy that a thorn in bilateral ties has disappeared,” Thomas wrote.
Mridul Kumar has been the Indian high commissioner to Malaysia since February 2018.
Thomas said after the meeting, he went on a mission to convince then-prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to expel Naik without the need to identify a third country.
But he said Mahathir was concerned that Naik would be left stateless, something Thomas said Malaysia should not be concerned about.
“My suggestion that Zakir be expelled from Malaysia, so that it would be his responsibility to find a home other than India, was not acceptable to the prime minister,” said Thomas, adding that Mahathir said he would handle the matter himself.
India has accused Naik of money laundering and charged him with acquiring criminal assets as well as spreading hate speech and inciting terrorism, claims the controversial preacher has denied.
Naik, who was given permanent residence status under the Barisan Nasional government, had in the past stated his willingness to face the charges in India in return for an assurance that he would not be jailed before a conviction.
In August 2019, Mahathir rejected calls by some groups in Malaysia to deport Naik, saying the government had a responsibility to ensure his safety.
Thomas in his book called Naik “notorious”, and suggested that extraditing him to face trial in India “would mean stoking racial sentiments of the Malays”.
Thomas said Naik was regarded as a hero among Muslims as seen by a reception he received in Kelantan.
“Zakir spoke and wrote in English. Yet he had a massive following among non-English speaking Muslims,” he wrote.