KUALA LUMPUR – Muslim scholar Dr Zakir Naik has been given a Malaysian citizenship, according to an article published in the Hindustan Times.
Naik, who has preached and conducted programmes in Malaysia before, was also alleged by the report to be currently hiding here after his Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) was recently banned by Indian authorities.
He is also under investigation by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), who are closely monitoring his whereabouts and have reportedly prevented his family members from leaving the country.
The report quoted one of Naik’s representatives as confirming the development, saying that the Malaysian citizenship was offered as a package deal to the Muslim preacher when he was awarded the Tokoh Ma’al Hijrah title back in 2013.
“It is the state policy of Malaysia to offer citizenship to the awardees of the highest civilian honour of their land. Naik is now a Malaysian citizen too,” the Hindustan Times quoted the unnamed representative as saying.
The report also alleged that Naik, a renowned televangelist, was holed up in Malaysia as a tactic to avoid the NIA investigations.
He was earlier suspected by authorities of being either in Thailand or Africa.
On Friday, Naik issued a statement criticising the move to ban his IRF organisation and the subsequent case against him.
He stressed that he had always advocated peace and condemned violence of any form during his public speeches.
A separate report published by the Hindustan Times quoted him as saying that the probe against him would have been a non-issue if government investigators had done “a thorough job”.
“I expected professional investigators from government agencies to do a thorough job. Had they done so, this issue would have been a no-brainer, a non-issue.
“But I guess that was not the plan. The plan was to ban, not investigate,” he said in the statement.
NIA officials had in recent days conducted raids at 20 commercial and residential properties reportedly belonging to Naik, and had seized several official documents.
Among others, the documents showed that the IRF had purportedly given an Rs80,000 (RM5200) scholarship to Abu Anas, a Rajasthan native who was arrested in January while he was allegedly planning to go to Syria to fight for the Islamic State.
Malaysian authorities could not be immediately reached for comment on the alleged citizenship offered to Naik. – The Star/Agency