Zakir Naik and the radicalization of Malaysia Baru, warns former Malaysian ambassador Dennis Ignatius

Dennis Ignatius is a former Malaysian ambassador. I reproduce his article in Rebuilding Malaysia, because today, it was reported that the controversial preacher, Zakir Naik, had lodged a police report on five Malaysians – Human Resources Minister, M Kulasegaran, Penang Deputy Chief Minister II, P Ramasamy, Klang MP, Charles Santiago, Bagan Dalam assemblyman, Satees Muniandy, and  Dennis J. Ignatius.

Zakir claimed that the five men had defamed him with their statements and articles.

The hate-preacher is wanted in his native India for money laundering, and had his passport revoked. The disgraced Najib Abdul Razak, took pity on him and granted him permanent residency in Malaysia.

Zakir has repaid our hospitality by spreading his racial and religious venom, and inciting violence with his inflammatory comments. 

Dennis original article is here. I will publish all his articles on Zakir Naik gradually, over the coming days.


Zakir Naik and the radicalization of Malaysia Baru

According to news reports, the IGP warned that the police had “uncovered a plan by foreign militants to use the country as a safe haven, transit and logistics centre, following the collapse of terrorist outfit Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).” Continuing, he said that the militants planned to marry local women to get spousal visas to enable them to live in Malaysia, or to remain in the country by attending educational institutions or by being involved in business.

The IGP’s warning should have immediately set off alarm bells but such is the state of denial in the country when it comes to religious radicalism that it passed almost without notice. Even the high security alert throughout the country announced by the IGP soon after the attacks in Sri Lanka – an indication of just how vulnerable we are – did not appear to have evoked much concern.

A favoured terrorist destination

Of course, Malaysia has long been a favourite destination for international terrorism. Some of the al-Qaeda operatives who planned the 9/11 attacks, for example, met in Kuala Lumpur. Since then, the growing number of both local and foreign jihadis being arrested in the country suggests that the problem has grown exponentially. And so, too, is the scope of their activities – from bomb-making and weapons smuggling to recruitment and fundraising.

The rising number of foreign jihadis in Malaysia is usually dismissed as simply a consequence of Malaysia’s good airlinks but the reality is far more worrying: they choose Malaysia because the local culture is increasingly tolerant of them. In fact, there is a sense among many local Muslims that it is their duty to assist anyone fighting for Islamic causes even though they might not necessarily agree with their methods. For this reason, foreign jihadis appear to have no problem finding refuge and support locally.

Not happening in a vacuum

Of course, all this is not happening in a vacuum but is taking place within the context of the growing radicalization of our society. Thanks to decades of sustained Wahhabi indoctrination and infiltration, Malaysia is no longer the moderate country it once was although we continue to pretend it is. Despite a fatwa against it, Wahhabi theology is now the dominant force in the country and is being vigorously promoted in every school, every university and every government department, not to mention every religious establishment with predictable results. Ironically, while we boast about the success of our deradicalization programmes, the whole country is slowly being radicalized!

A recent survey, for example, revealed that one-fifth of students in major public universities believe that terrorism is an effective strategy to achieve an objective while 11% of Malaysians have a favourable view of ISIS. The dozens of young Malaysians who rushed off to join ISIS is but a manifestation of the slow process of radicalization that has been underway in our society.

Paralysis in Putrajaya

Unfortunately, Putrajaya has thus far been unable or unwilling to provide the kind of decisive leadership that the situation demands.

There is widespread agreement, for example, that our education system has become a major precursor of religious extremism and intolerance but is Putrajaya willing to fight to wrest back our education system from the religionists who now dominate it? Do they even know how?

All they have done thus far is pander to the religious establishment by showering them with more money and ceding more and more legal and moral authority to them.

Even taking simple steps like strengthening immigration controls and reimposing visa requirements on Middle Eastern and other visitors seem too onerous, too fraught with danger to the risk-averse politicians in Putrajaya.

Sending the wrong signals

Nothing sums up the government’s lack of resolve on the issue of extremism more than the way it has managed the case of Zakir Naik – arguably one of the most controversial Wahhabi ideologues in the world today. He is so toxic that he has been banned by several countries and is now a fugitive from the Indian criminal justice system.  Reports suggest that his teachings have inspired several jihadis including the ones who carried out attacks in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Everywhere he has gone, he has promoted nothing but division and social and religious strife.

And yet this is the man who is now held up as a role model in Malaysia Baru. Prime Minister Mahathir honoured him with a private meeting soon after he took office, the minister for religious affairs called him an “inspiration,” the Menteri Besar of Kedah welcomed him while the Perlis mufti is one of his staunchest supporters.

The PH government may not have given Naik permanent residence but they have given him something far more important – a level of credibility and respect that no other country has bestowed upon him. That, in itself, says a lot about the kind of nation we have become.

Of course, Mujahid has since backtracked on his comments and now says that he has not changed his position that Naik’s teachings are not suitable for Malaysia.  If he really believes that, the very least he can do, as minister for religious affairs, is to publicly disassociate himself from Naik and work to have him removed from the country as speedily as possible. Anything short of that is simply intellectual dishonesty.

Mujahid and other PH leaders would also do well to note that Naik is not here simply to pass time or hide from justice in his own country; he is here to spread his hateful extremism and recruit followers to his cause. The very fact that one of his acolytes has just been arrested for insulting another faith should tell us something about the threat this man poses to our society. The longer he stays in Malaysia, the more people he recruits to his cause, the more dangerous he’ll become.

Non-Muslims, in particular, have every reason to detest Naik and other radical preachers because they (non-Muslims) are the principal targets. As the police have repeatedly warned, both foreign jihadis and local extremists tend to target non-Muslim places of worship. Naik himself has built his reputation on belittling other religions and promoting the view that non-Muslim places of worship have no place in Muslim countries.

But don’t expect the government to send him packing anytime soon. Naik has so skilfully woven his narrative into the fabric of Malay ethno-religious nationalism that his removal now would be seen as an assault on Islam, Malay rights and Malay civilization. No Malay politician would dare do it. As it is, even the arrest of one of his proteges is deemed to be an affront to the Malays.

Malaysia Baru a passing phase

What all this says is that the Malaysia Baru that many of us are celebrating is simply a passing phase, a prelude to a more radical religious state. With no leader of consequence willing to defend the secular constitutional foundations of our nation, democracy’s days may well be numbered. The future, it seems, belongs to the likes of Zakir Naik.

[Dennis Ignatius |Kuala Lumpur |1st May 2019]

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)


Dennis served for 36 years in the Malaysian Foreign Service.

He was the Ambassador of Malaysia to Chile and Argentina, High Commissioner to Canada (2001 to 2008) and was accredited as Ambassador of Malaysia to Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Paraguay and Uruguay. 




(Article reproduced with Dennis’ permission.)

Rebuilding Malaysia


  • Lee Lee says:

    Put the blame on the incompetence and lack of vision by Mahatir. If he had recognised the fact that this particular false clergy man is a shit stirrer and a money launderer, he would have placed him on arms length and shipped him out without a second to spare. Wait a minute !!! Is Mahatir really unaware of it ????? or he choose to ignore it and lay out lame excuses to shield the syaitan. It takes one to recognise one. Our old man needs him as a religious mercenary to keep his premiership. This “disunity spoiler” is a gem of a find for Mahatir to fit in to his strategies. His crazy greed of power to spur his self agenda on fulfilling a political dynasty will now be realised. As long as the country races are disunited.and politcal parties of both divide are disjointed with commotions and gripping at each other throats, it just suffice a perfect environment for him to claim the country is going into a tumultuous stages and financially unhealthy . He is the needed one to helm the country until it recovers.!!!!!!!!!!!! The rakyat knows that it is totally rubbish and a guise to retain his hold to keep on walking the corridor of power. It does not take any one to be a genious to see through his plans when his flip flopping decision to appease the majority , adamant in stampng out proposal and feedbacks , constant bailing out of big Malay GLCs losses instead of sharpening the pencil to ensure a competent run organization, no fixed date on handover the PM post and damn it !! the list are too long but all are sure telling sign of a devious self serving leader. Looking at Malaysia politics, it is obvious that a few unprinciple leaders with such a low tier antics of using race and religion to create unstability is a testament that anyone leader of a political party do not have the number to secure a position and rakyat has to get use to ensure changes and be a king makers to allow the country to breath. This may have to be on long term basis until a new party of younger formed, free from association with any of the existing parties of UmnoPAS or PH. Period.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • double tree says:

    Problems started with the prosecution of Najib and all the corrupt individuals during his reign. Now with more issues coming e.g. RCI on the judges, persistent demands for justice for TBH and others, commission to scrutinise the powers of the police, education issues etc, pressure has been mounting on the Malays and their lack of governance skills, morality issues(e.g. Azmin), DrM has been accused of slapping the Malays and leaving the Chinese alone. So it was a matter of time before he did what he did. This will continue et infinitum as long as there are Malays who believe in ketuanan for ever, and believe in taking everything and leaving nothing for the minorities. There is a catch however. Sarawak and Sabah are majority non Malay. If they see Peninsula Malaysia turning more ultra, they might just sit up and take cognisance of the fact that they have to put a stop to all that. That, will be a real show stopper.

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