Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad had, on Tuesday, said that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi had not requested him to return controversial Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. However, India rebutted this soon after, saying that the issue did come up when the two leaders met in Russia this month.
Mahathir had said that Modi, whom he met in Russia during an economic forum in the Russian city of Vladivostok earlier this month, had made no extradition request for the controversial Islamic televangelist despite official notice from New Delhi.
At a media briefing on Tuesday in New Delhi, however, Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said that Naik’s extradition issue had indeed come up during Prime Minister Modi’s meeting with Malaysian counterpart in Vladivostok.
"...the Indian expectation was communicated and it was decided that officials concerned should meet," he said, PTI reported.
"Let me make it very clear for the record. There is an extradition request sent in January 2018. We want Zakir Naik back and that is what we are working on," Jaishankar asserted.
He said that India had been relentlessly pursuing Naik's extradition at all levels.
Briefing reporters on the prime minister's bilateral meeting with Mahathir on 5 September, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale had said that Modi raised the issue of Naik's extradition with the Malaysian premier.
“Not many countries want him. I met with Modi. He didn’t ask me for this man,” Mahathir told the Kuala Lumpur-based BFM Malaysia radio station on Tuesday morning.
Trying to Find a Place to Send Naik
He said that the city of Putrajaya is still looking for a place to send the 53-year-old Naik.
Mahathir also reaffirmed that Naik will no longer be allowed to publicly speak in Malaysia following his racially divisive remarks which include saying that the Chinese should be sent back to China.
"Well, he's not a national of this country. He has been given, I think by the previous government, permanent residence status. A permanent resident isn't supposed to make any comments on this country's systems and politics. He has breached that. He is now not allowed to speak.
“We are trying to find some place he can go to but at the moment, no one wants to accept him,” the prime minister added.
A Controversial Preacher
Naik, a 53-year-old televangelist, left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency by the government of former Prime Minster Najib Razak.
The Mumbai-born founder of the controversial 'Peace TV' is wanted in India for serious charges related to terrorism after his name cropped up in connection with a ghastly terror attack at Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016.
Last month, Naik was banned from delivering public talks in every state in Malaysia by the police in the interest of national security.
On 3 August, he said that Hindus in Malaysia get "100 times more rights" than the Muslim minority gets in India, and yet they support the "prime minister of India and not the prime minister of Malaysia".
(With inputs from IANS and PTI)
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