Sunday, July 8, 2018

In a snub to Modi, Zakir Naik meets Malaysian PM : Episode revives debate on 'Islamic terror'

It could be called a snub from Malaysia to Indian diplomatic efforts to get radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik deported to India. News channels and portals in Malaysia showed photographs of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed with the controversial Islamic preacher.  A section of India- predictably rejoiced - more because it embarrasses Narendra Modi.

But the episode has brought to light various facets of India-Malaysia relations vis-a-vis the good old 92-year-old veteran Mahatir Mohammed and also the broad issue of New Delhi's standing on extradition treaties.


"The abolition of the death penalty, which has no deterrence value nor any penological justification, would also improve our image as a country committed to the ethos of justice. At the same time, we must undertake a review of our bilateral extradition treaties, in order to strengthen our ability to seek the extradition of individual fugitives," suggests Congress MP and a former UN diplomat Shashi Tharoor.

"Many European states refuse to extradite wanted criminals to India on the grounds that India retains the death penalty, which most European democracies consider a barbaric practice," wrote Mr Tharoor in a piece after Malaysia rejected the extradition request from India. In his argument, Mr Tharoor also said: "India has, in some cases, promised a European Court that the extradited offender will not be executed, and has obtained extradition only on the basis of such an assurance. That was how Portugal agreed to extradite the notorious gangster Abu Salem".

Social network became active in no time. "It's time for India to flex it's economic muscles to deport extremists like Zakir Naik from Malaysia," ran a Twitter message. 

On another plane, the personal standing of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed on terrorism also has come into focus. "That clearly states when it comes to Muslim brotherhood, they all become one," ran a Twitter missive adding that at times people "don't even mind supporting a terrorist or Jihadi". 

On this backdrop, it may be mentioned that on the context of terrorism especially involving Muslims, a typical indifferent stand taken by Mahatir Mohammed is nothing new. A strident critic of Israel, Mr Mahatir has in the past suggested that the September 11 attacks of 2001 might have been staged by the United States administration. The murmur in the ruling establishment in India especially in the political circle is perhaps Mahatir had his own compulsions or in other words, Zakir Naik has "huge influence and reach".

Is Modi's diplomacy failing?
The 52-year-old Zakir Naik is facing probe both in India and Bangladesh, also a Muslim predominant country, after two of the suspects in the terror attack in Dhaka in July 2016 claimed that they were inspired by Naik's radical preachings over Facebook and Peace TV. 

Interestingly, contrary to Malaysian government's repeated assertions in the past that radical Islamic preacher will not be given any preferential treatment, the Malaysian Prime Minister on Friday himself announced that Naik will not be deported to India.

He said this only a day after MEA spokesman Raveesh Kumar said that India's request for the extradition was under consideration of the Malaysian government.
Notably, the virtual snub from Mr Mahatir also came only two months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Mahatir post his election victory. In fact, Indian Prime Minister was one of the first world leaders to have met newly elected Malaysian PM. 

According to many in the BJP, this only shows ugly face of 'terror' even as some do not mind drawing parallelism between Dawood Ibrahim in Pakistan and Zakir Naik in Malaysia.
One Twitter missive also point out an obvious: "Zakir Naik aside, this case raises question about who will now speak on behalf of the Indian Community in Malaysia and raise their concerns". 

Malaysia is India’s third largest partner in ASEAN after Indonesia and Singapore and there are over 150 major Indian companies, including several IT ventures, operating in Malaysia.


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