Recently, a controversy broke out after a Malaysian university, named Universiti Malaysia Perlis had referred to the radical Islamist preacher Zakir Naik as one of the ‘icons in the Islamic world’ in its question paper on Ethnic Relations.
An image of the question paper was posted on Facebook by the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC) vice-chief Sivarraajh Chandran.
The multiple-choice question read: “Zakir Naik is one of the icons of the Islamic world. He is very active in spreading true Islam and following the Quran and Sunnah of Rasulullah SAW. He is able to reason and to answer every question that is asked to him. However, in Malaysia, he is no longer allowed to deliver his preaching. In your opinion, as a Malaysian, why does this happen?”
Students were asked to choose one of four answers:
- Malaysians do not bother to receive information.
- Malaysians are sensitive and feel threatened for no reason.
- Malaysians just follow the crowd without verifying any information.
- Malaysians are ignorant about their own religions.
Sivarraajh had questioned why such a question, deemed to be insensitive to people of different races, had been included in an examination for a module that was meant to foster racial and religious understanding.
Following this, an uproar broke out on social media which forced the Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) to initiate an inquiry. In a statement, it has said that it will review the procedures of exam questions for the particular course.
Defending the act the university said this was to ensure lecturers were more proactive on the sensitivities of race and religion in formulating exam questions, adding that the issue was being investigated.
“As a university comprising students of various races and cultures, UniMAP takes this issue seriously and any feedback will prioritise the aspects of unity and tolerance between races,” it said in a statement on Monday.
The Education Ministry’s Higher Education Department of Malaysia is expecting an explanation from Universiti Malaysia Perlis (UniMAP) over the question. However, in the department’s statement released on Monday, issued by the office of its director-general, there is no mention about any action against the university. The statement says that the university is probing the matter and a detailed statement will be issued after all the information is collected. It adds that the vetting process for the questions will be reviewed so that the racial and religious sensitivities are kept in mind while preparing questions for examinations.
Zakir Naik is a fugitive in India, who has escaped and has currently taken shelter in Malaysia. A Mumbai-born 53-year-old who is the founder of the controversial ‘Peace TV’ has been living in Malaysia since 2017 after fleeing from India and the previous government there had granted permanent residency to him.
India has been seeking the extradition of Naik. Naik was booked by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in 2016 based on an FIR, registered under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, by the National Investigation Agency. The ED said Naik received funds worth crores of rupees in his and his trusts’ bank accounts from unidentified “well-wishers” over the years for his speeches that spread “hatred and incited Muslim youths” to take up terrorism.
Recently, the National Investigation Agency had revealed that most of the 127-odd terrorists arrested by security agencies in India for suspected ISIS links were inspired by the speeches of radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik.
Radical Islamic preacher Zakir Naik has also been causing trouble in Malaysia, a country where he was granted permanent resident status. Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammad mentioned that he was given the status by the previous government and now, due to his racially hateful speeches and statements, Malaysian authorities have imposed a nationwide ban on Zakir Naik stopping him from speaking in public.
It is notable here that many Malaysian states have also barred Naik from entering their jurisdiction.