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India wants Zakir Naik back from Malaysia

Islamic radical activist Zakir Naik

The noose around Zakir Abdul Karim Naik is finally tightening. It is believed that the Indian government has sent another formal request to Malaysia for extradition of the vitriolic Islamic preacher and is "actively pursuing" it this time around. Naik has been in exile in Malaysia since 2016 after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) had booked him on an FIR filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).

This was after both India and Bangladesh began a probe to identify Naik's role in the terror attack at the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka in July 2016. India had on November 17, 2016, declared the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) as an unlawful association under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The "IRF and its members, particularly, the founder and president of the said association, Dr. Zakir Naik, had been encouraging and aiding its followers to promote or attempt to promote feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will between different religious communities and groups."

A request for issuance of Red Corner Notice was sent to the Interpol on May 19, 2017, subsequently. "The Provisional Arrest Request and Extradition request in respect of Zakir Abdul Karim Naik was sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Government of Malaysia on January 19, 2018," the then Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, had stated in a written reply to a question in the Rajya Sabha in July, 2018.

Last year, a Special Prevention of Money Laundering (PMLA) court in Mumbai had also issued non-bailable warrant against fugitive Naik. However, the efforts didn't yield much as the Malaysian government granted permanent residency to Naik and ignored India's request. Former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad was first reluctant to hand over Naik to India, citing "concerns" about him getting a free trial and later suggested that the Indian government isn't really interested to extradite Naik as he would be "troublesome for India" too.

"India has extradition arrangements with many nations. In the past, there are numerous cases of successful extradition to India. The fairness of the Indian justice system has never been in question. India has made a formal request for the extradition of Zakir Naik. We would continue to pursue the matter with Malaysia,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar had said last year. Meanwhile, in another huge blow, Britain's two television stations—both allegedly run by Naik—have been fined £300,000 for inciting murder and broadcasting hate speeches.

"The media regulator OfCom found that four programmes on Peace TV and Peace TV Urdu breached broadcasting rules on incitement to commit crime, hate speech, abuse and offence after it aired diatribes that described people ‘worse than animals’ and advocated the execution of magicians. It ruled that the broadcasts were ‘very serious’ and could encourage ‘vulnerable’ viewers to commit killings," Abu Dhabi's leading daily The National.

"The watchdog had threatened to strip the stations, which claimed to reach 200 million viewers, of the licences but both voluntarily surrendered them last November," the report added further. Naik's Peace TV is already banned in many countries though his hate speeches still reach the audience through internet.

Whether India be able to extradite Naik remains the big question though. Maybe India's chances of succeeding in its mission to extradite the 53-year-old Naik are brighter than ever before this time as Mahathir stepped down in February this year. Further, the current Prime Minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, previously an interior minister, had in the past showed signs of opposing Naik's ideology which has brought trouble for Malaysia as well in the recent past.