Dr Zakir Naik, the controversial Muslim preacher wanted by Indian officials over charges of money laundering and links to Islamic extremists, apologised on Tuesday for making racially sensitive remarks in the wake of him being expelled by the Malaysian government
It was the lecture in Kota Baru, Kelantan a week ago that landed Dr Naik in trouble again. According to reports, Naik had reportedly claimed that "Indian-Malaysians were more loyal to the Narendra Modi government of India than the Mahathir administration."
Naik also referred Malaysians of Chinese origin as "old guests who should go back to their ancestral lands before he should be made to leave the country."
Race and religion are sensitive issues in Malaysia, where Muslims make up about 60 percent of its 32 million people. The rest are mostly ethnic Chinese and Indians, most of whom are Hindus.
Naik, who has lived in Malaysia for about three years, apologised for his remarks but insisted that he was not a racist. He said his detractors had taken his comments out of context and added "strange fabrications to them".
"It was never my intention to upset any individual or community," he said in a statement on Tuesday. "It is against the basic tenets of Islam, and I would like to convey my heartfelt apologies for this misunderstanding," Naik said.
Dr Naik was granted permanent residency in Malaysia in 2015 by the then government of Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition. The current government of Dr Mahathir Bin Mohamad said on Sunday Naik was free to preach about Islam but should not speak about Malaysia's racial politics.
Dr Zakir Naik, the 52-year-old medical doctor and firebrand preacher of puritan Islam, is no stranger to controversy. His troubles with the Indian administration began in 2016 when it was found that one of the gunmen behind an attack on a cafe in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, was in fact inspired by his teachings.
There have been media reports that at one of his public talks he called on all Muslims to become terrorists - a statement Naik has refuted as one taken out of context.
Later that year, India's counterterrorism agency, National Investigation Agency, filed a First Information Report against Naik and his charitable organisation, Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), accusing him of indulging in unlawful activities and promoting religious hatred. India's Narendra Modi-government then slapped a five-year ban on IRF under the country's anti-terror laws. India had earlier made a formal request to Malaysia to extradite him.
In 2016, when he realised his arrest was imminent in India, he stayed put in Saudi Arabia where he was on a visit and later managed to take refuge in Malaysia, another Islamic country.