Exam question about Islamist Indian preacher Zakir Naik in Malaysian University sparks debates

Perlis – A Malaysian university landed in trouble for an exam question about the controversial Indian preacher Dr. Zakir Naik in a test held on Sunday. Member of Parliament of Segambut constituency questioned the Education ministry and demanded a probe into the matter.

The question is believed to be a part of test conducted by Universiti Malaysia Perlis’ (UniMAP) of Perlis state on Ethnic Relations Course where Dr. Naik was referred to as an “Islamic icon spreading true Islam” who is not allowed to deliver speeches in Malaysia, and what according to the viewpoint of the students such ban happened in Malaysia.

The choices given were—(1) Malaysians do not bother getting actual information; (2) Malaysians are sensitive and feel threatened for no reason; (3) Malaysians just follow the crowd without verifying any information; or (4) Malaysians are ignorant about their own religion.

Segambut MP Hannah Yeoh in her Facebook post mentioned that, “public institutions funded by taxpayers cannot be a breeding ground for intolerance and racial or religious hatred.”

“A probe is a must. The Education Ministry should not be citing autonomy,” Hannah added.

On Monday, Education Ministry has declined to interfere into the matter, stating the principle of “autonomy with accountability”.

“We will not interfere in the conduct of academic programmes as we hold to the concept of autonomy with accountability,” the Ministry said.

Meanwhile UniMAP announced that an investigation is in the process and an official statement will be released soon after the complete information is gathered.

“We urge everyone to stop any form of provocation that could lead to disharmony and allow UniMAP to conduct a thorough investigation,” it said, adding that UniMAP is multiracial university.

University also added that it would review its vetting system for exam questions for the subject to ensure the lecturers and professors are more aware of the sensitivities of the different races and religions of Malaysia.

Dr. Naik in August 2019 drew heavy criticism in Malaysia for his cynical comments against the Malay Chinese and Hindu communities.

Dr. Naik accused the Hindu community of supporting Indian Prime Minister Narender Modi more than their Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammed. His loose comments sparked heated debates in Malaysian circles, calling for his deportation to India where he actually belongs to.

In December 2019, Dr. Naik was invited at Kuala Lampur Summit where he met Islamist financers Turkish President Tayep Erdogan and Qatar’s Tamim al-Thani.