Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad on Tuesday said that his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi did not request the extradition of Islamic preacher Zakir Naik. India, however, rebutted the claim, saying the issue did come up when the two leaders met in Russia this month.
Naik, a 53-year-old televangelist, left India in 2016 and subsequently moved to the largely Muslim Malaysia, where he was granted permanent residency.
Mahathir said that Modi, whom he met in Russia during an economic forum earlier this month, made no extradition request for the controversial Islamic televangelist despite official notice from New Delhi.
In a media briefing on Tuesday in New Delhi, minister of external affairs S. Jaishankar said Naik's extradition issue had indeed come up during Prime Minister Modi's meeting with Malaysian counterpart in Vladivostok.
Jaishankar said India has already placed a request with Malaysia for Naik's extradition in January.
Briefing reporters on Prime Minister's bilateral meeting with Mahathir on September 5, foreign secretary Vijay Gokhale had said that Modi raised the issue of Naik's extradition with the Malaysian premier.
'Not many countries want him. I met with Modi. He didn't ask me for this man,' Mahathir told Malaysian radio station BFM 89.9 when asked about Naik's extradition.
He also said that Malaysia was looking for a place to send Zakir, who has made racially sensitive comments against Hindu and Chinese Malaysians recently.
Mahathir then reaffirmed that Zakir will no longer be allowed to publicly speak in Malaysia following his racially-divisive remarks.
'Well, he's not a national of this country. He has been given, I think by the previous government, permanent residence status. A permanent resident isn't supposed to make any comments on this country's systems and politics. He has breached that. He is now not allowed to speak. We are trying to find some place he can go to but at the moment, no one wants to accept him,' the Malaysian prime minister said.
Naik is wanted by Indian authorities since 2016 for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches.
He was banned from from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country after he made remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Chinese on August 8.