KUALA LUMPUR (March 16): Controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik told the High Court on Wednesday (March 16) that he never claimed to be an "expert" in comparative religion and Islam but has "expertise" in the subject matter.
"[I have] expertise [in the subject]. Generally, I call myself a student... As a humble Muslim in Islam you cannot show off," he said in reply to Penang deputy chief minister Dr P Ramasamy's counsel, Razlan Hadri Zulkifli.
Razlan: I'm not accusing you of being a show-off.
Zakir: No, I never said that [you were]. In this case, I [have] expertise [on the matter].
Zakir, however, had described himself to be an expert in his documents filed for the case. When this was pointed out, the preacher seemed slightly taken aback and said that his lawyers had advised him to mention that and therefore he had done so.
Razlan: You have described yourself as an expert... You have described yourself to be a renowned Islamic preacher.
Zakir: It's not me. It's the plaintiff
Razlan: [Aren't you] the plaintiff?
Zakir: Yes, that's true.
He added that a "true scholar" would not call himself that. But the preacher added that others have referred to him as an expert.
Zakir is suing Ramasamy for four alleged defamatory statements that were issued on April 10, 2016; Oct 1, 2017; Aug 11, 2019; and Aug 20, 2019.
He said Ramasamy’s statements have also damaged his mission of peace as an Islamic preacher and had sown distrust among his many non-Muslim followers, adding that Ramasamy had taken his words out of context and shared them.
Zakir also testified that he was not aware that police and state religious authorities in different states had barred him from having speaking engagements following his controversial Kota Bharu speech in August 2019.
When Razlan pointed out articles in the press on the matter, Zakir said he was unaware of a majority of the articles and was only made aware of some of them during court proceedings last December.
Zakir said he had spoken to some of these authorities in person, but was not told not to hold speaking engagements.
"No police told me [not to have speaking engagements] and [I] have given lectures [since Kota Bharu]," he said.
Zakir's counsel Datuk Sulaiman Abdullah then made an objection to the articles as they were "hearsay" in a defamation matter and cannot be converted to direct evidence.
He pointed out that representatives from the police or state religious authorities should be called to testify directly to prove a point.
"[In a defamation suit,] what the ordinary, right-thinking member of the public would think [has to be determined].
"You cannot say X is a murderer because [the press] says X murdered [someone],” he said.
To this, Razlan argued that his client is entitled to comment on these reports, and he was trying to establish that Zakir has spread discontent and that authorities have stopped him from giving talks.
Judge Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz allowed the articles to be mentioned.
The trial continues on Thursday.