KUALA LUMPUR (July 14): Controversial Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik told the High Court on Thursday that he never used the word "disloyal" to refer to Hindus in Malaysia in the speech he gave in Kelantan in August 2019.
He insisted instead that it was Penang Deputy Chief Minister Dr P Ramasamy who used the word in a press statement.
Responding to his counsel Datuk Akberdin Abdul Kader's question during re-examination in the on-going defamation trial against Ramasamy, Zakir reiterated that the words he used in the speech needed to be read in context.
"They (defence lawyers) have my script. In spite of that, they (keep) on repeating allegations made by the defendant. I am shocked...never have I said that.
"A normal, intelligent man would read (the script) and (not find) the word 'disloyal' anywhere," he told the court during his defamation trial against Ramasamy.
Zakir said the word "disloyal" was part of Ramasamy's comments, made in a press release entitled "Naik should not question loyalty of Hindus in Malaysia" dated Aug 11, 2019, which was part of four allegedly defamatory statements issued by Ramasamy between 2016 to 2019 that Zakir claimed had damaged his "mission of peace" as an Islamic preacher.
Zakir explained that what he said was that the Malaysian government treated its minorities better, compared to the Indian government.
He also said his comments about the Hindus supporting Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi more than the Malaysian Prime Minister at that time, which was Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, was only in relation to his extradition issue.
He said he subsequently apologised to subside the "ruckus" that his speech had caused.
"My aim was to subside the wrong feeling (caused), to subside the ruckus it had caused. Not because I made any other mistakes," he said.
Following his controversial speech, it was reported that the preacher had been barred from giving public talks in several States. This, however, was refuted by Zakir during court proceedings in December 2021 and March 2022.
Zakir also told the court on Thursday that as an autodidact, a self taught person in comparative religion, he had been conferred top honours which to him were far superior than formal academic training.
Among these awards were the 2015 King Faisal International Prize bestowed by King Salman of Saudi Arabia, and the Islamic Personality of 2013 Award that was given to him by Dubai ruler, Sheikh Mohammed Rashid Al Maktoum.
He said he did not want to show off but obtained these awards through God's grace.
In explaining what an autodidact was in court, he cited as examples the ancient astronomer Galileo Galilei, the revered Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore, and Apple Inc's late founder Steve Jobs.
Zakir filed two separate suits — in October and December 2019 — alleging that Ramasamy had issued defamatory statements against him. While the first suit deals with the aforementioned four statements, the second suit revolves around an article by The Malaysian Insight entitled "DAP leader accuses Zakir camp of 'faking' Tamil Tigers revival".
In the article published on Nov 8, 2019. Ramasamy accused Zakir Naik's supporters of creating "fake news" about the revival of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in Malaysia to divert attention from India's bid to extradite him on charges of money-laundering.
Zakir is seeking, among others, aggravated and exemplary damages as assessed by the court, and an order preventing Ramasamy from publishing further defamatory statements against him.
Both suits are being heard jointly before Justice Hayatul Akmal Abdul Aziz. The trial continues on Aug 8.