Zakir, Zamihan and Mahmud have explicitly or implicitly played a role in misguiding and brainwashing individuals into embracing offensive ‘holy war’ as a way of life

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Think terrorism, radicalisation and extremism and three figures – Zakir Naik, Zamihan Mat Zin and Mahmud Ahmad – leave a brooding bad taste in the mouth.

All three have either explicitly or implicitly played a role in misguiding and brainwashing individuals into embracing offensive ‘jihad’ as a way of life.

Ironically too, with the exception of lecturer-turned terrorist Mahmud Ahmad who was recently killed, both Zakir and Zamihan, in spite of their bigotry and perverse religious dogmas, have become indispensable to Putrajaya.

While Zakir has been hailed as being “very wise”, Zamihan on the other hand has been declared an “asset” by Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

The obstinate Zamihan last month caused ruckus when he criticised the Johor Sultan for condemning a Muslim-friendly laundromat, only to end up being barred from giving speeches in the state.

While Zamihan publicly apologised to the Johor ruler, he did so at the expense of the media – blaming them for allegedly twisting his speech.

It was not long before Zamihan courted controversy, yet again, when he condemned the good deeds of a surau bilal in Penang who allowed non-Muslims to seek shelter inside the premise during the recent floods there.

Ahmad Zahid, who is also Home Minister, had defended Zamihan saying the Home Ministry would retain the Kelantan-born preacher’s service to rehabilitate and deradicalise Islamic State militants held in prisons.

The Home Minister justified that Zamihan was an expert in the deradicalisation programme.

“My records have shown his success in restoring aqidah (faith) of Muslims who are associated with terrorism,” Ahmad Zahid had said.

Zamihan’s competence in deradicalising local militants has however come under scrutiny with Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin among those questioning his ability to help local militants who have been indoctrinated with extreme views.

On his Facebook page, Mohd Asri shared his doubt as to how someone who is an extremist could help rehabilitate extremists (militants).

”The question is, can an ‘extremist’ rehabilitate other extremists? Not only had he been labelling other Muslims as ‘kafir’ (infidel), now he is dragging non-Muslims in his extremist thinking.

“The authorities should review this matter seriously,” Mohd Asri decried.

Zakir Naik saga ‘work in progress’

Zamihan has been declared Malaysia’s anti-terror expert, in spite of the many reservations. As for Zakir, the government of India is in the process of finalising the internal legal process for an extradition request to Malaysia.

Zakir had fled India in 2016, after a suspect in a terror attack on a Dhaka cafe in Bangladesh made it known that he had been influenced by Zakir’s speeches. Bangladesh subsequently banned Zakir’s Peace TV channel.

The Times of India report on Oct 21 stated that a probe by India’s National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) revealed that Zakir through his speeches had radicalised and influenced several Muslim youngsters to be involved in jihadi activities.

The youngsters had then joined violent extremist organisations and planned terror attacks in India, the report added.

The Times of India report mentioned several terror suspects, including Indian Mujahideen member Qateel Ahmed Siddiqui, alleged Islamic State (IS) online recruiter Afsha Jabeen and IS recruits Mudabbir Sheikh, Mohammed Obaidullah Khan, Abu Anas and Mohammed Nafees Khan, as claiming Zakir’s speeches had made an impression on them.

A month later, Malaysia’s Home Ministry said Zakir received no “special treatment” despite being given the Permanent Resident (PR) status five years ago.

Then, in a written answer to DAP’s Seputeh MP Teresa Kok, the Home Ministry pointed out there was no reason to arrest Zakir for alleged terrorism as he had not violated any Malaysian laws.

“Besides, the government has not received any official request from the Indian government in relation to allegations that he was involved in terrorist activities,” the ministry had said.

Ahmad Zahid had unequivocally said that Zakir’s PR status would not be reviewed.

“As long as he does not breach any laws or commit an offence, there is no reason for a review,” he recently said to a query for V Sivakumar (DAP-Batu Gajah) whether Zakir’s PR would be reviewed given the revocation of his Indian international passport.

Ahmad Zahid however gave the assurance that the controversial preacher would be deported to India if the government there requested his extradition.

Ergo, the Zakir Naik saga remains “work in progress”.

Putrajaya unable to see the wood for the trees

In the meantime, the Malaysian police are keeping its fingers crossed in claiming the remains of Mahmud Ahmad, the country’s most wanted terrorist.

Inspector General of Police, Mohamad Fuzi Harun told reporters last Saturday that while police had DNA samples from Mahmud’s family, the Philippine authorities had yet to seek confirmation on whether the body found was that of Mahmud’s, who was reportedly killed last month in a conflict in Marawi City in Mindanao.

CNN Philippines reported on Oct 19 that Mahmud may have been killed along with 13 other terrorists during the military’s overnight operations on terrorist hideouts in Marawi.

Mahmud, 39, was known among members of extremist groups there as Abu Handzalah. The IS terrorist network apparently was keen to install Mahmud as its new emir for Southeast Asia.

He was in charge of recruiting fighters and was a point man for foreigners wanting to join extremist forces in the Philippines which had recently aligned with IS.

Mahmud was also reported to have been responsible for training and sending militants to fight in Syria and Iraq.

Among those he recruited was Malaysia’s first suicide bomber, Ahmad Tarmimi Maliki.

Mahmud, a former Islamic Studies professor at Universiti Malaya, had trained at an Al-Qaeda camp in Afghanistan in the late 1990s while studying in Pakistan, and fled to the Philippines in 2014 when Malaysian authorities exposed him as an extremist.

“We want to bring his body back if the family requests for it,” the IGP had said.

“After all, he is our countryman, no matter who he was or what he did,” Mohamad Fuzi added.

Mahmud, a former academician who willingly rescinded all interest in teaching for extremism and terrorism. How does this rationalise the IGP’s alibi that the Malaysian terrorist deserves respect, if at all?

If Mahmud, as the IGP puts it, is “our countryman, no matter who he was or what he did”, why then were requests from Ong Boon Hua, better known as Chin Peng, to make his way back to Malaysia, dead or alive, categorically dismissed?

Despite being promised via the 1989 Hatyai Peace Treaty the chance to return home, Chin Peng who once led the Malayan Communist Party, was played out and forced to spend his life in exile in Thailand, where he died on Malaysia Day in 2013 aged 88.

Such was the intensity of despise shown by Putrajaya that even requests from Chin Peng’s family to bring back his remains for burial in Malaysia were ignored.

“We will not allow him to be buried in Malaysia because of the black history he had created. Furthermore, Chin Peng is not a citizen of Malaysia.

“He did not want to be a Malaysian, so we don’t have any ties with him at all,” Prime Minister Najib Razak had said in the past.

While Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had deemed Chin Peng ”was no loss to the country”.

Tragic and perplexing that while Chin Peng repented via the peace deal, Putrajaya repeatedly denied him the opportunity of seeing the light of day back home in Sitiawan, Perak.

Yet, terrorist Mahmud and extremist Zamihan and over-the-top inflammatory speeches by Zakir have the backing of the federal government. Why? Is the government terribly myopic that it is unable to see the wood for the trees?

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