KUALA LUMPUR: Zakir Naik on Tuesday apologised to Malaysians for making racist comments, after the radical Indian televangelist was grilled for 10 hours by police and banned him from any public activities in the multi-ethnic country.
The official Bernama news agency reported that Naik, wanted by Indian authorities since 2016 for alleged money laundering and inciting extremism through hate speeches, issued an apology for the hurt caused by his controversial remarks against Malaysian Hindus and Chinese during a talk on August 8.
Naik's apology came after he was questioned by police for a second time for allegedly making provocative remarks, in a session which lasted about 10 hours at the police headquarters.
The 53-year-old radical preacher was first questioned on Friday following the contentious remarks made in his speech against Hindus where he questioned their loyalty to the country and took a jibe at the Chinese community as "old guests" in Malaysia.
CID director Huzir Mohamed said Zakir arrived at the police headquarters at 3:15 pm on Monday accompanied by his lawyer. He left at 1:30 am on Tuesday, the report said.
Mohamed said Naik was being probed under Section 504 of the Penal Code for intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of the peace.
Police spokesman Asmawati Ahmad said on Tuesday that all public activities involving Naik are banned to "avoid any controversy and hostility, and the potential to cause a tense atmosphere" in the country.
After his controversial remarks, Naik was already banned from making public statements in the Malaysian states of Johor, Selangor, Penang, Kedah, Sarawak and Melaka.
In his apology, Naik said that it was never his intention to upset any individual or community and hoped Malaysians would not harbour ill feelings towards him.
"Even though I have clarified myself, I feel I owe an apology to everyone who feels hurt because of this misunderstanding.
"It is against the basic tenets of Islam, and I would like to convey my heartfelt apologies for this misunderstanding," he said in a statement.
Zakir maintained his claim that he was accused of causing racial discord in Malaysia and his detractors have been using selectively sentences taken out of context from his speeches and adding strange fabrications to them.
The Malaysian police questioned Naik, a day after Prime Minister Mohamad told the controversial televangelist that he is not allowed to participate in political activities in the country, which granted him permanent residency in 2016.
Mahathir on Sunday said it was "quite clear" that Naik wanted to participate in racial politics.
"He is stirring up racial feelings. The police will have to investigate whether it is causing tension; obviously, it is," he said.
Mahathir added that as a permanent resident, Naik was not allowed to participate in politics.
"You can preach (religiously). But he wasn't doing that," he said.
"He was talking about Chinese going back to China and Indians going back to India. I have never said such things. But he did. That is politics," the annoyed Malaysian prime minister said.
Malaysian police said they have received over 100 complaints from the public over remarks he made against Malaysian Indians and Chinese.
About 60 per cent of Malaysia's 32 million population are Muslims. Malaysia is also home to a sizable ethnic Indian and Chinese communities.(THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)