UUM defends Zakir Naik talk, says none made to attend

(MMO) – Universiti Utara Malaysia will proceed with hosting a talk by controversial preacher Dr Zakir Naik, which an administrator said was to give students a glimpse of reality.

Deputy vice-chancellor Associate Professor Hendrik Lamsali also said the event on April 18 was not part of any course and purely a forum for the exchange of views.

“The programme is aimed at exposing students to the social realities and current issues, especially as UUM students are future managers and professionals.

“The university is not forcing students to attend the programme and it is open to anyone interested in attending,” Hendrik said in a statement reported by the Malaysiakini news portal today.

He also confirmed the university’s Kelab Perkim from its Student Affairs Department to be the organisers.

He added that all were welcome to attend the three-hour talk titled “Duty of A Muslim As A Professional” on April 18 at the Mu’azdam Shah Hall in UUM’s Changlun campus in Kedah.

The deputy vice-chancellor said UUM was well-versed in handling such events and how to avoid those liable to incite or offend sensitivities.

However, he went on to advise students to be open-minded when attending such talks.

Yesterday, Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said it was UUM’s prerogative to decide if it should permit Dr Zakir to give the talk.

Speaking to reporters at the Parliament building, she said her ministry’s stance was to allow universities to make their own determination in such matters.

The preacher, a Malaysian permanent resident and Saudi citizen, has been accused in the past of denigrating other faiths and being a threat to Malaysia’s multiethnic and multicultural harmony.

He is wanted by India’s police on charges of money laundering and hate speech.