Brother Zakir, peace be with you.
I am writing this letter to humbly ask you to leave Malaysia voluntarily. I will explain my reasons below, but first, I would like to thank you for many of the universal messages of Islam that you have shared over the years.
I remember watching one of your question-and-answer sessions (Video Code: A.D. Zn_M_15) where you stood by the Quran when dealing with the problem of Sunni-Syiah divide. You stressed in no uncertain terms that there was no Sunni or Syiah divide in the Quran nor with our Prophet.
You quoted Quran 3:103 and 6:159 as evidence and reminded the audience that where the Quran was concern, we were only to be referred to as Muslims as per Quran 3:64. I fully support your stand and respect your resolve in this issue. Your understanding of the Quran on this matter is par excellence and exemplary!
It would be most beneficial to Muslim Unity in Malaysia if you can advise, explain and convince many of our local ulama, even some muftis – many of whom you have shared a stage with – to stop this schism.
For your information, it is a usual practice in many mosques all over Malaysia to paint the Syiahs in a bad light, especially during Friday sermons. If you advise them, they may listen to you. They respect you and want your approval. God Willing, they will pay heed.
Secondly, I would like to also thank you for clearing the way and setting the path for self-taught lay Muslim leaders (not dressed as a typical ulama) to come to the forefront in leading Muslims. As a lay leader, you not only stand on par with classically trained ulama; in fact, you actually have surpassed many. I am truly envious.
Now, let’s get to my appeal for you to voluntarily leave Malaysia.
Let me explain.
1) Your presence is causing a family dispute
Allow me to use a family analogy. Our situation is akin to when a senior family member brings in a friend to live in a home but the other siblings are against it. It causes unhappiness and tension within the family. The senior sibling is unhappy that the other siblings do not respect his or her opinion while the latter perceives that the former is insensitive to their needs and feelings. The situation then gets more complicated. It is not nice for the family member who brought you in to ask you to leave as that is very un-Malaysian. We are in a catch-22 situation. You will need to volunteer and make it easy for the invitee.
2) Your presence in Malaysia has a negative impact on non-Muslims towards Islam
I have strong convictions that as a person who dedicates his life in the field of da’wah, one of your main goals is to get non-Muslims come closer to Islam. Unfortunately, in Malaysia, your presence is doing the opposite. It is counterproductive. If you volunteer to leave, you will be seen as noble and magnanimous and likely to alleviate this situation.
3) Comparative religious debates do not work in Malaysia
While in many parts of the world, debates between religionists are game, this is not the case in Malaysia. In Malaysia, non-Muslims are not allowed to counter your points when you give your views about their faith, let alone start a debate about Islam. It is illegal to preach to Muslims. When a new upstart convert like Firdaus Wong (perhaps someone who is emulating you) suggests that “Lebih mudah Islam dari agama Buddha” (It is easier to be a Muslim rather than a Buddhist), a Buddhist cannot really counter with his own argument.
Let me unpack this in simple terms. Basically, in Malaysia, when we debate with non-Muslims, it is like a fight where we are allowed to punch the opponent as we please but they cannot punch back because their hands are tight to a tree. You know and I know that this is not Islamic as the Quran tells us to be fair (e.g. Quran 5:48) and give equal measure (Quran 83:1-3).
We will also look like cowards and make Islam look weak. Both you and I do not want that, you would agree.
Our religious leaders and preachers in Malaysia for the most part preach to their faithful by sharing the beauty of their religion without the need to compare or belittle the other. It has worked for 60 years. We live in peace and harmony, and we are a showcase to the world par excellence. With all due respect, we want to keep it that way.
I am not saying you must stop your debates. Do it elsewhere. Just don’t bring that culture to Malaysia, at least not till we have an equal playing field.
4) Your presence is slowing down Malaysia’s political revitalisation
Brother Zakir, many Malaysian Muslims look up to you. You have a large influence, especially amongst the Muslim masses. Today, there is not one Muslim political party in Malaysia that commands clear leadership. Asking you to leave is sensitive. It can be used as a political fuel to attack the other. No Muslim-based political party would be willing to do that. We are in a conundrum.
I plead that you be kind and volunteer to leave on your own. Help Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad by choosing to give him an easier way forward. He has been kind and nice to you, even though you were unkind to him before the general elections. That is the right thing for you to do.
At least do it for him and by so doing, he can help Malaysia as a whole. Not just for us Muslims, but bring Malaysia towards a more stable and effective political state of affairs.
Brother Zakir, please consider my request. Do continue your good work elsewhere. It is unfortunate that many are not familiar with your other contributions like the United Islamic Aid programmes, which provides scholarship to poor and destitute young Muslims.
Do visit Malaysia often to preach the beauty of Islam without the need to compare or belittle the other faiths.
Please do learn and open your heart to the Malaysian way. In the Malaysian experience, our leaders, the ulama included, have managed the country for 60 years and created a beautiful, successful and peaceful society not just for Muslims but non-Muslims too.
You may want to learn how we do it.
Be that as it may, I would be most happy to assist you in creating and promoting diversity and inclusion within the Islamic world. The Sunni-Syiah divide is the Muslim ummah’s Achilles heel, and I believe strongly you can help moderate it.
I end this appeal with a Quranic verse as my gift to you.
“Call thou (all mankind] unto thy Sustainer's path with wisdom and goodly exhortation, and argue with them in the most kindly manner – for behold, thy Sustainer knows best as to who strays from His path, and best knows He as to who are the right-guided”. – Quran 16:125
Brother Zakir, I humbly appeal you to leave Malaysia voluntarily.
Malaysian Movement for Moderates