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Controversial cleric an 'asset'

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KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysian preacher Zamihan Mat Zin, who is barred from lecturing in Johor and Selangor for his "extremist" Islamic viewpoints, is still working for the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia to rehabilitate imprisoned terrorists.

Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also Home Affairs Minister, on Thursday defended Mr Zamihan's role after this was questioned by critics and called the controversial cleric an "asset" in rehabilitation work.

"From records I obtained, his success rate in restoring their (the detained militants') faith has been quite high," Mr Zahid was quoted as saying on Thursday by The Sun Daily newspaper.

"Meaning he is an asset, not only in faith restoration, but also in bringing these groups of people back to the right track.

"I don't think he should be penalised with (the removal of) his position in the Prisons Department."

The mufti of northern Perlis state, Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, questioned the government's wisdom in allowing Mr Zamihan to continue working to deradicalise terrorists in prison.

"This is not the first time he has expressed his extremist thinking.

"It is not enough to condemn fellow Muslims, but non-Muslims are also dragged into his extremist thinking," Dr Asri wrote in a Facebook post on Thursday.

Mr Zamihan last week attracted fresh controversy when he attacked a mosque official in Penang for letting non-Muslims shelter in a small neighbourhood mosque during heavy flooding in the area.

He later deleted his post.

Mr Zamihan made headlines last month when he supported a Muslim-only launderette in Johor that Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar had described as unacceptable in his multi-religious state.