Malaysia: Johor Sultan Stops Laundromat’s Muslim-Only Policy

Razlan Rashid
Kuala Lumpur
2017-09-27
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170927-my-laundry1000.jpg People of different faiths gather for a pre-dawn meal to fast with Muslims in Kuala Lumpur to promote peace and solidarity, Sept. 16, 2009.
AFP

The sign greeting customers in his shop had created a national ruckus, but the owner of a “Muslim-friendly” laundromat in Malaysia’s Johor state on Wednesday dropped his policy excluding people of other faiths, when the local Sultan ordered him to apologize and be inclusive.

The 40-year-old owner said he was carrying out his duty as a Muslim, adding that non-Muslims could visit other nearby laundromats, which are known as launderettes in multi-religious Malaysia, according to local media accounts of the controversy that lasted several days and lit up social media.

A board in front of the man’s shop had proclaimed that it was “Muslim-friendly.”

“This laundrette only serves Muslim customers due to issues of purity. Any inconveniences are deeply regrettable. Please leave your shoes before entering,” the sign said.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar put an end to this on Wednesday when he spoke out vehemently against the laundromat’s exclusionary policy.

“I cannot accept this nonsense. This is Johor, which belongs to Bangsa Johor and it belongs to all races and faiths. This is a progressive, modern and moderate state,” the sultan of the southern Malaysian state, which borders Singapore, told The Star. “Bangsa” means “race” in Malay.

“This is not a Taliban state and as the Head of Islam in Johor, I find this action to be totally unacceptable as this is extremist in nature.”

The Sultan ordered state Islamic authorities to investigate the matter.

“I want the owner to apologize to me and the people of Johor. He has made Johoreans very angry and embarrassed because this is not the Johor we want.

“The owner has gone against the vision of a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant Johor. If he still insists on carrying on the Muslim-only practice, he can leave Johor. I suggest he set up shop in Afghanistan. His thinking is sick and goes against everything that Johor stands for,” His Majesty said according to The Star report.

The owner, whose name has not been released, responded quickly to the criticism.

“I will comply with Tuanku’s wishes to let non-Muslims use my laundrette. I would also like to say I am sorry to the Sultan and the people of Johor over this issue,” he was quoted as saying in Free Malaysia Today.

Prime Minister Najib Razak praised the Sultan’s statement and the owner’s response.

“The government will remain committed to upholding the true Islamic teachings while protecting the interests of the other communities as demanded of Islam,” he said in a statement.

Najib said Malaysia was a moderate Islamic nation that maintains a moderate way of life.

“I am confident that Muslims will continue to uphold this struggle because we all want to see Malaysia progress into a successful, respected and exemplary country,” he said.

Reactions

Ridzuan Rahim, a businessman in Johor, expressed relief.

“Can you imagine if it had prolonged and no one said anything about it? We may soon have laundrettes for Chinese, laundrettes for Indians. Unbelievable!” he told BenarNews.

Others saw the sign as exposing more deep-rooted issues.

Sarawakian Heyward Maxwell Pengabang, 35, said the episode was yet another regrettable example that showed how the nation had a long road ahead in achieving equality.

About 19.5 million Muslims make up more than 60 percent of Malaysia’s population of nearly 32 million people, while Buddhists, Hindus and Christians account for much of the rest.

“Since Malaysia portrays itself as a progressive Muslim country, then there is no need for this religious segregation,” he told BenarNews.

Chandrasekaran Veeraiah, agreed, saying Malaysians needed to foster greater trust and unity for future generations of the multi-racial country.

“As it is, the political climate in this country is already promoting racial, social and religious discrimination. We should promote diversity,” he told BenarNews.

Hafidz Rahman of Johor, who welcomed the Sultan’s decree, said discrimination occurred throughout Malaysian society.

“Well, we have requirements for jobs which state that only Chinese candidates are welcome to apply. Where is the fairness in this,” he told BenarNews.

Labid Balang in Kuching contributed to the report.

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