Malaysia mart’s ‘Allah’ socks blunder sparks backlash from Muslims and debate among politicians

Malaysia mart’s ‘Allah’ socks blunder sparks backlash from Muslims and debate among politicians

Malaysia mart’s ‘Allah’ socks blunder sparks backlash from Muslims and debate among politicians


SINGAPORE: Malaysia’s Minister for Religious Affairs Mohd Na’im Mokhtar has called for calm following a business blunder that has sparked anger and criticism across the country’s Muslim communities.


Socks bearing the word “Allah” were found to be sold in several outlets of local convenience store chain KK Super Mart. Photographs of the offending item went viral online and have triggered backlash from netizens and prominent public figures, with some calling for a KK Super Mart boycott. 


The incident is especially sensitive as it occurred during the holy month of Ramadan. 


“The word ‘Allah’ is highly esteemed in the eyes of Muslims,” said Dr Na’im, according to Bernama. “Allah is our creator and the act of putting Allah at our feet is an insult.” 


He added that the police, the Islamic development department (Jakim), and the domestic trade and cost of living ministry will investigate the matter to identify the cause and party responsible for the controversy.


Jakim is also under instruction to call a representative from KK Super Mart’s management to assist in the investigation. 


"Give trust to the authorities to conduct their investigations and to determine the true cause,” the minister said to reporters gathered at the Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin mosque on Sunday (Mar 17).  


Speaking in parliament on Mar 18, Deputy Home Minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah said if found guilty, the relevant parties may be punished with a fine of up to RM20,000 (US$4,251) or imprisonment of up to three years, or both.


In response to the blowback, KK Super Mart apologised for its oversight in a Mar 13 Facebook post, where it confirmed it had halted the sale of the offensive accessories. Founder K.K. Chai followed up with a further apology during a press conference three days later.  


“I humbly apologise to all Malaysians, especially those from the Muslim faith,” said Dr Chai. 


He explained the product management of the items concerned was done entirely by a vendor via a space rental system, and without supervision from KK Super Mart employees.


Dr Chai added inspections at its 800 branches across Malaysia found only three stores stocking the socks, with 14 pairs with the word "Allah" on them.  


The owner of the vendor company Xin Jian Chang  was also present at the press conference on Saturday to offer his own apology. 


"The socks were imported from China and were among sacks containing 1,200 pairs each of different designs, so I overlooked and did not do a full inspection of each item,” said Mr Soh Chin Huat.


"The incident has opened my eyes to be more careful when bringing in products from abroad and I apologise for this.”


KK Mart corporate relations adviser Haika Daniel has said allegations that the convenience stores had intentionally sold the socks to insult Muslims were altogether untrue.


"We know that the name of Allah is close to the heart of Muslims in the country. So, we want to emphasise that the company did not intentionally create this issue ... this is completely untrue,” he said. 


However, these actions were not enough for the youth chief of Malaysia’s largest political party - the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). 


Dr Akmal Saleh has urged Muslims to boycott KK Super Mart outlets, and also filed a police report. He also urged the company to put up banners in each of its stores apologising for the incident.


If they do not, Dr Akmal has warned of more drastic action. 


As of Mar 18, police have received 36 reports about socks bearing the word ‘Allah’ for sale at KK Mart convenience stores, according to deputy home minister Shamsul Anuar Nasarah, cited in Free Malaysia today. 


Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) vice-president Tan Teik Cheng responded to Dr Akmal’s statement, accusing the UMNO politician of stirring up racial friction. 


"KK Mart did not come up with excuses after the incident but acknowledged their mistake, apologised, and immediately resolved the issue to bring closure to the matter.


"The move by the UMNO youth chief to report the incident (to police) and urging others to do the same, however, does not only fail to solve the problem but also exacerbates racial tensions,” he said. 


The youth chief of Malaysia’s Democratic Action Party (DAP), which is part of the current unity government alongside UMNO, also spoke out against Dr Akmal’s KK Super Mart attack, calling for a "middle ground".


"There is no need for any escalation or excessive threats that are not productive and would only divide our multicultural fabric even further and even hurt the local economy,” said Dr Kelvin Yii. 


Dr Na’im - the religious affairs minister at the Prime Minister’s Department - has taken a more reserved approach. While urging calm, he also noted that the incident was “hard to forgive”, according to Bernama.


“The apology has been made but surely we hope that in the future, KK Super Mart does not take such things lightly and any audit department should inspect goods that have been brought in from abroad. 


“It is extremely sensitive. The Muslims must be given the space needed (to forgive this act),” said Dr Na’im. 


Cna. (2024c, March 18). Malaysia mart’s ‘Allah’ socks blunder sparks backlash from Muslims and debate among politicians. CNA.

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