A FURIOUS Sultan of Johor has slammed a local laundrette owner’s decision to make his services available only to Muslim customers, suggesting that he open shop instead in Afghanistan under the Taliban.
The coin laundry in Maur, Johor in southern Malaysia has caused controversy across the country after images of its Muslim-only signs were circulated on social media. The business owners attributed excluding non-Muslims to “hygiene factors” and said many other laundromats were available nearby.
“I cannot accept this nonsense. This is Johor, which belongs to Bangsa Johor [the citizens of Johor] and it belongs to all races and faiths. This is a progressive, modern and moderate state,” said Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Alharhum Sultan Iskandar as quoted by local daily The Star.
“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 case has provoked public debate over racial divisions in Malaysia and rising religious conservatism among the Malay Muslim majority.
A United Nations Special Rapporteur on cultural rights recently said that Malaysia’s professed commitment to diversity and tolerance didn’t reflect the lived reality of many Malaysians.
“I want the owner to apologise to me and the people of Johor. He has made Johoreans very angry and embarrassed because this is not the Johor we want,” added the Sultan.
“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.”
The laundromat’s owner had drawn heavy criticism from many within Malaysia’s Chinese and Indian minority communities, who represent around 22.6 and 6.7 percent of the population, respectively, and are largely Christian, Hindu or Buddhist.
The Sultan’s stance was met warmly by netizens, with many praising his comments online.
"Great Governance" OUR Salute to Sultan of Johor His Majesty, God bless All with Love
— Shanmuganathan (@subbum_01) September 27, 2017
Props to the Sultan of Johor for being the only powerful person to call out discrimination based on race/religion
— Naresh Sabapathy (@albinonemo) September 27, 2017
“From now on, I am directing the state executive council and all the councils to insist that any business owners who carry out such blatant discriminatory practices should have their licences revoked. Don’t mess around with your narrow-minded religious prejudices,” said Sultan Ibrahim.
Last week, a beer festival scheduled to take place in Kuala Lumpur was cancelled after complaints from Muslim activists and the Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).