By Sin Chew Daily
A “Muslims-only” self-service launderette in Muar sparked tremendous controversy in the country, forcing the Sultan of Johor to instruct the business owner to stop the discriminatory act or face closure.
The business owner subsequently removed the “Mesra Muslim” notice and also apologised to Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar and to the people of Johor over his actions.
He earlier claimed that he was running his business in accordance with Islamic teachings, but such an argument will only hurt the tolerance that our multi-racial, multi-religious society is known for.
Strangely however, prior to the state ruler’s rebuke against the laundrette owner, Johor Menteri Besar Mohamed Khaled Nordin said the state government would not interfere nor support or oppose such operations, adding that it was the business owner’s discretion to do so.
The state government’s ambiguous stand could be dangerously interpreted as an endorsement of such actions.
Then Sultan Ibrahim spoke up, saying such Taliban-style extremist behaviour cannot be tolerated in his state.
His Majesty said Johor had always been a progressive and modern state where people from different ethnic and religious backgrounds live together peacefully and harmoniously, and that extremism would have no place in the state.
His Majesty also highlighted the fact that Islam teaches the faithfuls to be tolerant and respectful towards other religions and races, warning that it may set a very bad precedent.
“I could not keep quiet on the issue, as if this was allowed to go unnoticed, then next we will have taxis for only Muslims or non-Muslims,” Sultan Ibrahim told The Star in an interview.
We cannot deny that our society is getting increasingly polarised. The conservative trend, unfortunately, has direct links to politics.
Politicians have subscribed to radicalised and a segregational policy in the name of defending their religion for the sake of votes and power, while government officials are happy to dance to their tune in a bid to please these politicians.
By doing so, they are dismantling the spirit of tolerance, mutual understanding and acceptance of our differences in a multi-racial, multi-religious society.
This anomaly has been extended from politics to the citizens’ level with the halal concept now infinitely expanded to include not only food but day-to-day equipment and business models too, deepening the existing rift and sabotaging national unity.
The Sultan, in his capacity as the head of state and the supreme leader of the Islamic faith in Johor, has done and said things our politicians have failed to do.
To a very large extent, this will help tone down such conflicts, and His Majesty’s instruction should serve as a wake-up call to our politicians that they can no longer collude with such aberrant behaviour for their own political gains, generating more discrimination, segregation, exclusion and division while smothering our continued progress and national transformation aspirations.
Sin Chew Daily is a local vernacular publication
* The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.