Boycott Campaign Targeting Non Muslim Products Treads Political Battle Lines


© Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD The latest boycott campaign has raised fears of an impact on the livelihoods of non-Muslim entrepreneurs and their Malay-Muslim employees. (Bernama pic)
PETALING JAYA: Calls for boycotts are nothing new in Malaysia, even campaigns against products or services by non-Malays or non-Muslims such as the initiative currently holding sway over conversations both online and at local coffee shops
Such campaigns have been launched before though they received little, if any, traction
–– ADVERTISEMENT ––But while this latest push has raised fears of an impact on the livelihoods of non-Muslim entrepreneurs and their Malay-Muslim employees, a deeper concern is not the content of the campaign but rather its timing amid contentious issues which have put race relations in the country to the test
These include the introduction of Jawi script in the Bahasa Melayu syllabus at vernacular primary schools and the continued presence of controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik
© Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD Kamarul Zaman Yusoff.
Kamarul Zaman Yusoff describes the latest boycott call as a manifestation of growing Malay resentment and frustration with non-Malays
“This is due to the perception that the non-Malays are now dominating the political sphere as opposed to just politics,” the Universiti Utara Malaysia academic told FMT
He said the campaign would not have gained as much traction if Pakatan Harapan leaders, especially from DAP, had not reacted “negatively” to it
Kamarul said the boycott call gained prominence after Dr Mahathir Mohamad warned against it, calling it an ineffective measure which could only anger other quarters
However, he added that Mahathir’s party, PPBM, has a fine line to walk as it risks alienating its Malay support base if it is too critical of the boycott
Pressure group Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) has launched a similar campaign in support of businesses which fulfil their zakat obligations
© Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD Nadzim Johan.
The group’s chief spokesman Nadzim Johan said the campaign is not based on race or religion, but acknowledged that it is also rooted in communal tension
He cited recent issues such as the opposition to the introduction of Jawi script in schools and a tycoon’s criticism of armed forces personnel
But he insisted that PPIM does not agree with the boycotting of non-Muslim companies
“There’s no reason to,” he told FMT. “We only boycott companies who cheat or oppress Muslims and Malaysians like Jewish businesses or those who run down our armed forces.”He said if Malay-Muslims could be empowered through zakat, there would be less disparity between them and the non-Malays, and this in turn would reduce communal tension
“Our campaign is to encourage support for companies which pay zakat,” he said, referring to the Islamic wealth tax to help the poor
Nadzim said even companies owned by non-Muslims can pay zakat, while there are Muslim-owned companies which do not
The government has spoken against the boycott, saying efforts to reject products made by non-Muslims are “inappropriate”
Islamist party PAS, meanwhile, with a tinge of support from Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, has emphasised the need to strengthen the economic power of the Muslims
But perhaps the reality of boycott campaigns in Malaysia is that they simply do not survive long enough to have any lasting impact
© Provided by FMT MEDIA SDN BHD Mohideen Kader.
Vocal group Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) said the campaign’s success would depend on the availability of Muslim manufacturers
“Many producers are non-Bumiputeras and many are intertwined, with business relations with non-Bumiputeras,” CAP acting president Mohideen Abdul Kader told FMT
He said CAP disagrees with such campaigns, adding that boycotts should not take place along racial lines


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