The 40-year-old owner of a Muar laundromat has removed a sign from its entrance which stated only Muslim customers were accepted due to a “purity” factor, after the Sultan of Johor harshly criticised him in an interview on Wednesday (27 September). The Sultan questioned the owner’s understanding of Islam and said the act had gone against the vision of “a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant Johor”.
He also demanded an apology to himself and the people of Johor; suggesting that if the owner insisted on continuing this he should move to Afghanistan.
The owner removed the sign later the same day, after friends told him about the interview and sent him the article. The sign went viral over the last week in Malaysia, and he initially told a Chinese newspaper that he was doing it to fulfil his obligation as a Muslim.
The Sultan said in the same interview that he has directed the state executive council to revoke licences of any business owners who carry out such discriminatory practices. He instructed business owners not to “mess around with your narrow-minded religious prejudices.”
Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Abdul Mutalip Abd Rahim and Mufti Johor Datuk Mohd Tahrir Samsudin, however, have both made conflicting statements before convening with the Sultan.
Abdul Mutalip, who is Johor’s executive councillor for religion, said that the laundromat was a business and it was up to the operator to run it in the way he wished, unlike restaurants which are regulated. He told Free Malaysia Today that the laundromat had not violated any regulation, and so could not be shut down.
Mufti Mohd Tahrir Samsudin reportedly called the owner’s act “beautiful” – telling Harian Metro that cleanliness is a top priority for Muslims.
Nadzim Johan, the chief of The Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association (PPIM) also spoke up to defend the action, saying that he didn’t believe it was done to hurt anyone because the laundromat owner “understands Islam”.
There are numerous sources advising on whether it is najis or ritually unclean to use coin-operated washing machines or laundromats overseas. Darul Ifta Australia, a non-profit organisation based in Melbourne, Australia, allowed for usage of such facilities overseas or in Western countries, but mentioned that drycleaning would be impure due to the solvents involved being reused each time.
Malaysia’s prime minister Najib Razak approved the Sultan’s reaction through a statement, saying that the government will remain committed to upholding true Islamic teachings while protecting the interests of other communities as demanded of Islam.
Dressing down for launderette