A self-service launderette in Muar, Johor, is drawing attention for placing an “Only For Muslims” signage at its entrance.
To be precise, the sign reads, “Dobi Ini Hanya Menerima Pelanggan Beragama Islam Sahaja Atas Faktor Kesucian” (Translation: This launderette only accepts customers who are Muslims due to the sanctity factor). It also asks customers to remove their shoes before entering the launderette.
When interviewed by a Chinese daily, the 40-year-old launderette operator said that while Chinese and Indian Muslims were welcome to his launderette, non-Muslims could visit the other nearby launderettes. “I am only carrying out my duty as a Muslim,” he was quote as saying.
However, he declined to elaborate on why he had decided to make it a Muslim-only launderette, or if it was because he was worried that there might be “unclean” elements on the clothes that non-Muslims brought to his launderette.
Johor mufti Mohd Tahrir Samsudin later commended the launderette’s move, explaining that cleanliness is a priority for Muslims and that it’s a good move as Muslims will no longer be doubtful when using the self-service launderette. However, he said that the launderette’s move should not be turned into an issue as it would only encourage negative perception towards Muslims by non-Muslims.
As expected, scores of Malaysian netizens have taken to social media to voice their opinions regarding the launderette, particularly on the Say “YES” To Najib Facebook page.
Some viewed it as racist, fanatical, discriminating, and unnecessary, while others agreed that it was the launderette operator’s prerogative. “He has the right to run his business the way he wants. We have the right not to patronise his shop. That is all that is to it,” wrote one non-Muslim Facebook user, while another non-Muslim Facebook user commented, “What’s the big deal? He has the right to choose his customers. The end users have their rights to choose the supplier.”
To put this into perspective, there has been a long standing issue of apparent “racism” when it comes to operations or vacancies. Remember when local franchise of British cosmetics and toiletries brand The Body Shop came under fire for its “Only Chinese” job vacancy advertisement? At that time, the brand received a lot of flak, particularly because netizens were shocked that such an established, international brand would practice racial discrimination.
The Body Shop later took to their Twitter to issue an apology for the signage, explaining that it was an unsanctioned act by one of their store staff.
And that’s not all. How many of us have seen landlords put up room to let signages with the Chinese, Malay, or Indian preferences (refer to the image below)? Is that racism? Well, yes, if you’re only looking at the race preference alone.
But consider this: maybe a Chinese landlord prefers a Chinese tenant because he/she understands the cultural and religious sensitivities i.e. sharing a kitchen tenant of a different race would deem difficult because many Indians don’t eat beef and Muslims don’t eat pork. Or maybe, a female Muslim landlord would feel more secure share her almost all of her home (bathrooms, included) with other female Muslims.
So, was the launderette operator really being racist, fanatical, or discriminating in the way that he chose to run his business, as a Muslim? In this case, are people confusing racism for religious sensitivities? After all, the launderette operator did say that he also welcomes Chinese and Indian Muslims at his launderette.
We’ll let you decide.