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Muslim-only laundromat puts Malaysia in a spin

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian religious and community leaders have criticised the move by a self-service laundromat in Muar to bar non-Muslim users, adding that this is against the teachings of Islam and could widen rifts between the different religions.

Muslim-only laundromat puts Malaysia in a spin

A sign at a self-service laundromat in Muar barring non-Muslim users. The owner said he was doing his duty as a Muslim and that the policy was in place for reasons of ‘kesucian’, or ‘purity’. Photo: Malay Mail Online

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysian religious and community leaders have criticised the move by a self-service laundromat in Muar to bar non-Muslim users, adding that this is against the teachings of Islam and could widen rifts between the different religions.

“I cannot see why a simple thing like a laundrette can become a religious matter. It is not good for racial harmony, and it won’t take us anywhere,” said Mr R S Mohan Shan, deputy president of the Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism.

He said the different races and faiths had co-existed harmoniously in Malaysia for years, with each community practising tolerance and respect towards others.

“People should think twice before doing such things, creating problems,” Mr Mohan said, adding that the government must also look into such potentially dangerous issues.

“If the government were to just let it go, we may see similar instances happening after this,” he added.

“It will lead to everything becoming Islamic versus non-Islamic. It is bad for the country.”

The laundromat in Muar has a large sign forbidding non-Muslims from using the washing machines. Its owner had maintained that he was doing his duty as a Muslim and that the policy was in place for reasons of “kesucian”, or “purity”.

“This is wrong. It is not the right thing to do,” Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, vice-president of the opposition party Amanah, told The Malaysian Insight.

“Some Malaysians have been understanding Islam wrongly. Even in Islamic jurisprudence, it is wrong to hold such a practice as there is nothing wrong with sharing a washing machine with others.”

CIMB Group chairman Nazir Razak, in an Instagram post, said the fact that such a laundromat could exist was “troubling”.

“We have to curb such extremism if we are to build a peaceful and progressive multicultural Malaysia,” the younger brother of Prime Minister Najib Razak said. “This must be a misinterpretation of Islamic teaching.”

His post attracted mixed comments from Instagram users.

“What confuses me is the “menjaga kesucian” (to protect purity) statement that is on the board. How about the money that these people hold?” Instagram user karenmacdeau wrote.

“Our banknotes are circulating nationwide on a daily basis and some of them must’ve been held by those who have prepared pork dishes. Or, did those people forget that detail since it’s money?”

Another Instagram user, fathi.ridzuan, added: “It is the sad state of Muslims in the country. We have become more intolerant and many have become more extreme in their views.”

Others note that there are signs of rising religious intolerance in the country, pointing to a recent segregation of Muslim and non-Muslim cups in a school in Selangor.

“After the drinking glasses segregation issue, now this. Tahniah (congratulations) Malaysia. After independence, we have progressed to this level. Malaysia Boleh! #sarcasmintended,” Instagram user vaneegnsh wrote. On Monday, Johor Prince Tunku Idris Sultan Ibrahim also took to Instagram to voice similar concerns, saying: “Is this for real? This is too extreme. I’m appalled.”

Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin also described the move by the laundromat as “narrow-minded”, saying that the practice ran contrary to the teachings of Islam, which did not seek to burden the lives of its adherents.

Sisters in Islam (Sis) called the Muslim-only policy at the launderette “divisive”, adding that it would further segregate Malaysians.

The non-governmental organisation in a statement said Malaysians should follow the Constitution that prohibits religious discrimination

“If this is allowed to continue, what other forms of discrimination would be imposed upon non-Muslims in the future?” Sis said.

The laundromat’s policy does have its supporters, however. Johor Islamic Council adviser Nooh Gadut said Muslims must ensure that their laundry is not mixed with “najis mughallazah”, or faeces of pigs and dogs.

Some social media users also defended the laundrette and its operator.

Ib Nawawi wrote on Facebook that non-Muslims were upset because of the term “kesucian” on the sign, which implied that they were dirty.

“No. The word for clean is ‘bersih’. The opposite of bersih is ‘kotor’, or dirty. The opposite of ‘suci’ (pure) is not ‘kotor’. You can be very ‘bersih’, stain-free and germ-free, but not necessarily ‘suci’.

“’Suci’ is (a) spiritual thing. It’s a thing required by religion. If you learn the religion you’ll understand.” THE MALAYSIAN INSIGHT

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