Muslim seeks refund for shoes lined with pig skin

Ms Nur Najwa Abdullah and the $279 pair of shoes she bought last year. She said she wore them for six months before finding out – by chance – that the lining was made of pig skin. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG
Ms Nur Najwa Abdullah and the $279 pair of shoes she bought last year. She said she wore them for six months before finding out – by chance – that the lining was made of pig skin. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

A Muslim woman who bought a pair of $279 shoes was incensed to find out, after wearing them for six months, that the shoes were lined with pig skin.

Administrative assistant Nur Najwa Abdullah, 43, is demanding a full refund from foot care chain Happy Walker, claiming that the sales staff had told her the shoes were made of calf skin.

Ustaz Firdaus Yahya, manager of the Darul Huffaz Learning Centre which promotes understanding of the Quran, said: “In Islam, anything related to pork, such as the meat or skin, is considered unclean.”

Islamic experts say while the use of pig-skin products is not considered a sin, a Muslim should go through a cleansing ritual if he or she has used the product.

Ms Najwa bought the pair of brown shoes from a Happy Walker outlet at Velocity mall in Novena last December. She wore them almost every day for half a year, even on a trip to Kuala Lumpur.

“I was very happy with the shoes. I have flat feet and it’s difficult to find shoes with a broad cutting that fit me,” she said.

But she was at Buona Vista’s Star Vista mall shopping for new shoes for Hari Raya earlier this month when she saw a store selling the same style of shoes she had on – accompanied by a sign stating that they had pig skin lining. “It was the shock of my life. How could this happen?” she said.

She complained to the Happy Walker outlet and told the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) about it. Muis advised her to discard the shoes and wash her feet with water and clay, a ritual cleansing.

Ms Najwa said she approached The Straits Times because she wanted to raise awareness about the issue.

Velocity’s Happy Walker outlet’s branch manager Teo Shu Tong, 57, confirmed he received her feedback. “The outside (of the shoes) is made of cow skin, only the lining inside is made of pig skin. We didn’t know about it,” he said.

“As she has worn the shoes for six months, we proposed to refund her half of the cost.”

He added that in Happy Walker’s seven years here, there has been no such complaints. The retailer, which has five outlets, no longer stocks the range of shoes Ms Najwa bought because the “workmanship is not so good”, said Mr Teo.

“Our new brands (of shoes) will not be made of pig skin lining,” he added.

Ms Najwa wants a full refund, and is considering going to the Small Claims Tribunal.

Such cases are rare. Muis said this is the first time it has had such feedback; the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) has not received such complaints before.

Shoe retailers Bata and Isetan said they usually have signs or tags labelling shoes that are lined with pig skin. Staff are told that they should point them out to Muslim customers.

Ustaz Firdaus said: “To a majority of Muslims in this part of the world, anything that’s got to do with pigs is something that is to be avoided. Even if you call someone a pig, it’s considered a great insult.”

Muis said the onus is on the Muslim consumer to verify what material a product is made of. Case executive director Seah Seng Choon said Ms Najwa’s story could be a case of false claims.

mellinjm@sph.com.sg