Calls to boycott non-Muslim products unhealthy, says Anwar Ibrahim

Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim waves at crowds during Independence Day celebrations in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Aug 31 2019.
Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim waves at crowds during Independence Day celebrations in Putrajaya, Malaysia, on Aug 31 2019.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

KUALA LUMPUR (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim has denounced a recent social media campaign calling for the boycott of non-Muslim products, describing the move as unhealthy.

The campaign to "prioritise" and "support" Muslim-made goods has hogged the limelight recently with some quarters calling for non-Muslims to stop using halal logos on their products.

"If you want to promote halal products, it is acceptable. But if you are trying to promote it by using contentious issue, this is not healthy," Datuk Seri Anwar said on Tuesday (Sept 3).

Mr Anwar said although it was acceptable for Muslims to promote halal products, there were also products made by others, such as Chinese manufacturers, which Muslims were permitted to use.

"One can propose and support any company with justification but if the approach is negative, then it is unhealthy altogether," he said.

Mr Anwar, who is also Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president, said the racial connotation underlining the boycott campaign is not healthy for the nation's multiracial and multi-religious society.

The campaign came about on Aug 23 when the Islamic Consumers Association of Malaysia suggested to the Islamic Development Department that halal certificates should be issued in the native language of the product's manufacturers so that consumers can identify if they are Muslim or otherwise.

The association's suggestion was criticised as divisive and racially polarising, but its proponents, including Gerakan Pembela Ummah and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), tried to present it as a call to buy Muslim-made goods rather than a boycott of non-Muslim products.

The campaign caught the attention of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who last Friday said he disagreed with the boycott, pointing out that it was carried out by people with shallow thinking.

Politicians from both sides of the divide also condemned the campaign, with Mr Wee Ka Siong, the president of the opposition Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), saying the move is against national interest and tantamount to economic sabotage.

Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng had also reportedly urged Malaysia's two biggest Malay-based parties - Umno and Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), to condemn the boycott.

In response, PAS deputy president Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man accused Mr Lim of playing up racial sentiments and failing to respect the free will of Muslim consumers.

Additionally, PAS secretary-general Takiyuddin Hassan urged Mr Lim to view the boycott "positively" for its benefits to uplift Malay-Muslim entrepreneurs and those in rural areas.