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Analysts: ‘Allah’ socks controversy will not affect Pakatan’s chances in Kuala Kubu Baru by-election

Publish date: Sun, 14 Apr 2024, 08:31 AM

KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Political analysts believe there will be no direct impact on the unity government or Pakatan Harapan (PH) coming from the controversy surrounding the sale of socks with the word “Allah” that led to the calls for a boycott on KK Super Mart.

Syaza Shukri, assistant professor of political science at International Islamic University Malaysia, said the unity government will be fine despite the controversy that has been going on for weeks.

“This whole episode won’t directly impact the unity government because Umno is not aggressive on the issue except for Umno Youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh, it is all him and not Umno.

“I think PH is okay because Umno is not part of it. These current issues probably will fizzle out but I feel like there is tension and undercurrent in society so there will probably be the next issue,” Syaza told Malay Mail when contacted.

Even after Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Ibrahim urged all parties not to prolong the controversy, Dr Akmal has insisted that his call to boycott KK Super Mart over the “Allah” socks issue will continue.

Last Wednesday, Sultan Ibrahim said he did not want to the controversy drag on, after granting an audience to KK Mart Group executive chairman Datuk Seri Chai Kee Kan, who apologised to the King over the incident.

Syaza also said that the boycott on KK Super Mart over the “Allah” socks will not affect the Kuala Kubu Baru (KKB) by-election either.

“I don’t see this affecting the KKB by-election so much because the demography is different, it is a bit more mixed ethnically.

“And I don’t see Perikatan Nasional (PN) using this issue because they have not played it up so much.

“I feel Akmal’s influence is on a very small group of people only,” she said.

She said the Umno Youth chief has been at the forefront of controversial issues including calling for a review of the vernacular school syllabus, his criticism of Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Seri Tiong King Sing for the listing of bak kut teh as a heritage dish as well as Housing and Local Government Minister Nga Kor Ming’s proposal to list Chinese new villages in Selangor as Unesco world heritage sites.

“But if we trace back, Dr Akmal has been at the forefront of most these issues... so it feels suspiciously targeted.

“Politically, the Umno leadership needs to figure this out internally. As a nation, the government needs to come out more firm with zero tolerance on these issues.

“But like I said since there are audience for this, more needs to be done in terms of advocacy. The law can also be used but we don’t want to overstep, then the government would fall into the trap and be seen as authoritarian,” Syaza said.

Agreeing with Syaza, Nusantara Academy for Strategic Research senior fellow Azmi Hassan said the issue will not affect the KKB by-election as the candidate for PH will be from DAP.

Whether or not the candidate is Malay or non-Malay, Azmi said the majority from the last state election for PH was quite healthy.

“Umno has very little influence in KKB, even though 46 per cent of Malay voters may be inclined to vote for PN, the 4,000 majority from the last state election, that’s a healthy majority gained by the late DAP candidate.

“It won’t affect (the by-election) much, unless if it’s an Umno candidate, then it’s a different story, but I’m sure it will be a DAP candidate, so the KK Super Mart issue yes, it will be played-up by especially by PN because they have been very quiet in the KK Super Mart issue, but since the majority of the non-Malay voters support DAP, the KK Super Mart issue won’t be the deal breaker in the KKB by-election,” Azmi said when contacted.

Meanwhile, research fellow at Universiti Malaya’s Centre for Democracy and Elections, Awang Azman Awang Pawi said this issue should be addressed during the KKB by-election.

“It has to be clarified that this is not an issue between Malays fighting against the Chinese, but simply the reaction of consumers against a trader who is seen as irresponsible.

“It should not be seen as an issue linked to extremity in an ethnicity problem instead it was just a reaction from the consumers towards the trader’s business management and ended up creating attention among the Muslims,” Awang Azman said.

Earlier in March, socks printed with the Arabic word for “Allah” were allegedly found for sale at an outlet of KK Super Mart in Selangor.

KK Super Mart later traced the socks to a supplier based in Johor, Xin Jian Chang Sdn Bhd, which said the items were mistakenly shipped by the manufacturer in China.

KK Super Mart founder Chai issued an apology soon after the socks were discovered, with outlets of the convenience chain also displaying written apologies to Malaysians over the incident.

On March 26, Chai and his wife, Datin Seri Loh Siew Mui, who is a director of the company, were charged under Section 298 of the Penal Code for deliberate intent to wound the religious feelings of others.

The same day, an unidentified man driving a dark-coloured vehicle with the red sticker of delivery company Lalamove attempted a Molotov cocktail attack at a KK Super Mart branch in Bidor.

Two other similar attacks had occurred in Kuantan, Pahang and Jalan Satok, Kuching, Sarawak.

Following the incident in Kuantan, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim urged the public not to take matters into their own hands.

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