Elit Laundry, which was in the spotlight for restricting his clientele to Muslims only, has apologised and agreed to serve all races.
After the royal reprimand and complying with the Johor Sultan’s directive, the owner of Elit Laundry in Muar, Johor, is now open to all races, regardless of religion.
“I will comply with Tuanku’s wishes to let non-Muslims use my launderette. I would also like to say sorry to the Sultan and the people of Johor over this issue,” the Elit Laundry owner told FMT in a phone call today.
The owner, in his 40s, who had operated the launderette for a year, had earlier reportedly said he did not expect the issue to be blown out of proportion and become such a sensitive topic. He hoped that the matter would now be put to rest.
Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar had strongly voiced his displeasure over the launderette’s “Muslims only” business policy and ordered the launderette to immediately stop its discriminatory practice or risk being shut down by him, The Star reported today.
“I cannot accept this nonsense. This is Johor, which belongs to Bangsa Johor and it belongs to all races and faiths. This is a progressive, modern and moderate state.
“This is not a Taliban state and as the Head of Islam in Johor, I find this action to be totally unacceptable as this is extremist in nature.
“I want the owner to apologise to me and the people of Johor. He has made Johoreans very angry and embarrassed because this is not the Johor we want.
“The owner has gone against the vision of a united, harmonious, moderate and tolerant Johor. If he still insists on carrying on the Muslim-only practice, he can leave Johor. I suggest he set up shop in Afghanistan. His thinking is sick and goes against everything that Johor stands for,” the Sultan said in an interview with The Star at Istana Bukit Serene yesterday.
The launderette uproar started with a picture showing a sign outside the premises with the words ‘Only For Muslims’ which went viral on social media last week. After intense debate among social media users, the controversial sign was changed to ‘Muslim-friendly’.
“Don’t try to be clever. It’s still the same. The owner needs to have his brains cleaned up.
“I want to put a stop to such extremism. Extremism has no place in my state. We take pride in being Bangsa Johor and I want to know where the owner of this launderette learn his Islam? Islam teaches the faithful to be tolerant and respect other people and faiths,” the Johor ruler was quoted as saying.
Citing mosques in Johor, the Sultan said they were open to non-Muslims as long as the people were properly dressed. He said he could not imagine non-Muslims being banned from entering the mosques, adding that he was concerned over rising religious extremism.
“I wonder where this launderette owner washes his clothes when he is overseas? Is he saying only the clothes of Muslims are clean and those of non-Muslims are unclean? That’s what he means, I believe.
“From now on, I am directing the state executive council and all the councils to insist that any business owners who carry out such blatant discriminatory practices should have their licences revoked. Don’t mess around with your narrow-minded religious prejudices,” Sultan Ibrahim said, according to the report.
The Sultan reportedly also said that if he kept quiet about the issue, it could open up to more extremist practices such as “taxis for only Muslims or non-Muslims”.
The daily reported that His Majesty was visibly upset over the matter, and along with his family members, they were “deeply appalled” by the action of the launderette owner.
Meanwhile, the Johor Sultan has received overwhelming support and praise online for his firm and moderate stance on the controversial launderette.
Prior to the Sultan’s response to the whole debacle, his son, Tunku Idris, took to Instagram on Sept 25 to express dismay over the launderette’s policy.
The prince had posted a picture of a news report on the matter and added the caption: “Is this for real? This is too extreme. I’m appalled.”
In two subsequent posts, Tunku Idris uploaded an image with the text: “The Quran says, ‘speak good to people’ and that it doesn’t say to ‘speak good only to Muslims’.”
The second image was of a Quranic verse which states: “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion”.
Prominent Malaysians had also spoken up against the launderette.
MCA President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai was concerned that the launderette’s policy may lead to a greater polarisation of the races.
CIMB Group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak said in an Instagram post: “This must be a misinterpretation of Islamic teaching.”
Perlis Mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin criticised the launderette, stating that such a policy of “narrow-mindedness” would lead to extremism.
“I’m worried that someone might come up with the idea urging Muslims not to use currency notes that have been used by non-Muslims,” he was quoted as saying by an English daily.
Muslim women’s rights non-governmental organisation Sisters in Islam (SIS) said in a statement on Monday: “The perception that non-Muslims are considered unclean and thus unable to mix laundry with the Muslims is, in simple terms, prejudice and bigotry.”
SIS added that the growing number of incidences where there was discrimination premised on the Islamic faith, was alarming, and that Malaysians needed to be guided by the Federal Constitution which prohibits discrimination based on faith, among other things.
Earlier, the launderette owner had defended his business practice as trying to be a good Muslim.
He told Sin Chew Daily that he was merely complying with Islamic doctrine and he hopes that all would be able to understand him.
“For Muslims, it is not just about clean clothes but cleanliness as a whole. I am just providing an avenue for Muslims to do that,” he was quoted as saying by The Star in a separate report.
He reportedly pointed out that non-Muslims could patronise other nearby self-service launderettes, with one just 300 metres away from his outlet.