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The misunderstood “Buy Muslim First” drive

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Zaidi Azmi
Written by Zaidi Azmi

KUALA LUMPUR — September 3, 2019: When it was created in January, the Muslims-only secret Facebook group called the Malaysian Muslims Economic Association barely had any follower but it is no longer the case today.

In a mere few weeks, the by invitation-only group has amassed more than a million followers, many of whom have been updating the list of products – mainly groceries – made by Muslim companies.

The constantly updated list is to cater to those wanting to participate in the campaign that calls on Malaysian Muslims to prioritise buying Muslim products whenever possible.

Unlike other campaigns, Buy Muslim First (BMF) was not initiated by a public figure or political party. Instead it is more a grassroots driven movement that came about following the Jawi khat controversy.

But critics, particularly Pakatan Harapan politicians, have deemed it as a boycott movement that needs to be thwarted as it could sour racial relations which have been been going through rough weather since a few weeks ago.

Prominent Muslim businessman Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin of Mydin Hypermarket however, argues that BMF is not a boycott because no one has asked Muslims to stop buying products made by non-Muslims.

“If the Malays buy goods at night markets, does that indirectly mean that the Malays are boycotting goods sold at hypermarkets?” was Ameer Ali’s rhetorical poser.

Yesterday, the Subang and Shah Alam Consumer Association president Dr. Jacob George asked the government to use the law and act immediately against those who kick-started the BMF campaign so as to safeguard racial harmony.

That said, lawyer Fatihah Jamhari thinks it is unlikely that those propagating any priority buying campaign like the BMF have broken any law simply because this is simply within the ambit of freedom of speech and choice.

“The root of the movement is not to boycott non-Malays or non-Bumiputera products and services. Rather, BMF is to vocalise support for Malay and Bumiputera businesses through the choice of purchasing power. It’s a conscious decision,” Fatihah pointed out.

While the Penal Code has Section 124L to deal with economic saboteurs, Fatihah explained that such a law cannot be applied to BMF because the section only deals with subversive action against public and essential services, which non-Muslims goods are not a part of.

At a press conference today, PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was among the latest to denounce the campaign, describing it as being an unhealthy movement given Malaysia’s multiracial backdrop.

Responding to BMF’s detractors, the chairman of a Muslim non-governmental organisation called Ummah argued that it was regrettable to see how some politicians were so dead-set in ending efforts to empower Muslim businesses.

“This campaign has helped small-time businesses with little marketing budget and those who sidelined by hypermarkets. It is an effort to help close the economic gap between Muslim and non-Muslim businesses,” said Ummah president Datuk Aminuddin Yahaya’s statement.

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About the author

Zaidi Azmi

Zaidi Azmi

If Zaidi Azmi isn’t busy finding his way in the city, this 26-year-old northern kampung boy can be found struggling to make sense of the Malaysian political scene. Zaidi can be reached at [email protected]