Umno Youth chief Dr Muhamad Akmal Saleh has been unrelenting in his condemnation of the KK Mart chain, even after its owners were charged in court for offending the Muslims. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, April 4, 2024.

AFTER weeks of tension, including bomb attacks on three KK Mart stores, arising over the issue of socks with the word “Allah” printed on them, the government has finally decided to do something to ease the situation.

On Tuesday, it was announced that the Interfaith Harmony Committee (JK Harmoni), sitting in the National Unity Ministry, will be holding an emergency meeting with the Department of Islamic Development (Jakim) to discuss the situation and take immediate steps in guaranteeing peace and harmony in the country.

This decision was announced in a joint statement by National Unity Minister Aaron Ago Dagang and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Dr Mohd Na’im Haji Mokhtar, who also condemned racial and religious polemics surrounding the socks.

They also urged the police to take stern action against the people stoking racial and religious hatred and violence.

The socks have caused religious tension in the country, more so after Umno Youth leader Dr Akmal Saleh called on Muslims to boycott the KK Mart retail chain.

Three KK Mart outlets have been subject to petrol bomb attacks, the latest being in Kuching over the weekend.

The Malaysian Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCCIM) fears the rising tensions could destabilise society. The coalition is now appealing for all parties to stop the boycott and attacks on the KK Mart retail chain.

After all, the people involved in the sale and distribution of the controversial socks have already been brought to court, ACCCIM said.

What is clear is that the authorities acted quickly to arrest and prosecute the offending parties.

The owners of KK Supermart & Superstore Sdn Bhd were charged last week with offending Muslims by selling the controversial socks.

The company apologised after a picture of the socks went viral in mid-March. Sale of the items were stopped at once.

However, we have yet to see the authorities take action against the agitators and the inciters, including the people who threw petrol bombs on the KK Mart outlets.

We know that Akmal has been vocal on the issue, caling for the KK Mart owners to be severely punished for trampling on religious sensitivities.

Some, including youth leaders of the parties in the unity government, feel he has been overzealous.

Although they are all allies, they have blamed Akmal for igniting religious sentiments.

But Akmal has refused to budge from his position.

In response to criticism from Pakatan Harapan youth leaders, Akmal took to social media to bolster his position.  And of course, his followers praised the actions of their leader in their comments on Facebook. Some said Akmal should not be blamed for the KK Mart attacks.

“PKR and DAP see that Dr Akmal could be used as a scapegoat… (The bomb attacks) were the acts of individuals and have nothing to do with the boycott,” said a Facebook user with the name Mohd Ikhwan Hakeem.

Another follower, Izal Saizal said Akmal did not cause the violence.

“YB (Akmal) only called for a boycott, not to destroy or bomb the KK Mart,” he said.

He added that a KK Mart boycott was similar to the boycotts on US brands KFC and McDonald’s.

“None of the Malaysians want to damage shops or throw bombs at KFC or McDonald’s,” Izal wrote.

Political analysts see Akmal’s vigorous attacks on KK Mart as an attempt to win back Malay support for Umno.

We know that the party is struggling to gain the support of Malay voters, who have switched loyaties PAS in Perikatan Nasional.

But Akmal’s campaign is not helping Pakatan Harapn to gain the confidence of voters.

Conflicting statements from party leaders in the unity coalition do not show the strength of the unity government.

It would be smart for the youth leaders in the unity government parties to hold an open dialogue to discuss the issue of the word “Allah” with a cool head, and for them to come to a resolution.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim needs a united voice from these youth leaders to deal with extremism and to preserve inter-racial and -religious harmony. – April 4, 2024.

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