The Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall (KLSCAH) brought attention to the Kemaman Municipal Council’s (MPK) recent announcement that, beginning of January 21, supermarkets in the city must follow the lead of Muslim-run restaurants, who are required to close their supermarkets from 12.30 pm to 2.30 pm. We are perplexed by the policy of closing supermarkets at 12.30 pm, believing that this action ignores the rights and interests of non-Muslim supermarket retailers and jeopardises free market trading.
The latest announcement originally issued by the MPK forced “all businesses” in the state to close on Fridays during the Muslim prayer time from January 21. Non-Muslim businesses have been confused by the term “all businesses.” After confusing non-Muslim businesses, the MPK issued another statement clarifying that this policy only applies to Muslim restaurants and those non-Muslim restaurants are unaffected; however, supermarkets must still adhere to the original policy prohibiting operations at specific times. Supermarkets or businesses that violate the instructions will be dealt with uniformly.
KLSCAH is concerned that, following the implementation of this policy by MPK, other municipal and city councils in Terengganu state would follow suit, infringing on the rights and interests of non-Muslim businesses in the state. The KLSCAH believes that it is a fact that Terengganu, as a Muslim majority group, promotes religious policies within the scope of the state government’s authority; however, as a country made up of multi-racial and cultural foundations, it is also worth considering whether the mandatory implementation of specific religious policies will “cut one’s feet to fit the shoes”. In particular, there are many shops in supermarkets. Forcing relevant policies will not only limit the business hours of non-Muslim businesses in the mall but also erode the inherent freedom of consumption of non-Muslims, affecting their daily work and rest.
KLSCAH believes that each state can implement policies that differ from those of other states under the jurisdiction of the state government, but that local policies “according to local conditions” must also truly reflect Malaysia’s diverse national conditions within the framework of the Federal Constitution. After all, forcibly imprisoning non-Muslims under a one-way policy system will only be counterproductive, and it is not in line with the “Keluarga Malaysia” concept promoted by Prime Minister Ismail Sabri. Therefore, the KLSCAH urges the MPK to immediately withdraw this policy against non-Muslim businesses. In addition to ensuring that the business of non-Muslim restaurants will not be affected, it should also allow non-Muslim businesses in supermarkets to operate as usual during Muslim prayer hours to serve non-Muslim customers.
January 19, 2022