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Boycott of non-Muslim products hurts Muslims most

  • Boycotting products simply because they have been made by a non-Muslim is an exercise in futility and will backfire. In fact, the boycott will hurt the Muslims more.

By Mariam Mokhtar

A boycott of non-Muslim products will hurt the Muslims most.

Boycotting products simply because they have been made by a non-Muslim is an exercise in futility and will backfire. In fact, the boycott will hurt the Muslims more.

Moreover, non-Muslim foreign investors, threatened by such talk, may reconsider their plans and relocate their factories to neighboring countries, which are not inwardly thinking. In such cases, the whole nation will lose out.

In a worst case scenario, a snowball effect may occur and spread to services. Today, it could be a boycott of products made by non-Muslims. What happens when extremists urge Muslims to boycott the services of non-Muslims and non-bumiputras?

Professionals like doctors, engineers, lawyers, mechanics, pilots, handymen, fishermen, vegetable farmers, teachers. Even the corner shop grocer, or jaga kereta man, fill important niches. Ultimately, how does one quantify a non-Muslim's worth? Is a foreign Muslim worker preferential to a Malaysian non-Muslim? When will this madness end?

The boycott is a daft idea. The non-bumiputra companies probably have a workforce which is predominantly Malay. With a boycott, the company may suffer reduced sales and in the end, the staff may have to be laid off or retrenched, because of cash flow problems. Who will suffer and become unemployed? The Muslim worker.

A boycott for the flimsiest of reasons will inadvertently strengthen the resolve of the non-Muslim manufacturers. When one door closes, others will open.

A non-Muslim company may find an alternative market overseas and generate an increase in sales. Or it may employ smart tactics and reinvent itself. Or, it may diversify. Inadvertently, the boycott may make the company more successful.

A successful product fills a niche in the market. Most people buy a certain product because it is good, is reasonably priced, is effective and is readily available.

If the non-Muslim made product is boycotted, can the people who started the campaign ensure that consumers have access to an alternative product of the same quality?

The call to boycott started last December, on social media. There was a campaign which urged bumiputras to boycott products made by non-bumiputras. This was soon followed by a recent call, from some NGOs, to boycott halal products that had been manufactured by non-Muslims.

What is the basis of the boycott? Is it to control the market? Is it to control consumer purchasing? Is it just business rivalry? Or is it just another exercise in divide and rule?

Has the boycott been called, because a group of disgruntled Muslim businessmen cannot compete with non-Muslim companies? In which case, they should improve their performance.

Are the organizers of the boycott going to manufacture mobile phones, televisions, cars, shoes and kap-chais?

The NEP has benefited the bumiputra community. What will the boycott achieve? Why are we continuing to impose even tighter restrictions on the non-bumiputra and non-Muslim sections of society? These groups of people are discriminated against, in several fields such as education, jobs in the civil service, and housing.

In the past four decades, race and religion have contributed to the social breakdown in Malaysia and led to a polarized society. Why should we allow race and religion to cause further harm and destroy the economic fabric of the nation? There are other ways to promote Muslim or bumiputra manufactured products. A boycott is not the best way to do it.

In normal circumstances, a boycott of a product is made because the product has been made using child labor, or is made in a sweatshop. In some cases, the ingredients have come from an endangered species, like sharks' fins soup. In a few cases, the boycott is to bring attention to a cause, like the boycott of Nestlé products because mothers in third world countries were not breastfeeding, but were purchasing baby milk formula.

In 2015, the erstwhile Agriculture and Agro-based Minister, Ismail Sabri Yaakob called for a boycott of Low Yat Plaza, which was predominantly Chinese; but this move backfired. He urged the formation of Low Yat II, which was exclusively for Malay traders, but this place remained under-utilized, as people still flocked to the original Low Yat, because those businesses were more reliable and affordable.

Haven't we learnt that a fragmented society saps the strength of its people? If race and religion had not created many of our problems, the nation could have reached its full economic and social potential, a long time ago.

The cultivation of fear in both Muslims and non-Muslims, to control the behavior of the population, may have unintended consequences. By then, Malaysia will have reached a point of ‘no-return’.


1. MalaysiaKini: Muslim-made products campaign is inclusive, claims PAS
2. Malay Mail: Boycotting non-Muslim businesses bad for Malaysian economy, says Perlis mufti
3. MalaysiaKini: Non-bumi product boycott not effective, will only provoke anger, says Mahathir
4. MalaysiaKini: A closer look at boycott against non-Muslim products and businesses
5. Free Malaysia Today: Unhealthy to boycott products over race and religion, says Anwar
6. The Sun Daily: Call to boycott halal products sold by non-Muslims having no effects: Saifuddin
7. MalaysiaKini: Non-Muslim product boycott: Ummah says not true
8. The Straits Times: Malaysia minister calls for Malays to boycott Chinese businesses

(Mariam Mokhtar is a Freelance Writer.)


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