A Muslim-only laundromat operating in Malaysia designed to maintain “purity” of Islamic clothing is causing controversy among the country’s various religious groups.
A photograph of a signboard advertising the “Muslim-friendly” laundrette in the state of Johor first caused a stir on social media last week.
“This laundrette only accepts Muslim customers for reasons of purity,” the notice said. “Any inconvenience is very much regretted”:
— Hype Malaysia (@HypeMY) September 25, 2017
The photo quickly went viral, leading to debate over the growing influence of Islamic theology in Malaysian society.
One Twitter user wrote, “Not letting non-Muslims use these self-service washing machines on the pretext of cleanliness is something that blackens the name of Islam.”
“This issue of the laundrette is not because he is limiting his market. The issue is he said he ‘prioritised purity’—indirectly you’re saying non-Muslims’ clothes are not pure,” explained another user.
The photo even led to condemnation from Sultan of Johor Ibrahim Ibni Sultan Iskanda, who said the Royal Family was “deeply appalled” by the photo.
“I cannot accept this nonsense. This is Johor, which belongs to Bangsa Johor [the citizens of Johor] and it belongs to all races and faiths. This is a progressive, modern and moderate state,” he said. “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.”
However, the owner of the laundromat, who did not wish to be identified, defended his business, claiming he was providing a service wanted by many Muslims.
“For Muslims, it is not just about clean clothes but cleanliness as a whole,” the store’s owner told the Star. “I am just providing an avenue for Muslims to do that.”
“Muslims include Chinese and Indians as well so the launderette does not racially discriminate,” he added.
Tensions between moderates and religious fundamentalists have risen in recent years across Malaysia, as the country’s theocratic government seeks to impose Sharia Law on many aspects of life.
Around 60 percent of the country’s population are Muslim, while 23 percent are from Chinese and Indian communities and further 7 percent from Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist backgrounds.
Over the past year, authorities have banned books seeking to promote a more moderate form of Islam, censored “inappropriate” popular film and music, and imposed blasphemy law on the country’s non-Muslim population.