It was just a business concept, says Kangar laundrette owner

Looi Sue-Chern

A view of the Empire Laundry Hub laundrette in Kangar, Perlis. The launderette's owner says he will rethink his business concept, following the controversy over a Muslim-only launderette in Muar, Johor. – Pic from Maria Ahmad's Facebook page, September 29, 2017.

THE owner of a laundrette in Kangar, Perlis, never thought that his Muslim-only business would get in trouble with the authorities, even after reading news about a laundrette with the same concept in Muar, Johor.

Even though the laundrette in Muar had attracted harsh criticism, including a dressing-down by Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar of Johor, Shalihuddin Naharuddin, 36, said he believed his Kangar business would face no problems.

That was until his laundrette, Empire Laundry Hub, in Jalan Kampung Bakau-Padang Behor was visited by state government officers and Perlis mufti Dr Mohd Asri Zainal Abidin yesterday.

“They came to look at my business. Asri gave me advice. I respect his views and advice, as he is more knowledgeable, being a mufti.

“I accept his advice with an open heart. I have taken down the sign (stating that the launderette is for Muslims only),” he told The Malaysian Insight by phone.

Just a marketing tool

Shalihuddin’s self-service laundrette had a sign that read, “This laundry is dedicated for Muslim use only”.

Another sign stated that the business practised the “Islamic laundry concept”.

The business owner said the Muslim-only concept was merely a marketing tool as he wanted to make the laundrette, which is less than two months old, different for the many others in Kangar.

“In Kangar town alone, we have 14 laundrettes. I just wanted to make mine a little different.

“I actually thought there was no other Muslim-only launderette in Malaysia until I read about the place in Muar.

“I have no intention of causing trouble, starting a controversy or offending anyone. In fact, nobody has felt offended or criticised me since the shop opened early last month.”

He said non-Muslims who came to his laundrette had never gotten upset with him for telling them his business catered only to Muslims.

“I only have to explain my business policy to them and direct them to a 24-hour laundrette some 200m to 300m from my shop.

The non-Muslims never got angry. They were very understanding. They even apologised to me, saying they did not know. Everyone has been nice about it,” he said, adding that he never received any negative feedback.

Shalihuddin said if he had wanted to court controversy, he would have taken photos of his shop, posted them online and declared on Facebook that his laundrette was a Muslim-only business.

Although his laundrette has a Facebook page, it is relatively empty, with no photos and few status updates.

A place for the Muslim community

Shalihuddin said when he came up with the “Muslims only” concept, his intention was to build a Muslim community and make his customers feel comfortable.

“I have a surau in my shop. I believe not many laundrettes have one. I have a sitting area, and a closed area for customers to fold their clothes if they want privacy.

“I want to give them a place where they can relax and chat.”

He said before he opened his shop, he had gone around the area, asking locals what they thought of the concept for the launderette, and nobody objected to it.

“I am not out to create issues. It has nothing to do with not wanting non-Muslims to wash their clothes that have dog fur or anything like that.”

New concept

After being advised to remove the “Muslims only” signs, Shalihuddin said he would rethink his business concept.

“I will think of a new business plan that all parties will be okay with. I will think of another way to make my laundrette stand out.

“Right now, I have no ideas yet. I welcome people to share their thoughts with me on my laundrette’s Facebook page. Share your ideas with me on how I can improve my business.”

Earlier today, The Star reported that Asri was probing a Muslim-only laundrette in Kangar, on the instruction of the Raja Muda of Perlis.

The mufti was quoted as saying the state did not agree with any form of segregation.

This week, a laundrette owner in Muar was told off by the Johor ruler for making his business exclusively for Muslims.

Sultan Ibrahim said Johor was no Taliban state, and told the businessman to pack up and move to Afghanistan if he wanted to continue his Muslim-only business.

Elit Laundry immediately did away with the policy, and the owner, who had defended himself, saying the Muslim-only policy was a request from customers, has apologised to the sultan and the people of Johor. – September 29, 2017.

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