Malaysia’s king calls for unity amid controversy over religiously offensive socks

The sale of the clothing featuring the name ‘Allah’ has sparked outrage in the Muslim-majority country

Malaysia’s King Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar has advised members of the ruling coalition in the legislature against voicing “extreme views” on issues related to race and religion in the wake of growing tensions caused by the sale of socks bearing the name ‘Allah’.
According to the king’s Tuesday Facebook , he had met with representatives of both the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and Democratic Action Party (DAP) to discuss current developments “regarding religious and racial sensitivity.”
Leaders from Chinese-majority DAP and UMNO have been at odds following the latter’s continued boycott of the supermarket chain where the offensive socks were sold.
The king warned the UMNO and DAP against inciting division, urging: “As Hari Raya approaches, be forgiving with each other and turn a new page.”
Hari Raya is a major festival celebrated by Muslims all over the world, symbolizing the end of Ramadan, the fasting month. This year, Muslims in Malaysia will celebrate the festival on April 10.
About two-thirds of Malaysia’ 34 million people are Malay Muslim, with large minorities of ethnic Chinese and people of Indian origin also practicing Islam.
Outrage flared across Malaysian social media late last month over pictures of socks branded ‘Allah’ – the Arabic word for God – which were reportedly being sold at KK Mart, the country’s second-largest mini-market chain. The fact that KK Mart is a Malaysian-Chinese-owned company, and that the socks had gone on sale during the month of Ramadan, has only added to the fury.

Public anger has resulted in three firebombing attempts on KK Mart outlets.
The chain’s founder and his wife, as well as the company’s director, have been formally charged with “deliberately intending to hurt … religious feelings.”
All the defendants have pleaded not guilty. The chain’s executives were freed on bail, with a hearing set for April 29. If convicted, they could face up to a year in jail, a fine, or both.
KK Mart has previously apologized for the offensive socks, claiming it had taken immediate action to stop their sale. The company has also sued their supplier, alleging sabotage and damage to its brand’s reputation.
Meanwhile, UMNO youth chief Akmal Saleh, who led the outcry against KK Mart, stated on Facebook following the meeting with the king that he would “heed” the advice in the interest of national harmony. He did not specify, however, if he would cease calling for a boycott.