Muslim-first campaign can hurt Muslims too, says ex-minister

Johari Abdul Ghani.

KUALA LUMPUR: The Buy-Muslim-First campaign, a hot issue on social media, can hurt Muslim businesses themselves, says Johari Abdul Ghani, a former finance minister.

“Business is universal, regardless of skin colour or race, whether Malay, Chinese, or Indian. The only difference is whether the product is ‘halal’,” he said at a forum here on Challenges of the New Economy in the New Malaysian Era.

“If we’re talking about Buy-Muslim-First, there is a system that can check whether the product is Muslim or not.”

Recently, some Islamic groups began a campaign to give priority to goods and services by Muslims, which has run into opposition.

Johari mentioned the Nestle and Dutch Lady companies as examples: even though their products are not made by Bumiputera, they are still quality products, certified ‘halal’ by Jakim, the Islamic affairs department.

“These products are present in many households. Nestle products are produced by foreigners but the process is ‘halal’ and the products are competitive. If we use the rhetoric of Buy Muslim First, we can’t exist in the business world, because it’s a big market,” he said.

Johari said there are situations where Malay businessmen would seek investment from Malaysian Chinese counterparts to expand their businesses by offering a part of their businesses as collateral.

“For example, a Malay wants to expand his factory, and borrows money from a Chinese. But because he has borrowed from this Chinese, the Chinese asks for security in terms of a 51% share until the loan is paid off. So the reality is that this Chinese is selling Muslim products – but if we only look at it from the perspective of who’s holding the most shares, then everyone’s going to boycott the business. This is why we should be careful so as not to hurt ourselves.

“Many local businesses have been manipulated from the point of view of shares. So I’m afraid that actual Muslim businesses will be sabotaged due to people not knowing the actual structure,” Johari said.