Disagreeing doesn’t mean you should be a thug

A group of men recently forced a convenience store in Ipoh to remove the alcohol from its shelves. (Video screenshot)

Many religions do not allow premarital sex or adultery, but that does not give those who disagree with sex outside of marriage the right to demand that a shopkeeper remove his stock of condoms from his shelves. Neither do they have the right to force pharmacists to remove their stock of morning-after and birth control pills.

Similarly, Hindus do not enter grocery stores and demand that the owner remove cans of corned beef, frozen burgers and steak from the shelves.

On May 24, however, a group of men entered a convenience store in Ipoh and bullied the staff into removing the stock of liquor from the shelves. They crowded around the helpless shop assistants and warned them to remove the bottles of alcohol, failing which they would smash them.

Many Muslims, both conservative and moderate, find their actions reprehensible and abhorrent.

One elderly woman who read about the men and watched the video of them said: “These are not Muslims. These are thugs who happen to be Muslim. These samsengs use religion to promote their personal agendas.

“They broke the peace, harmed community relations and probably made nearby businesses fear for their livelihoods.”

Claiming to be representatives of various Muslim NGOs, these men told the management that they were forbidden to sell liquor as the store was in a Muslim-majority area. They also threatened to take further action if the store continued to sell alcohol.

Who do these men think they are? Are we seeing the return of extremists who invade our privacy and ride roughshod over every community which they think does not live according to their rules?

We do not want a return to the reign of Najib Razak, where people who tried to ensure justice, good governance, fairness and equality were harassed by people like the thugs from Manjoi.

When the video went viral, some asked why the shop assistants had complied with the thugs. But what choice did they have? If they had refused, there was a chance that the thugs would have harmed them and trashed the shop. Perhaps they would have returned later that night, with more people to do more damage – who knows?

But why should we allow thugs to dictate how we lead our lives? The shop did not force Muslims to drink alcohol. The items were clearly labelled.

Whether or not a store has the licence to sell liquor does not give thugs the moral authority to demand that their orders be obeyed. They could have complained to the Department of Domestic Trade, or their MP.

The police have started an investigation, but it is worrying that Perak Menteri Besar Ahmad Faizal Azumu appeared timid in dealing with those men. He must realise that the only way to stop this sort of arrogance is to nip the problem in the bud.

This is a critical time for all Pakatan Harapan state administrations. We must keep our guard and be ever watchful. The Perak menteri besar might want to re-watch the P Ramlee movie “Anak-ku Sazali”, which was released in 1956, about a doting father who spoils his son, and the consequences of failing to censure bad behaviour.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed by the writer are not necessarily those of FMT.