Of alcohol, cigarettes, gaming and air stewardesses

There have been calls for airlines to allow Muslim flight attendants to don the hijab and wear clothes that are in line with shariah. (Bernama pix)

By Anas Zubedy

My company does not seek or accept business from any alcohol, tobacco and gambling outfits. This has been the policy when Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd was set up in May 1994.

We do so simply because I disagree with alcohol, tobacco and gambling. It does not fit into my core values. That does not mean that I do not have friends and family members who consume alcohol, smoke and gamble. In fact, some of my closes friends are drinkers and smokers. They are good people. To each its own. All the best. May God take care of all of you.

My issue with these three is more personal and it stems from home and how I grew up, that I do not see a need to explain here. Yet, in no way do I see a non-drinker to be a better human than a drinker.

In fact, when I was little, one of the best human beings I met was my late father’s good friend, Uncle Ali Rahman. He was likely an alcoholic but I have not met many with such a kind heart, always helping and caring for the poor. He was loving, caring and respectful – even to a six-year-old kid. I used to be confused when many labelled him as one who is hell bound because of his drinking habits when those people fell short of his kindness, his goodness. May Allah bless his soul.

When my organisation was highly recommended to a tobacco company, the head of human resources called me. When I refused to provide my service, the HR head asked if I was serious as it was a RM1 million-ringgit contract.

I thanked her for her confidence in my team and brand but suggested a few other providers whom I considered to be serious and capable of delivering what they needed. I told her I could not make her sales team and workforce more effective and efficient in making more people smoke and the possibility of promoting cancer. The HR person respected my position and we became friends.

When my good friend and former boss at Nestle, the late Benny Loh, joined a beer company as head of sales and marketing, he wanted me to help him set in place the sales team there. Obviously, I said no – although Benny passionately and cleverly tried to sell me the idea that beer companies never sell alcohol, they sell happiness. Making people happy, he said, fits well into my core values. Nice try, Ben!

Initially, when I quit Nestle I wanted a stint as a copywriter. An advertising agency offered me a lucrative salary but I would have to write for a tobacco brand. I decided to settle into another position and accepted a much lower salary package and as such avoided having to deal with tobacco.

How could I write and attract especially more of the young to smoke and burn their lungs? Can I perform at my best when the very industry is at odds with my own values? Will I give my employer less than a fair deal? Will my salary be “haram”? Can I be excellent in my job?

As such, I humbly suggest to any cabin crew who feel uncomfortable with the uniform policies, be it by local or international airlines, to consider another profession.

Although I see it wise for the airlines to put in place two sets of uniforms, tudung and non-tudung, to allow individuals the right to choose their dressing. But, the cabin crew must consider their other religious concerns like serving alcohol, sleeping with male counterparts within the same area during long flights, free mingling with the opposite sex etc. Will these go hand in hand with your ‘tudungness’?

To the MP who is fighting for the rights of Muslim women cabin crew to wear their religious attire, should they too have the right not to serve alcohol or do the other duties as per their job description?

If you are serious about your values and see that all these are against your religious leaning, I suggest you choose another profession even if the remuneration is less.

Quit. Do not worry, Allah will provide!

“Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.” Quran 13:11

“Or do you think that you will enter Paradise while such (trial) has not yet come to you as came to those who passed on before you? They were touched by poverty and hardship and were shaken until (even their) messenger and those who believed with him said, ‘When is the help of Allah?’ Unquestionably, the help of Allah is near”. Quran 2:214

Anas Zubedy is a businessman and an FMT reader.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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