The Boycott Issue: More Than Just Socks!

The recent call for boycott of KK Mart for selling socks with kalimah Allah revealed the need for another round of clarion call on the need for cultural sensitivity and tolerance when events like this could have been avoided in the first place.

Looking at the KK Mart boycott fiasco going on now, I thought of an expression in Tamil “ooru rendu pattAl, kootthAdikku kondattam”, which roughly translates to “when a village is split, the mockers have fun.” A more apt translation, which I begged from old classmate cum nemesis (because I had never beat him in any English tests), is simply, “Deriving joy or pleasure in the disunity of others.”

This is a twisted form of schadenfreude (pleasure derived by someone from another person’s misfortune). It is happening in our country now. Why? As fate would have it, the Muslims in the country have to go through another round of mocking with regards to the KK Mart socks issue from the so-called “liberals” (who believe in sexless priests, big bike riding gurujis, prosperity-predicting astrologists, millionaire feng shui masters, and 4D outlets, nevertheless).

For the benefit of those who have been hiding in the nuclear bunker, the issue concerns the popular convenience store KK Mart which was found selling socks bearing the name “Allah”.


According to the same news, “photographs of the offending item went viral online and have triggered backlash from netizens and prominent public figures, with some calling for a KK Super Mart boycott.”

This would be a normal occurrence back in the good old days, where one section of society would call for bloody murder while the others would keep their heads down and let the ones involved deal with whatever predicaments it was, till their own crap house went up in flame.

But that was the old Malaysia. The pre-Madani era, when there was a smell of tolerance and a whiff of unity, permeated the air. Now, emboldened by the votes that actually pushed the dominant Malay political party, UMNO, off the power cliff before it grabbed the offered tail end of a snake held by the Pakatan Harapan coalition, the supporters of this ruling coalition — especially the non-Malays and non-Muslims, of course—have trained their guns on the Malay and Muslim communities.


Right now, the fuming Muslim community is not done with this. This is despite the fact that the management of KK Mart, led by the founder, Datuk Seri K.K. Chai, has since apologised, even doing the Japanese bow (without the hara-kiri climax). The supplier, Xin Jiang Chang Sdn Bhd, also apologised to defuse the situation.

So far, there have been no words from our Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who, once actually officiated the opening of the 450th KK Mart outlet in Port Dickson.

But this was a different Anwar. This was when he would do anything to get into power, including dancing to a Tamil song for the community that is now slowly realising that they have been taken for a ride.

Why emboldened the non-Muslims, I might be asked. Well, it is hard to believe that in a country so well-known for its tolerance of religion where some of the religious shrines and centres are even tourism spots, some Malaysians have suddenly developed selective amnesia over the sensitivities of the respective religions.

That quite explains how in hell the management and the crew of the convenience store missed out on something as explosively sensitive as that. For operations as big as KK Marts, which sells halal products, at the age where almost every manufacturer rushes to get a halal certificate, not because they are into it but because they sell more, can an oversight like this happen?

Can the same explanation and reasoning justify a picture of Jesus Christ or Lord Shiva on a thong? Especially the leather ones. When the greatest boxer of the world, Muhammad Ali, was conferred a star, he specifically requested for it not to be on the ground, but on the wall, because “did not want the name of Muhammad to be stepped on”. The Americans understood that.

This Says It All, and Justifies the Reason for a Boycott (nmh Pic)
This says it all and justifies the reason for a boycott NMH pic


In fact, our own Agong has blasted the KK Mart founder’s response, expressing his disappointment in the issue. “”We have lived together for such a long time in a multi-cultural society. Mistakes on religious and racial issues cannot be accepted any more, nor should they be allowed to happen again,” he said.

Also, before your mind decides to go on a slimming exercise, know this: Other religions have had their fair share of calls for boycotts. As mentioned here, “In the ’90s, well before so-called ‘cancel culture,’ Christian groups were famous for launching boycotts at the drop of a hat. Walt Disney, the Beatles, Harry Potter, Martin Scorsese, Starbucks, Heinz, Wells Fargo, and Home Depot have all been on the business end of a Christian boycott, and, tellingly, many of the reasons”

Yes, even the greatest Hollywood film director, Martin Scorsese, was shunned by Catholics for his 1987 film Last Temptation of Christ, based on a novel by Nikos Kazantzakis. Though Scorsese already had issues with getting the budget and also getting Willem Dafoe, who played Jesus Christ, to get his enormous manhood out of the camera’s way, what really got to him were the various Christian groups that wanted the film banned. No, not because of Dafoe’s intrusive member.


The film will go on to win many awards and be remembered as one of the best in Scorcese’s oeuvre. This shows that all religious groups have their sensitivity itch point. Hindus, Jews, and even peaceful Buddhists have their own limits on tolerance elasticity. The calls for boycotts and actual boycotts don’t usually do much damage, but they do deliver a strong, clear message. Like what happened with KK Mart, it is clearly a sign that the intolerance graph has shot up, especially when there are mockeries and derisions on the call for boycott by the very groups that have their own religious sensitivity charts.

Alas, a boycott is not a war. It’s a statement. A PSA by consumers. A wake-up call. It’s for the money-grubbing capitalists to think twice before they overrate the gullibility of consumers.

Before we condemn the boycotters for being rash, it is apt to know the seriousness of the reason for the boycott. The sensitivity meter should be, err, sensitive.

Being the religion of the majority, it is important for us, the smaller groups of various faiths, to show respect, and equally condemn the so-called “oversights” because we have had our share of dark past stemming of intolerance, friction and lack of empathy. That should never, ever make a comeback. – NMH

Other articles by the writer:
Hollywood, Politics, Propaganda And Brainwashing
Malaysian Films And The Quest For Quality
Death Sentence For Drug Dealers: Taking A Closer Look

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Rakesh Premakumaran Kumar
A movie buff, as opposed to film connoisseur or aficionado, because the last two words are hard to spell, Rakesh has been in the field of writing for more than two decades and hopes that one-day movie “buff”ing is lucrative enough to afford him a Batmobile, the Michael Keaton one.

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