Convenience store owner charged over 'Allah socks'

2 weeks ago 19

The socks sold at several KK Super Mart outlets sparked controversy, with some calling for a boycott of the convenience store chainImage source, Facebook

Image caption,

KK Super Mart is a Malaysian convenience store chain

The prominent founder of a Malaysian convenience store chain has been charged over the sale of socks with the word Allah written on them.

Chai Kee Kan and his wife, Loh Siew Mui, who is a company director, were accused of "wounding the religious feelings of others".

They pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they could be jailed for up to a year.

The socks ran into controversy two weeks ago, with some calling for a boycott of the chain.

KK Super Mart and their Malaysian supplier, Xin Jian Chang, had apologised. The store also took them off the shelves.

But the controversy continued as photos of the socks sparked a backlash online and drew criticism from Malaysia's king and political leaders. Police said that they had received close to 200 complaints by Monday.

The use of the word Allah - an Arabic term for God, which Muslims see as sacred - by non-Muslims has been contentious in Malaysia in the past.

The Malaysian constitution guarantees freedom of religion. But Islam is the country's official religion and Malay-Muslims make up more than two-thirds of its 34 million people.

Last week, Malaysia's king, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, condemned Mr Chai's chain and called for "stern action" against those responsible: "Blunders in relation to religious and race issues such as these are unacceptable," he said in what was seen as a rare rebuke from the palace.

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim called for "firm action" while urging people "not [to] continue discussing it as a massive disaster".

KK Mart is a successful Malaysian chain that runs hundreds of stores across the country. It has sued Xin Jian Chang citing loss of profits and damage to its brand. The company has also claimed that it was forced to abort a listing on the Malaysian stock market following the controversy.

Two directors of the supplier - Soh Chin Huat and Koh Lee Hui - were charged with abetment on Tuesday.

The supplier, in turn, is reportedly considering suing the Chinese company that shipped them the socks.

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