MUAR: A launderette owner said he wanted to cater to the demands of his customers when he decided to limit the patrons to his business to only Muslims.
The businessman in his 40s, who spoke on condition of anonymity said that it was a business decision, and he had considered the feedback he has been receiving from his customers who were 90 per cent Muslims.
He said he finally made up his mind about putting up a signboard at his self-service launderette in Jalan Junid, Taman Seri Cempaka, Muar to only allow Muslim customers, because he wanted to uphold his responsibility as a Muslim businessman who catered to a mostly Muslim clientele.
"I went to the Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism Ministry to ask them if it was alright for me to put up such a signboard at my business premises, and the person at ministry's office said it was okay.
"I opened my self-service launderette a year and-a-half ago, and back then, I did not put up the signboard yet because I was still new in the business.
"But I have been harbouring hopes to establish a Muslim-friendly launderette for a long time.
"I decided to put up the 'Muslim Friendly' sign 10 days ago only after receiving feedback from my customers, who told me their concerns about 'najis' (impurities) mixing in the wash load.
"My customers were concerned about such matters as it made a difference between whether their clothes sent to laundry were deemed fit to be used in prayers or not.
"I was also inspired by an article I read in Al-Islam magazine recently about the need to uphold Islamic teachings especially in relation to cleanliness. I considered all these things before I decided to limit my customers to only Muslims," he said when met by the New Straits Times outside his launderette.
The Muar-born businessman, who did not want the issue to be further debated, said that he was adamant in sticking to his decision and hoped the community would understand his choice as a businessman.
He said that as a Muslim, he was adhering to the religion's teachings under 'fardu kifayah' (communial responsibility) and to ensure that Muslims could have peace of mind when they send their clothes to a self-service launderette.
"Islamic teachings stipulates that there are three levels of najis (impurities), and any Muslim would know this, and they will take precautions to avoid such substances from getting mixed into the laundry's washload.
"But such precautions will not necessarily be taken by a non-Muslim," he said.
He said that since imposing the regulation at his business premise and setting up the signboard 10 days ago, his business has not seen any decrease or increase in the number of customers.
"When I first put up the signboard, I explained my reasons to my non-Muslim customers who were at the launderette and they were fine with it. Even the owner of the workshop next to my launderette asked me about the sign, but he seemed to be okay with it too.
"It is no problem for non-Muslim customers as there is another self-service launderette located 300m away, and three or four other launderettes in other shoplots along Jalan Junid," he said.
The businessman said that he knew what he did was right as Johor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tahrir Samsudin had been quoted by a Malay daily saying that the latter supported such an initiative taken by a Muslim businessman.
The signboard at the entrance of the launderette reads:
"Mesra Muslim. Dobi ini hanya menerima pelanggan beragama Islam sahaja atas faktor kesucian. Segala kesulitan amat dikesali. Sila tanggalkan kasut diluar. (Muslim-friendly. This laundrette only serves Muslim patrons due to (religious) purity issues. Any inconvenience is deeply regretted. Please remove your shoes before entering.)"
Photos of the signboard and the launderette went viral and stirred controversy with some quarters.
Johor prince Tunku Idris Sultan Ibrahim took to Instagram on Monday to say he was appalled by the policy, adding that it was "too extreme".
CIMB Group chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Razak had also described the issue as "very troubling" on his Instagram and said the business is practicing a "misinterpretation of Islamic teachings."
On Friday, Johor Mufti Datuk Mohd Tahrir Samsudin told Harian Metro that he welcomed the initiative taken by the launderette's owner because some Muslims were doubtful in using self-service launderettes.
"If someone wants to do it, then it is a good thing because some Muslims hold doubts over laundromat services.
"It is better for Muslims to be free of such doubts when it comes to cleanliness as it will help Muslims fulfil religious obligations," said Tahrir.
Asked about the concept of laundromat services in Islam, Tahrir said that such a service should make sure that clothes are cleaned from minor and severe impurities (najis mughallazah).