Retailer and supplier charged over sale of ‘Allah’ socks in Malaysia

The socks were found in a store on the outskirts of the capital prompting outrage among Muslims who regard the product as insulting.

A customer walks out from KK Mart convenience store in the Puchong area on the outskirts of of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
A customer walks out from the KK Super Mart convenience store in the Puchong area on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on March 26, 2024 [Vincent Thian/AP Photo]

A Malaysian court has charged the top executives of a convenience store chain and its supplier for hurting religious feelings after socks with the word “Allah” were found on sale in one of its shops.

Five people were charged on Tuesday after photos of the offending socks caused outrage on social media.

KK Super Mart CEO Chai Kee Kan and his wife, Loh Siew Mui, a company director, were charged with “deliberately intending to hurt … religious feelings”, according to the charge sheet.

Three representatives from supplier Xin Jian Chang were also charged. KK Super Mart is suing the supplier for “sabotage” over losses and damage to the chain’s reputation.

All defendants pleaded not guilty. If convicted, they face up to a year in jail, a fine, or both.

Religion is a sensitive issue in the Malaysia where about two-thirds of the population is Malay Muslim and there are also large minorities of ethnic Chinese and Indian origin. The sale of the socks, which amounted to just 14 pairs, according to KK Super Mart, during the fasting month of Ramadan prompted particular outrage among Muslims.

The case drew a rare royal rebuke from Malaysia’s king, who called for an investigation and “strict action” against any party found guilty.

Sultan Ibrahim salutes
The 17th King of Malaysia, the Sultan of Johor, Sultan Ibrahim Sultan Iskandar, salutes the guard of honour at the National Palace in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on January 31, 2024 [Hasnoor Hussain/Pool/Reuters]

‘Lowly status’

Photos of the socks had spread on social media, many viewing the association between the word, “Allah”, and feet to be insulting.

“The word ‘Allah’ is highly esteemed in the eyes of Muslims,” said Mohamad Na’im Mokhtar, Malaysia’s religious affairs minister, according to the Bernama news agency.

“Allah is our creator and the act of putting Allah at our feet is an insult.”

Alwani Ghazali, a senior lecturer at the Academy of Islamic Studies at the University of Malaya, told radio station BFM that the socks were demeaning because feet are associated with a “lowly status”.

“Socks stink, do you agree? Are you happy to smell your socks after using them all day?” she said. “As a Muslim, I think it’s inappropriate and (the issue) is a big deal.”

Early on Tuesday morning, Malaysian media said there was a firebombing attempt on a KK Mart outlet in the northern state of Perak. No injuries were reported after a bottle filled with kerosene was thrown into the shop.

KK Super Mart has apologised over the socks, saying it views the matter “seriously” and had taken action to stop their sale immediately.

Supplier Xin Jian Chang also issued an apology, saying the “problematic socks were part of a larger shipment of 18,800 pairs ordered” from a company based in China.

The five KK Super Mart executives were freed on bail. Deputy Public Prosecutor Masri Mohamad Daud told reporters the next hearing will be on April 29.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies