BUTTERWORTH: A shareholder of the Pelita nasi kandar restaurant chain is considering quitting the business over criticism raised against him for being a Hindu sharing a Muslim-majority business.
Pelita Samudra Pertama (M) Sdn Bhd director Datuk D. Ramesh, who has a 25% stake and is the sole non-Muslim shareholder, said he was thinking of giving up his stake as he was disappointed with the criticism on social media.
He said the issue first cropped up in 2012 when a newspaper photograph of him and former MIC president Datuk Seri G. Palanivel at a Hindu temple ground-breaking ceremony in Seberang Jaya was photoshopped by unknown persons to look as if the temple was being erected in front of a Pelita restaurant.
Ramesh, 47, said the photoshopped picture was widely shared on social media, resulting in many people questioning his involvement in a Muslim-majority business while some accused him of using the profits from the business to support the building of a Hindu temple.
He said the issue cropped up again recently and he might quit unless the matter was put to rest and he gets a clear go-ahead from religious experts.
Ramesh stressed that Pelita had its own halal chicken slaughtering plant in Juru, Jakim’s halal certification for all its 25 outlets and a surau at each outlet.
“Our restaurants are also closed an hour on Fridays for Muslim workers to perform their prayers,” he told a press conference at a hotel in Seberang Jaya yesterday.
Ramesh said the Pelita nasi kandar business dated back to 1995 when he collaborated with Kirudu Muhammed Kuppaikanni and Kaliq Jamal to open the first outlet in Chai Leng Park.
“The following year, Datuk K.K. Sihabutheen and Datuk Uswath Khan joined Pelita as shareholders, and we opened branches in other parts of the country.
“Today, visitors to Pelita restaurants are 65% Muslims,” he said, adding that the chain operated under the advice of a well-known ustaz who is a shareholder and Pelita’s adviser.
Also present at the press conference were Sihabutheen and Uswath Khan who are both also Pelita directors.
When contacted, Penang mufti Datuk Dr Wan Salim Mohd Noor said there was no issue with Ramesh being a Hindu involved in the business.
“Ramesh’s involvement not only does not contradict Muslim teachings but is also good for the multiracial Malaysian spirit of supporting each other,” he said.
Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Asri Zainul Abidin said being halal was all about the food and not who served the food.
“Those who try to put halal conditions related to the owner or whoever is serving the food knows nothing about Islamic jurisprudence,” he said when contacted.
Asked about the comments from both mufti, Ramesh said he had to discuss the next course of action with his partners.
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