Zaid pours cold water on govt idea to make Langkawi a Muslim-preferred destination


PETALING JAYA: Turning Langkawi into a Muslim preferred destination could be an uphill task, says former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim, who highlighted several concerns.

According to Zaid, there are existing Muslim tourism destinations in the region such as Kuala Terengganu in Terengganu and Kota Baru in Kelantan, Indonesia’s Medan, Jakarta and Surabaya, Thailand’s Hatyai, Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh, and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

"The minister must ask what Muslims like to do in Langkawi that they can’t do in more well-known places,” said Zaid in a post on X (formerly knownas Twitter) on Monday (June 24).

Zaid was responding to a proposal by Deputy Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Khairul Firdaus Akbar Khan, who said Langkawi is being positioned as a preferred Muslim destination with an emphasis on family-friendly and spiritual tourism.

"They don’t like the sea unless we cater separate beaches for men and women. Then, they don’t like music or entertainment as it would make them 'khayal' (intoxicated). They don’t want to mingle with scantily clad women, so we must not allow too many foreigners," added Zaid.

Zaid claimed that Muslims like shopping and Putrajaya could consider removing taxes on halal cosmetics, clothes, cars, textile, sports goods, cigarettes and various food items.

"Make Langkawi a shopping heaven unlike any other place. This might work.

"However, this government will not do this," said Zaid, who added that the move to ban the sale of tax-free alcohol will be opposed by leaders within the administration.

"Building large shopping malls would cost money, so this government would not like this idea. Madani wants to collect more taxes. So, no taxes are a terrible idea," said Zaid.

The only option left for Putrajaya, said Zaid, would be making Langkawi similar to Indonesia’s Bali or Thailand’s Phuket islands.

"But, Madani will not accept this idea too.

"It looks like Langkawi will deteriorate slowly but surely, as the curse of Mahsuri still holds strong," said Zaid, in reference to the legend of Mahsuri, a woman who cursed the island for seven generations after being unfairly executed for alleged adultery.

In Parliament on Monday (June 24), Khairul said that positioning langkawi into a preferred Muslim destination with an emphasis on family-friendly and spiritual tourism could enhance the island’s competitiveness among regional islands for the upcoming Visit Malaysia Year 2026.

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