Alcohol ban may undermine spirit of Rukun Negara and unity

AS president of the Chiefs Circle (made up of retired armed forces chiefs) and former chairman of Pernama (Malaysian Armed Forces Trading Corporation, which runs 85 retail stores nationwide at military camps catering to armed forces personnel, veterans and their families), I strongly support president of Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan Brig-Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji’s recent statement opposing the ban on the sale of liquor in sundry shops, grocery and convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops from October next year by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL).

My position is simple and similar to that of Mohamad Arshad’s. While it is not my business to promote alcohol consumption, we must respect the rights of non-Muslims as we live in a multi-religious country and, for many generations, there have been no problems on the sale of liquor in these outlets.

The Malaysian armed forces is also multiracial and consists of both Muslims and non-Muslim personnel. The open purchase and drinking of liquor by non-Muslim officers and soldiers from the Pernama stores has never been a problem. In fact, it allows the senior officers to monitor the purchase and drinking behaviour of non-Muslim personnel under their watch.

There have been no local studies and evidence whatsoever to suggest that the sale of liquor from such outlets has been linked to the problem of drink driving or even health. There are far more harmful things, such as cigarettes, that are being sold from these outlets and there must be no double standards involved in coming up with such a policy to curb the sale of liquor.

Furthermore, the last thing our economy needs in this or the post- pandemic crisis is further curbs on legitimate business activities.

What is even more alarming is that Ahmad Marzuk Shaary (PAS), Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), stated on Nov 21 that the ban may be extended to other states.

I would just like to remind ministerial newbies not to be blindly overzealous in enforcing their religious beliefs on Malaysians of other faiths. That in itself is against the fundamental tenets of Islam, which commands Muslims in authority to protect the rights and liberties of non-Muslims under their care.

I would like to call upon the authorities concerned to rescind this liquor ban, otherwise it may undermine the spirit of our Rukun Negara, national unity and cultural harmony and diversity that Muslims and non-Muslims have enjoyed thus far.

GENERAL (RTD) TAN SRI (DR) HASHIM MOHD ALI , Former Chief of the Defence Forces Former executive chairman of the 1998 Kuala Lumpur Commonwealth Games Council chairman, Asian Heritage Museum Group

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