Kelantan shop closure sends wrong signal, says think tank chief

“Such a decision is indeed sending a wrong message about how Aidiladha should be celebrated”

(FMT) – A director of a think tank says the Kelantan government is sending the wrong message about the Aidiladha celebration by ordering a business shutdown on the first day of the public holiday.

Abdul Razak Ahmad, a founding director of Bait Al Amanah, said the state government’s rationale was difficult to understand as businesses staying open during festive seasons had never obstructed religious obligations.

Razak, a former consultant for the National Economic Action Council, said Kelantan’s “big government” approach was bad for the economy and undermined private businesses.

“Islam is such a progressive religion that it is best manifested through hard work, mutual respect towards other communities, and the enterprising spirit.

“Such a decision is indeed sending a wrong message about how Aidiladha should be celebrated,” he told FMT.

On Saturday, the PAS-led state government announced that business premises, from supermarkets to convenience stores, had been directed to close on Sunday for Hari Raya Aidiladha. Offenders risked having their licences revoked.

Razak said the order was counterproductive to the much-needed post-pandemic economic recovery and would make investors wary of Kelantan, and even of Malaysia.

He also said the action was detrimental to multiracial harmony as the state government was interfering in the affairs of the non-Muslim business community.

“Why should they be subjected to such a move when business operations do not challenge the sanctity of the Aidiladha celebration in any way?” he said.

Johan Ariffin Samad, an analyst and member of the G25 group of former senior civil servants, said individual businesses should be given the freedom to stay open or close during public holidays and festive celebrations.

Describing the Kelantan order as “a regimented view”, he said it was unfair to non-Muslim business owners. “Businesses should be free from religious interference or intolerance in multiracial and multireligious countries like Malaysia,” he said.

The PAS-led state government had previously restricted business activities. In 2019, it ordered restaurants to close from 8.30pm to 10pm during Ramadan, the fasting month, to allow Muslims to perform tarawih prayers.