When will Akmal stop his belligerence?

The Umno Youth leader appears to be digging a deeper hole for himself for he has failed to appreciate the complex issues that accompany a boycott.

(FMT) – The Umno Youth leader should be told to end his provocations before more damage is done.

The problem with Umno Youth leader Dr Akmal Saleh is that he is unable to let go of his obstinate determination to prove that he is the champion of the Malays and the defender of Islam.

He probably feels trapped by his actions and it is highly likely that he does not know how, and when, to stop without creating a negative impact on his own political standing and personal reputation.

To put a stop to his campaign for a boycott of KK Mart could possibly be construed as a sign of weakness, or of defeat. He has followers to keep happy and, perhaps, he is eager to show senior party leaders that he is a force to be reckoned with.

Hence, Akmal probably feels that to continue his campaign to boycott is his only course of action. He must maintain his heroic status as a true defender of Islam.

Unfortunately, he is too obstinate to realise that there has been much damage done to local industry, with equal interest shown by foreign investors who wonder if Malaysia is one location they should avoid.

For a month, Akmal spearheaded a campaign calling on Malaysians to boycott the convenience store chain over the socks fiasco.

He basked in his newfound notoriety and refused to back down even when both current and former ministers urged him to stop his provocations.

At the same time, the king had asked for all parties to stop taking advantage of the tense situation and fuelling mistrust and hatred in the community.

Akmal’s ego was probably stoked by the failure of his own party leaders, including Umno president Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, to reprimand him.

His popularity and political standing may have been given a temporary boost, but it is alarming that he did not stop to think of the consequences. Three KK Mart outlets were attacked with firebombs, and tensions within the community were running high.

On April 11, housing and local government minister Nga Kor Ming posted on X that a newspaper had highlighted the hardship faced by many employees of companies affected by the boycott of outlets linked to Israel.

Nga claimed that the prolonged boycott of a fast-food chain had resulted in pay cuts for their employees, and described the distress faced by an elderly couple. Moved by their plight, he urged the parties who had called for the boycott to note the harm done on the local workforce. He also urged all to pull together their resources to develop the national economy.

However, Akmal took umbrage at Nga’s reference to “irresponsible parties” and decided to launch a personal attack on the minister by calling him “stupid”.

For Akmal to resort to name-calling is a poor reflection on his leadership qualities, if he has any in the first place. He denied claims that his boycott campaign had worsened the economy, saying the boycotts during Najib Razak’s time did not have such an effect.

The Umno Youth leader appears to be digging a deeper hole for himself for he has failed to appreciate the complex issues that accompany a boycott.

Foreign investors threatened by talk of boycotts may reconsider their plans and relocate their factories to neighbouring countries, which are not as inwardly thinking as us. When this happens, the whole nation will lose out.

There is also the chance of a snowball effect, with the boycott spreading to services.

Today, it could be a boycott of outlets belonging to non-Muslims, like KK Mart, but what will happen when the extremists urge Muslims to boycott the services of non-Muslims and non-Bumiputeras as well?

Those affected could be professionals like doctors, lawyers, pilots, engineers and mechanics, and even people like teachers, handymen, fishermen and vegetable farmers.

The boycott is a bad idea. Most non-Bumiputera companies probably have a workforce which consists of Malays as well. The company may suffer reduced sales and, in the end, the staff may have to take pay cuts or, worse, be laid off. Who will suffer and become unemployed? The Muslim workers themselves.

Boycott supporters like Akmal may have scored a moral victory, but will they be able to absorb the retrenched workers if such a situation arises?

Will Akmal acknowledge that one unintended consequence of a boycott will be a redundant workforce? Will that prick his conscience?

Perhaps Zahid or even Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim should order him to stop creating tensions within the community before more damage is done.

Clearly, Akmal does not know when to stop.