I’m a Malay Muslim living in Israel, so I can’t imagine why the Jewish community is so anxious to paint me as a hate-filled, anti-Arab bigot.
But it is.
Malaysia Tourism is one of the biggest travel companies in the Middle East, and it has been operating since 2002.
It is responsible for almost all travel in the region, and I spoke to two of its managers in London, who told me that they do not think any of their staff are anti-Muslim.
They just do not like Muslims, and when they speak about them, they try to put the focus on how they travel in Malaysia, not on the Middle Eastern conflict.
“Malaysians are not anti-Islam, so if someone thinks there’s anti-Islamic feeling towards Muslims, that’s the opposite of what we’re doing,” the manager, Ahmed Ali, told me.
“We don’t do this because of any political views or anything like that.
We’re doing it because we have so many Malaysians here and we want to support them.”
The manager explained that Malaysia has a strong history of welcoming Muslims, with the country being one of only two countries in the world where there is no law that bans Muslims from immigrating.
“We have an open door policy,” he said.
“You can come in and get work.
We have many opportunities to work here, because we are a country that has been open for a long time.”
The Malaysian embassy in London told me, “We are extremely sensitive to any form of racism, anti or otherwise, and are currently investigating the matter.”
“This kind of behaviour is totally unacceptable and does not represent Malaysia as a country,” the embassy added.
The manager added that he would like to “take back our community” from “any and all who harbour such views”.
“We are not looking for any negativity.
We are not going to say anything against anyone, but we are not here to promote this message,” he told me over Skype.
“What we are doing is looking for ways to reach out to all Malaysians who are interested in working in this country and supporting this community.”
I asked the manager if he thought the boycott would be effective.
“I don’t think that boycott will change anything,” he replied.
“If people are so afraid to come to Malaysia and work, then it’s better that we have a boycott.
But I’m not sure that’s going to happen.”
The director of the International Federation of Muslim Associations, Zaid al-Zawahiri, said that “Malaysian Muslim organisations have never been this vocal against discrimination”.
“It’s an important part of our culture to welcome and respect all religions, ethnicities and cultures.
There’s nothing against any religion, but the issue is how to deal with the issues that arise from it.”
Al-Zahir said that the boycott was the “last resort” because of the “very serious” impact that it was having on tourism.
“In our country, Muslims are a minority, and we have the right to live our own lives, but what we need to do is get together, as a society, and create an environment where everyone can live peacefully,” he explained.
“But that can’t happen if there’s racism, and unfortunately, Malaysia has been hit hard by racism.”
The International Federation for Muslim Associants, an umbrella organisation for hundreds of Muslim organisations in Malaysia and Indonesia, has published a report called The Malaysia Muslim Community: Its Story, which it hopes will be used to educate Malaysians on “how to be a Muslim in this difficult time”.
“The Malaysian Muslim community is a very resilient community, and many of the organisations we work with have been through a very difficult time,” Al-Zayawi said.
He added that the Muslim community was one of “the strongest and most respected in the Arab world”.
“They are very proud of their history, their traditions and their history of resistance, and they will continue to fight for their rights.”
He also urged Malaysians to keep a close eye on the ongoing protests in Bahrain, saying that “people are fed up and are demanding a better future”.
“We need to show solidarity with the people, because this is not just about a boycott, this is about an awakening and a fight for democracy and freedom.”
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