As the president of the Chiefs Circle, made up of retired armed forces chiefs, and former chairman of the Malaysian Armed Forces Trading Corporation (Pernama) running retail stores nationwide at military camps catering to personnel, veterans and their families, I strongly support Mohamed Arshad Raji of Patriot in opposing the ban on the sale of liquor from October next year by Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) at sundry shops, grocery stores, convenience stores and Chinese medicine shops.
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 where, for many generations, there have been no problems with the sale of liquor at these outlets.
The Malaysian armed forces are also multiracial and consist of both Muslims and non-Muslims. The open purchase and drinking of liquor for 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 armed forces personnel under their watch.
There have been no local studies and no evidence whatsoever to suggest that the sale of liquor at such outlets is linked to the problem of drink driving or even health. There are far more harmful things such as cigarettes being sold at these outlets and there must be no double standards involved in coming out with such a policy to curb the sale of liquor.
Furthermore, the last thing that our economy needs in this or the post-pandemic period is further curbs on legitimate business activities.
What is even more alarming is that Deputy Minister in charge of religious affairs Ahmad Marzuk Shaary has stated that the ban may be extended to other states.
I would 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 the cultural harmony and diversity that we have enjoyed between Muslims and non-Muslims.
Hashim Mohd Ali is the former chief of the Defence Forces.
The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.