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Gaza prompts boycott in Malaysia

Rights and anti-US protesters in Kuala Lumpur 2 Jan 09
Malaysian Muslims are angry at US support for Israel

The removal of Coca-Cola from thousands of restaurants in Malaysia in protest at US support for Israel will hurt the local economy, the company has said.

The drinks company was responding to boycotts of US-made goods called by Muslim groups in Malaysia.

Malaysia has called at the United Nations for action to stop the Israeli offensive in Gaza.

Former leader Mahathir Mohamad has also called for a global boycott of the US dollar and US products.

"As everybody else, we are deeply touched by the human side of the situation in the Middle East," Kadri Taib, Coca-Cola Malaysia public affairs and communications director, said in a statement.

"Given the local nature of our business, we believe that calls for boycotts of our products are not the appropriate way to further any causes, as they primarily hurt the local economy, local businesses and local citizens," the company said.

It added that the beverage company employs some 1,700 Malaysians, 60% of whom are Malay Muslims.

Muslim protest

The boycott, aimed at US support of Israel which has mounted the offensive in Gaza, is spearheaded by the Malaysian Islamic Consumers Association as well as the Muslim Restaurant Operators Association.

If you stop accepting US currency, the US can't trade and can't make any money, it will become very poor and it will have to stop the production of more and more weapons in order to kill people. People must act... they won't die if they don't drink Coca-Cola
Dr Mahathir Mohamad, former Malaysian prime minister

More than 2,000 Muslim restaurants in Malaysia have said they would remove Coca-Cola from their menus from Friday.

Ma'mor Osman, secretary-general of the Malaysian Muslim Consumers Association which is leading the campaign, said about 100 other products have been identified, ranging from food to beauty and clothing such as Starbucks, Colgate, McDonald's and Maybelline.

"A boycott is the best way for us to protest Zionist cruelty against the Palestinian people as consumers can weaken the economy of countries like Israel and its ally, the US," he said.

Leadership support

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir had earlier called for a boycott of US currency and goods.

"If you stop accepting US currency, the US can't trade and can't make any money, it will become very poor and it will have to stop the production of more and more weapons in order to kill people," he said on Monday.

"We should not be buying all these weapons from the US, we can buy from the Russians if we must have aeroplanes and things like that," he added.

"People must act... they won't die if they don't drink Coca-Cola," he said.

"We urge everybody who loves peace and is against war to support our campaign. We must send a clear signal to Israel to stop the assaults in Gaza," he said.

Malaysia's current Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi has called for sanctions on Israel, saying the international community has a "moral duty" to save the Palestinian people.

He said that Israel's "excessive deployment of military power" in its air and ground offensive on Gaza since 27 December was "absolutely immoral".

In the conflict, so far 770 Palestinians and 14 Israelis have been killed, with thousands wounded.

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