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The Malaysian owners of KK Mart, a major convenience store chain, have been charged with offending the religious feelings of Muslims over a pair of socks sold in their stores. Socks printed with the word “Allah” were found for sale on store shelves, which some Malaysian Muslims found offensive. Chai Kee Kan, founder and chairman of the KK Mart Group, and his wife pleaded not guilty to charges of deliberately wounding the religious feelings of Muslims. The company has blamed its supplier for sending products the company had not agreed to stock. In a country where Muslims account for two-thirds of the population, religion is a sensitive issue, and associating the word “Allah” with a pair of socks has sparked outrage.

The word “Allah” is highly esteemed in the eyes of Muslims, and many found it insulting to see it associated with feet as it is considered demeaning since feet are associated with a lowly status. The founder of the supplier that provided the socks, Xin Jian Chang, as well as his wife and daughter who are directors were also charged with abetting the offense. Xin Jian Chang has apologized for being careless in the inspection of the imported socks. If found guilty, all five defendants face up to a year in jail, a fine, or both. KK Mart, a major 24-hour chain with 810 stores domestically and some 5,000 employees, has sued Xin Jian Chang for “sabotage” over losses and damage to the chain’s reputation.

KK Mart has outlets in Nepal and India, and the founder has stated that the socks were put on its shelves by Xin Jian Chang, which rented shelf space in its outlets. Only 14 pairs of “Allah” socks were found on the shelves at three KK Mart outlets. A political party in Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s coalition has called for a boycott of KK Mart, while Malaysia’s new king, Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, has called for stern action over the issue, warning that it could disrupt racial harmony. Two people deemed to have made insensitive comments online about the issue have also been charged, sentenced to jail, and fined for insulting Islam.

KK Mart has reportedly said that it had to cancel a planned listing on the Malaysian bourse due to the crisis. The company has been facing backlash and legal challenges over the sale of the controversial socks, and tensions in the country have been heightened as a result of the issue. While some have called for a boycott of KK Mart, others have urged the public to move on from the issue and not make too much of a controversy. The association of the word “Allah” with feet has sparked anger among many Malaysian Muslims and has led to legal action taken against the owners and suppliers involved in the sale of the socks.

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