PETALING JAYA: Constant calls for boycotts and letting imaginations run wild by reading too much into everything is bordering on the ludicrous, said lawyers, an academic and an economist.

They were commenting on the KK Mart controversy, which was followed by what was allegedly Arabic script for the word “Allah” in the logo on the soles of high-heeled shoes sold under the brand “Vern”.

Universiti Teknologi Mara Visual Art Culture Studies, Islamic Art and Calligraphy lecturer Assoc Prof Dr Nor Azlin Hamidon said the logo of the shoes “do not match the holy word in terms of the art of ‘khat’ (a form of Malay-Arabic calligraphy)”.

“This is because the logo has excess lines, which damage the writing of the word ‘Allah’. So, from the point of view of the khattat (calligrapher), the logo does not conform to any traditionally accepted calligraphy method, and the design is in the category of free calligraphy.

ALSO READ: Experts: Logo on soles of shoes does not match word ‘Allah’ in aspect of ‘khat’ art

“It is possible that it was not intentional from the design aspect.”

The latest “victim” of overzealous imagination is Nike Air Max. A video claims that it reads “Allah” when two alphabets in its logo are obscured.

While this controversy first surfaced in 2019, it has now been circulated online again after the first two incidents gained wide public attention.

Although there has not been any call to boycott the Nike brand, lawyer Kokila Vaani Vadiveloo said the incidents render a bad impression of Malaysians and the country.

“Boycotts are usually motivated by a desire to pressure governments or companies to change an unbecoming behaviour and bring about positive results.

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“The boycotts are not meant to ruin businesses, negatively impact the economy or cause harm to the country. But this is what is happening in Malaysia as people’s imaginations run wild and they find fault in everything.”

Kokila said before jumping to conclusions, those making claims about “offensive” brands or logos should verify their information and seek clarification from the companies involved.

She said hastily spreading misleading information could cause division, misunderstanding and conflict in the country’s multiracial and multireligious communities.

“Encouraging transparency and accountability while respecting the rights of all parties would contribute to building trust and promoting unity among the people, who are of different backgrounds and beliefs.”

ALSO READ: KK Mart Group founder, wife charged over ‘Allah’ socks fiasco (Updated)

Lawyer Ragunath Kesavan said calling for boycotts seem to be a current trend to express dissatisfaction.

“However, any breach of the law should be left to the authorities to investigate. While policymakers should encourage companies to adopt more responsible business practices, it is also imperative for stakeholders, including the media, to denounce boycotts and the violence associated with it, as it tarnishes Malaysia’s reputation.”

Economist Prof Geoffrey Williams said social media influencers and politicians must stop supporting boycotts as it impacts the economy.

“The 3.7% economic growth in 2023 fell short of expectations, with a contraction of 2.1% in the fourth quarter compared with the third quarter.

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“This decline, which is the biggest since the Covid-19 pandemic, was influenced by short-term policies inherited from the previous government,” he said.

“With global demand not expected to improve this year, advocating boycotts against businesses would further dampen the economic outlook and frighten away investors.”

Williams predicted the economic growth this year to be between 3% and 4%, but warned that the fallout from boycotts could impede the country’s growth trajectory.

“Consumer spending, investor confidence and business investments play critical roles in sustaining the economy.

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“However, calling for boycotts every time someone is unhappy will surely frighten away investors, cause an economic slowdown, impact employment and undermine gross domestic product expansion,” he added.

“We are rebuilding our lives after the Covid-19 pandemic, with some still struggling to regain financial stability. So, let’s be a little more responsible and not force the lower income groups into deeper despair with unnecessary boycotts.”