In a story that has gone viral for its shocking racist undertones, a Malay-Indian Muslim woman in Singapore has described in her Facebook post how she and her Indian Muslim husband were very rudely — the word she has used is “repulsively” — driven away from a Ramzan snack stand at the NTUC FairPrice supermarket located in Our Tampines Hub.
The post has so far got 1,000 reactions on Facebook. Also, NTUC FairPrice issued an apology statement on Facebook yesterday, stating that it “would like to apologise for the incident” and had “since engaged the couple to address their concerns and have closed this matter amicably”.
The story was posted by Farah Nadya, 35, who was out shopping with her husband Jahabar Shalih, 36. According to the post about her experience, the couple was browsing groceries etc at the supermarket run by the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) on April 9, when they spotted a stand where Muslim shoppers were being gifted small iftar snacks in the spirit of Ramzan.
They stopped to see what was happening, and Jahabar began reading the stand board that said “Iftar Bites from Fair Price”. At that moment, a male employee of NTUC FairPrice supermarket came up to the couple. Farah’s post said that “…one of the Fairprice staff approached Jahabar and repulsively mentioned, “Not for INDIA, not for India”.
Farah wrote: “Jahabar was in disbelief and exclaimed, ‘WHAT??’. The staff repeatedly said, ‘Not for India, don’t take. Go away!’ So basically he tried his best to shoo us away!”
After the Facebook post got widely noticed, Jahabar was interviewed by CNA on the phone, and he reportedly said that during this unpleasant episode, the supermarket employee told him, “No India, only Malay!”
He said that the Facebook post written by his wife was meant not to discredit the employee concerned but more to clarify things for their children, especially his five-year-old son, who saw the incident and had questions about it.
‘The top people tell me to say like this’
Farah wrote in her story that despite this offensive behaviour, Jahabar spoke politely to the FairPrice employee, trying to explain that the iftar snacks ought to be for all Muslims, not for any specific groups. The employee retorted that he was only doing what he was told to do.
In her post, Farah said: “As appalled as Jahabar and I were, Jahabar stood there calmly to nicely explain to him… ‘Uncle, next time don’t say like that. This is for all Muslims. Don’t say Indian or Malay who can take or can’t take. Not all Malays are Muslims and some Indians can be Muslims.’
“And guess what this staff retorted???!! [He said] ‘I don’t know. I no education, the top people tell me to say like this. I don’t know. Just go away.’”
Deeply hurt and shocked by this treatment, she wrote: “Dear Fairprice SG, this is incredibly distasteful and we can’t even express how shocked we are. My husband is Indian-Muslim and I’m Malay-Indian and we’re both Muslims. Guess what’s the best part? We were not even intending to take the free goodies but just stopped by the stand to applaud such an inclusive initiative. But I guess we spoke too soon. Come on Fairprice SG… This is 2023. I’m sure we can do better!”
The NTUC FairPrice apology statement said: “We take this matter seriously and would like to apologise for the incident. We have since also counselled our employee accordingly. We would like to clarify that Iftar Packs are offered free of charge to all Muslim customers during the month-long Ramadan period.”