Malaysians urged to boycott US goods over Gaza conflict
Muslim groups on Friday urged Malaysians to boycott US goods such as Coca-Cola over the Gaza offensive, and an influential former premier said people working for Starbucks or McDonald's should quit.
Around 300 people held a noisy protest outside the National Mosque in Kuala Lumpur after Friday prayers to condemn Washington over its support for Israel and urge Arab countries to cut off oil supplies to the United States.
Shouting "Long live Islam, long live Palestine, destroy Israel!" they said Malaysians should boycott Coca-Cola, Colgate and Starbucks.
The boycott is spearheaded by the Malaysian Islamic Consumers Association, and the Muslim Restaurant Operators Association, which has removed Coca-Cola from the menu at thousands of eateries.
Addressing the crowd, ex-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said Malaysians "will not die if they do not use the US goods" and urged those working for US companies such as fast-food giant McDonalds to quit their jobs.
"I hope Starbucks and McDonald's employees will stop working there," he said.
"If you have the US dollar, please change to other currencies, or to our ringgit. When you stop using the US dollar its value will drop.
"They will become a bankrupt country and will not be able to produce weapons for Israel," Mahathir added.
The 82-year-old firebrand was a strident critic of the West during his two decades in power, and has continued to hit out since stepping down in 2003, seizing on the issue of conflict in the Middle East during his retirement.
In 2007 he unveiled plans for an unofficial war crimes tribunal to focus on victims of abuse in Iraq, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, saying the existing international court at The Hague was biased.
At least 5,000 people also protested outside the US embassy.
Israel launched its war against Hamas on December 27, killing almost 800 people since then, according to Palestinian medics.
Coca-Cola spoke out on Friday against any boycott of its drinks and other US goods, saying it would only hurt the local economy and citizens.
"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.
It said the beverage company employs some 1,700 Malaysians, 60 per cent of whom are Malay Muslims, who dominate the multicultural nation's population.
Malaysia's economy is largely export driven and the United States is its second-largest trading partner after neighbouring Singapore.
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