KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 24 ― Several Muslim groups here have vowed to foil any attempt by Hooters to open an outlet in Malaysia, accusing the American restaurant chain of an “evil” ploy to create discord and destroy the conservative local culture.
The groups said, however, that they were confident that Hooters would likely never open its doors in Malaysia due to strict regulation here against obscene entertainment.
“This is a step that can bring chaos to the country’s harmony. It is meant to create a continuous clash,” Abdullah Zaik Abd Rahman, president of Islamist group Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), told Malay Mail Online in a text message.
“I believe there is an evil hand behind the move. They are deliberately trying to stir anger,” he added referring to Hooters, and urged the authorities to act swiftly on the matter.
Abdullah predicted that should Hooters formally attempt to open a Malaysian outlet, Muslims who protest the move would inevitably be labelled fanatics and extremists.
Echoing the sentiment, Pembela chairman Mohamed Hafiz Mohd Nordin said “crazy people” were behind Hooters’ expansion plan.
“This is the work of ‘crazy people’… Hooters will become ‘haunted’ if they try to plant roots in this Muslim country… Don’t ever dream about it!!” he told Malay Mail Online.
The Pembela chairman did not explain what he meant by “haunted”, however, though he later said that he was merely being sarcastic.
Malay Mail Online reported yesterday plans by Hooters of America LLC to open up 30 outlets over the next six years in Southeast Asian locations like Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
The move, according to the firm’s statement on Business Wire, is part of Hooters’ development agreement with international franchisee Destination Resorts Co Ltd.
Hooters’ first foray into Asia was in Singapore in December 1996.
Weighing in on the news, Datuk Nadzim Johan of Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia (PPIM) labelled the plan “illogical” due to the sexual nature of Hooters’ dining concept.
“Their plan does not gel, because we have moral guidelines… We will hold demonstrations in front of the outlet,” he added, when asked of PPIM’s plan should an outlet opens.
“I am confident that the government will not allow Hooters in Malaysia… We are strongly against its existence in Malaysia and will act strictly if there are parties working towards it,” said Mohamed Hafiz.
The Hooters name is a double entendre that refers to women’s breasts, as well as the company’s logo of an owl, a bird known for making “hooting” sounds.
Its wait staff, who are primarily young, voluptuous girls in revealing outfits, are referred to as “Hooter girls”.
The restaurant serves typical all-American grub including hamburgers, steaks, sandwiches, seafood platters and a variety of appetisers, and is famous for its specialty, the “Hooters buffalo-style chicken wings”.
According to the restaurant’s website, the chain currently has 430 outlets in 28 countries. Almost all Hooters restaurants have alcoholic beverage licenses.
In January last year, several leaders in Muslim-majority Malaysia lodged protests over reports that world-famous Hard Rock Cafe was planning to open an outlet in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital.
Responding to objections by Malay-rights group Perkasa, authorities here said should the franchise, which is known as a live music venue that serves alcohol, ever open its doors in Putrajaya, it would have to abide by regulations set by the local council .
The council’s guidelines includes, among others, a ban on the sale of alcohol and obscene entertainment.