A Local Business Has Been Facing Decades-Long Racist Attacks Due To Its Brand Name

PA Food Sdn Bhd has been in Malaysia for 35 years and has 70 certified halal products. But social media users often allege that the brand is not halal.

Cover image via PA Food & Sokong Islam

For over a decade, a Malaysian brand called Pau Ahmad has been a victim of boycotts over allegations that it's not halal, among other things

A simple 'Pau Ahmad' search on Google Images will show you several results on why you should boycott the brand.

Pau Ahmad's posters are often covered with a big red cross. Other times, two big 'boycott' words will sandwich their company's visuals.

These posters with red crosses are often found in 'Sokong Produk Bumiputera Islam', 'Buy Muslim First', and 'Boikot Barangan Cina DAP' websites or social media groups.

Image via Sokong Islam

"Pau Ahmad is Chinese-owned. It's not Malay. Don't be fooled," a headline of an undated blog post reads.

The blog post concocts the story of a businessman and an ustaz visiting the Pau Ahmad factory in the hopes of meeting 'Ahmad', a person they presumed is the owner of the company.

When they arrive at the factory, they are greeted by a woman who is wearing a headscarf. The woman then brings the duo on a tour around the factory where they meet a Chinese manager.

"We were shocked that why there is a Chinese manager in the factory. We were brought to the office. The ustaz and I then saw a Datuk Kong shrine and all of the employees were Chinese," the story continues.

"We asked the Chinese manager, 'Eh, Where did Ahmad go?' Slowly, she informed us that Ahmad took the boss out."

"We were even more confused. If Ahmad brought the boss out, then who is the boss? We asked again, 'what is the boss' name?'"

"Alamak, it's boss Ah Chong apparently. Actually, the 'Pau Ahmad' name was used for the brand because it's the name of the boss' driver."

"Oops, got hit by another."

Ahmad, in Malaysian slang, is often used to refer to a chauffeur.

Of course, nothing in the story is true.

While PA Food Sdn Bhd, the company behind Pau Ahmad, is a family-run business, the management team is made up of people from different races, and 'Ahmad' is clearly not a driver's name there.

Image via PA Food

Marketing executive Adam Eliaz told SAYS the story is entirely fictional, saying, "It is false accusation because our production, research and development, and quality assurance team is majority Malay."

As for the name 'Pau Ahmad', Adam said it was given to the owner of PA Food, Ding Hong Sing, by the community in Kajang when he first started out his business in 1985.

"We don't have any documents to prove that we are the first (certified) halal pau in Malaysia. But our owner did explain to us that he made halal pau because there was no halal pau available during his time," Adam told us while debunking the myth behind the brand name.

"Although the halal market is big, he also wanted all Malaysians to enjoy Chinese cuisine. Basically, the idea was to use food as glue to unite Malaysians."

"Before this, he just delivered the pau using his own van and did not have any brand name. The Malay community in Kajang, who were his customers, was the one who called him Pau Ahmad because he was very close to the Malay community."

Hence, it's possible that the 'Pau Ahmad' name was given to Ding because he worked as a 'chauffeur' for pau.

On the question of why the logo looks like a mosque dome, Adam said, while laughing, that the logo is actually shaped after a pau, not a mosque dome.

In their latest marketing campaign to promote siew mai products, calls for boycotts began floating again

Image via Instagram

PA Food approached three local influencers β€” @leezaramzi, @beby_toratora, and @mori_said β€” to create siew mai tasting videos.

While the Instagram posts gathered thousands of likes, a handful of comments told netizens not to buy Pau Ahmad products, citing that the brand is run by a Chinese man and that the products could be non-halal.

"Pau Ahmad's owner is Chinese, right?" read a comment, while another accused, "I think I heard Pau Ahmad is not halal. It only uses halal and packaging that looks Malay to attract people to buy. Is it true? Please check again."

These comments are found in the influencers' videos mentioned above.

Image via Instagram

If that was not enough, PA Food's November marketing campaign has reinvigorated a boycott movement in a Facebook group with almost 70,000 members.

"Pau Ahmad woi. Your product is halal, but this is not a Muslim or Bumiputera product," wrote a group member in a post published on Saturday, 14 November.

"We fight to live by using Muslim products. Next time, use la a product name that goes Pau Ah Ken Chengkwat or something."

The comment section of the post is filled with racist remarks, from tying the company to political party DAP, to making comparisons to a recent case of OldTown White Coffee being accused of serving pork, and calling others to start a mass boycott.

In a statement to SAYS, the company's marketing team stated that they have faced decades-long racism towards their brand β€” and that they have been rendered helpless by these attacks.

PA Food is not an isolated incident. Many local brands in the past have suffered the same fate.

McDonald's Malaysia is often targeted in these attacks, Dutch Lady was once a victim, and the recent case of OldTown White Coffee is another.

There is even a study published in the Journal of Islamic Marketing this year that explores "the effect of fake news in marketing halal food".

"I understand that people may get offended due to the Ahmad name," Adam said in response to the racism issue PA Food faces.

"Just [that] we all feel uneasy when they use harsh words, make false accusations and unnecessarily racist comments. Some people can reply properly when we explain, but the problem is among the extremist ones."

Other than selling pau and siew mai, the company also produces other local delicacies, such as roti canai, spring rolls, samosas, noodles, and more.

Image via PA Food

Recently, OldTown White Coffee was raided following accusations of it serving pork:

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