Malaysia’s New Islamic Airline Will Adhere to Islamic Law


burkaThe short domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s biggest city, begins with a recital of the Muslim Prophet’s supplication before his travel.

The passengers — most of them Muslims — cup their hands, as a crew member murmurs a short prayer over the loudspeaker just before takeoff.

Malaysia’s Rayani Air took to the skies over the weekend with a clear bailiwick. It is the country’s first Islamic airline, offering flights that adhere to Islamic rules, including prayers, no serving of alcohol or meals with pork, and a strict dress code for Muslim female flight attendants.

The idea for Rayani Air grew out of much-publicized complaints by conservative Muslims who believed that two major air disasters for the national Malaysia Airlines — Flight 370 that went missing in March 2014 and Flight 17 downed a few months later over Ukraine — were caused by Allah’s wrath. Their solution: Airlines must adopt strict Islamic customs to avoid divine retribution.

The reaction to the disasters, and the creation of the airline that operated its inaugural flight on Sunday, is an example of rising hard-line Islamic values in Malaysia, where Muslims account for about 60 percent of the country’s 30 million people.

“We are answering the call of many Malaysians who wanted an Islamic airline,” Rayani’s managing director, Jaafar Zamhari, told The Associated Press. “We are not talking about being a holy airline or flying to holy destinations. We just want to provide an alternative to travelers, but we are open to all races and religions.”
Ironically, the people who answered the call of conservative Islam and started Rayani Air are Hindus, perhaps an indication that a business opportunity knows no religious boundary. The founders of the airline, which currently flies to three domestic destinations using two Boeing 737s, are Ravi Alagendrran and his wife, Karthiyani Govindan. They used parts of their first names for the airline’s name.