Rayani Air : Malaysia’s new Islamic airline takes off

December 23, 2015 5:39 pm

 Rayani
Air offers 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. Photo / AP

The short domestic flight from Kuala Lumpur, ’s biggest city,
begins with a recital of Prophet Muhammad’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 – 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:
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.”

Rayani Air flight attendants pray before departure at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Photo / AP
Rayani Air flight attendants pray before departure at Kuala Lumpur International Airport. Photo / AP
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.
Alagendrran or his wife couldn’t be immediately
reached for comments, but in remarks to local media, he had said that
“anyone wishing to travel in a modest and alcohol-free environment will
feel right at home.”
On a 55-minute flight Tuesday (delayed by
two hours) from Kuala Lumpur to the northeastern city of Kota Baru, more
than 100 passengers were greeted by Muslim female flight attendants
wearing black headscarves, long pants and lime-green jackets. A prayer
was recited before takeoff and passengers were served halal food, where
animals are slaughtered according to Islamic procedures.
At least one passenger said she chose the airline because of its Islamic credentials.
“It’s
quite important for me because first of all, I am a Muslim, and second,
Malaysia is an Islamic country,” said Che Masnita Atikah, a 23-year-old
student. “It’s quite important to have this kind of airline to
represent Malaysia and its image as an Islamic country.”
Rayani Air is the fourth Islamic airline in the world after Royal Brunei Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines and Iran Air.
Jaafar said that male and female passengers are not segregated, and that there is no dress code for travelers.
“Even if they come in shorts, they are most welcome,” he said. “We respect the differences among us.”

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