The Muslim Consumers Association of Malaysia has called for the country's 7,000 Muslim restaurant owners to boycott Coca-Cola products. The call comes just before the peak period of the Aidil Fitri celebrations which take place over a long weekend beginning this Thursday.

The group said that Coca-Cola is a symbol of Western dominance over developing countries. The association is seen as a marginal group which has previously concerned itself with issues such as Muslim dietary requirements and the posting of prayer signs, and is not part of the Federation of Malaysian Consumer Associations. But analysts say an escalation of the boycott could threaten the jobs of local people employed by Coca-Cola in Malaysia, some 60% of which are Muslim.

Coca-Cola Co., in collaboration with its partner in the region, Fraser & Neave, has invested around $61m in Malaysia over the past five years. It employs some 1,700 people in the country. "Anything like this on an extended scale would certainly unnerve foreign investors, especially at a time when the world is watching Malaysia very closely as one of the few moderate and progressive Muslim countries," said Rajeev Malik of JP Morgan Chase in Singapore.

Coca-Cola Malaysia declined to put a figure on the possible cost to the company. "I think that at this point in time, we are just trying to understand the objective of this boycott," said Mohamed Kadri, public affairs and communications director at Coca-Cola Malaysia.

Coca-Cola in Atlanta issued a statement, affirming its neutrality when it comes to religious, country or political affiliations. "Given the local nature of the Coca-Cola business, we believe that calls for the boycott of our products are not the appropriate way to further political causes, as they primarily hurt the local economy, local businesses and local citizens," Coca-Cola said.