MALAYSIA: RELIGIOUS MINISTER WANTS TO BAN OKTOBERFEST CELEBRATIONS
By Susan Lewis
Source: Malaysian-German Society
Malaysia’s religious affairs minister, Idris Ahmad, has suggested that Oktoberfest celebrations should be banned in Malaysia, casting doubts on the 48th edition of Penang’s Oktoberfest which is scheduled to return on 21 to 22 October after a two-year hiatus.
Idris recently told the lower house of Malaysian parliament that Oktoberfest has the potential to disrupt social harmony and safety and should therefore be banned.
He said non-Muslims are not forbidden from consuming alcohol, but Oktoberfest events can trigger social problems as alcohol is consumed openly in a festival setting.
Prior to this, Idris was criticised for telling Muslims to stay away from the Japan heritage Bon Odori event held in July in Selangor because it has elements of other religions.
This led to Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah asking the state Islamic Religious Department not to prevent any individuals from attending the festival as it is a cultural showcase organised by the Japanese community in Malaysia.
The religious minster’s call to ban Oktoberfest is causing distress to the multi-cultural Penang state, which is expecting a return of the festival on 21 and 22 October a two-year suspension.
The return of St Anne’s Feast in Penang in July has also met with warnings from the religious affairs minister.
Chairman of Penang Crime Consciousness and Public Safety Society, Datuk Mohamad Anil Shah Abdullah, said the government should display cultural tolerance and welcome different communities to celebrate their heritage.
He said years of having cultural events such as Oktoberfest, Bon Odori and St Anne’s Feast showed that Malaysia is a mature society where people from different backgrounds can live together.
“Oktoberfest, like other cultural events, is celebrated internationally. It is a social event over here and it also serves as a tourism attraction to connect Malaysians, the Germans and other communities from different backgrounds with each other,” said Mohamad Anil.
“This festival will give us the opportunity to learn and understand more about other cultures, and it should not cause any social disharmony.”
“As a mature society, we should be tolerant towards each other and accept other people’s cultures. The authorities such as the police are also capable of monitoring and handling such events,” added Mohamad Anil.
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