KUALA LUMPUR, July 28 — The Oktoberfest event should not be openly celebrated and held as a festival open to the public, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Datuk Idris Ahmad.
In a Parliamentary written reply to DAP National Chairman Lim Guan Eng, Idris claimed that doing so would lead to social problems as alcohol can affect the harmony, order and safety of the community.
"With regards to Oktoberfest, all parties should respect the rules and regulations of Malaysia, based on Islam as the religion of the federation.
"Although non-Muslims are not prohibited from drinking alcohol, the Government is of the opinion that this allowing this festival to happen and making it open to the public should not happen as it will cause social problems, as alcohol is seen to affect the harmony, order and safety of the community," the MP from Islamist party PAS said.
Lim had asked the Prime Minister to state the government's stance in the celebration of Bon Odori and Oktoberfest, which are Japanese and German cultural events under the auspices of their respective embassies.
Aside from compromising the community's safety, Idris said that the effects of alcohol may lead to situations like domestic violence, road accidents, poverty, fighting, health problems, and even affect work performance.
PAS has consistently opposed Oktoberfest despite the event not being open to Muslims, with party president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang previously saying that the Bavarian festival disrespects Muslim sensitivities.
Previous iterations of Oktoberfest have been banned following complaints by PAS, coinciding with Umno’s overtures for cooperation with the Islamist party.
On Bon Odori, Idris said that while the government didn't stop the event from happening, but only advised Muslims from not attending the event, as a study by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) alleged that the festival contained elements from other religions and has ceremonies that are contrary to the teachings of Islam.
On June 6, Idris advised Muslims not to participate in the Bon Odori Festival that was to be held at the Shah Alam Sports Complex on July 16, as the festival contains elements of other religions.
This drew a sharp rebuke from Selangor Ruler Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Alhaj, who issued a statement to put the Religious Affairs Minister in place, suggesting that he was ignorant to warn Muslims against attending the Japanese cultural celebration.
Idris was told to attend the annual event himself "so that he could learn to make the distinction between culture and religion”, a sharp and direct censure rarely made by a monarch.
Bon Odori simply means the "Bon dance”, which is performed during Obon, an annual event when the Japanese honour the spirits of their ancestors.