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LETTER | Selangor lauded for liberal attitude on Bon Odori festival

LETTER | We, in G25, are pleased to note that Selangor state is taking a liberal attitude compared to Jakim and the Penang mufti on those interested in attending and enjoying the Japanese cultural dance celebration of Bon Odori.

Although this celebration has its roots in ancient Japanese religious rites, it’s a dance which has evolved over the centuries into a social celebration among the Japanese into a festival where families have a reunion, along with celebrating the summer harvest.

This festival is also celebrated by the Japanese in countries where they have close trade, economic and social relationships, like Malaysia. Thousands of Malaysians have studied in Japan, have intermarried with Japanese and have business joint ventures with Japanese multinational corporations. They have learned to appreciate these cultural performances, and enjoy watching and even participating in them

In Southeast Asian cultures, especially in nearby Java and Thailand, and in some communities of Sabah and Sarawak and also among our Orang Asli, there are festivals and traditional dances which are celebrated to this day as a legacy of their ancestral past. The Muslims living around these communities enjoy joining the festivities as they have become part of their normal life.

Unfortunately, the religious authorities in some states have banned the mak yong and wayang kulit by issuing fatwas which decree that as they originate from ancient Hindu folklore, depicting gods and demons, they are haram for Muslims to enjoy for entertainment. Similarly, Muslims are discouraged from celebrating Christmas and Valentine’s Day because of their Christian origin.

Malaysian Muslims like to be as free as other communities in leading their social life. Muslims worldwide are already split by sectarian differences in their understanding of the religious texts. Let us Muslims in Malaysia have the freedom to enjoy the great diversity of the cultures and festivals of the various races in our lovely country.

G25 is confident that among Malaysian Muslims who participate in these festivals (which today are purely cultural and not religious), their “akidah” or faith is not affected in any way. Additionally for the Bon Odori, this cultural festival has been celebrated in Malaysia since 1977, and it is perplexing if after 45 years, it is now disallowed.

Malaysia’s greatest asset is its racial and religious diversity and with the openness of our country to foreign trade, education and international travel, we benefit from the cross-cultural contacts with the world. Let us celebrate this unique cultural diversity to make it a force for national unity, stability and prosperity.

G25 appreciates the family orientation of the Bon Odori festival. By bringing families together in a reunion, it is in line with our national aspiration of “Keluarga Malaysia” which is promoted by the prime minister.

G25 is an NGO of individuals, rich with experience in various fields with diverse views but a common goal and common vision.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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