Oktoberfest is back. But the religious politicians in this country want it banned

(CNN) – The world’s biggest beer festival is finally backside after a two-year drought, but politicians in a country still opposes back-to-back celebrations – and it’s not because pandemic.
“Although non-Muslims are not prohibited from drinking alcohol, (Malaysians) government Religious Affairs Minister Idris Ahmad, also a member of the conservative Muslim party PAS, commented that the festival should not be left open and public as it would cause social problems. .

While he clarified that his comment was about Muslims and that non-Muslims are still free to drink alcohol, he stated that beer, traditionally heavily drunk at Oktoberfest events, will only lead to “social problems.”

“Alcohol is considered to affect the harmony, order and safety of the community,” he said.

“Regarding Oktoberfest, all parties should respect Malaysia’s rules and regulations based on Islam as the federal religion.”

‘Not just chugging beer’

Originating in Munich, Germany, and held annually between September and October, Oktoberfest celebrates and promotes local Bavarian culture.

Beer is widely consumed during festivals and traditional German dishes such as bratwursts (pork sausages) and sauerkraut are served.

The festival has spread to many other parts of the world including Muslim-majority countries such as Palestine and parts of the Middle East.

But it is still an annual debate in Malaysia. A majority Muslim country, Malaysia practices a moderate form of Sunnis Islam But conservative attitudes have increased in recent years. About 63.5% of the population of 32 million is Muslim.

Religious groups such as PAS have repeatedly protested Oktoberfest events being promoted and held in the country, saying the Bavarian festival does not respect “Muslim sensibility” because of alcohol and other non-halal offerings publicly served. A local politician in 2017 even went a step further by smashing beer kegs in front of a government building in protest.

The events were previously banned after some public complaints but Oktoberfest has been held since the 1970s in Malaysia. In the capital Kuala Lumpur, local bars and breweries are gearing up for festivities.

But the Oktoberfest gatherings are the largest and liveliest in Penang, a very diverse state that is also home to a large international community.

Organizers from the Malaysian German Association in Penang told CNN that their Oktoberfest celebration will take place this year on October 21. Like in Germany, local festivals have been canceled for two days. last year because of the pandemic.

“There is no obvious threat to Oktoberfest celebrations among the German community in Penang,” the group said. “The desire of the local German community is to continue celebrating Oktoberfest. However, in recent years, some religious groups seem to have misunderstood Oktoberfest as just a wild party of beers. and want to see it banned.”

“This festival is not just about chugging beer but also a festival of fun,” they added.

“If these groups succeed, the continuity of the festival will be threatened.”

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Ian Teh / Bloomberg / Getty Images

The opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) rejected the minister’s recent comments calling for a ban on Oktoberfest.

“The Oktoberfest has been celebrated in Malaysia for over 50 years and has yet to cause any racial or religious tension in the community – despite this, unrelenting fear of the event persists. “, the DAP said in a statement. “not surprised” by recent complaints.

“As a multicultural and diverse country, our tolerance and mutual respect must be the way forward for Malaysia to thrive economically and socially. These are indeed challenging times. challenges for us and it is with sadness that PAS has chosen to focus their attention on Oktoberfest when clearly there are more pressing issues at hand.”

Festivalgoers have been looking forward to Oktoberfest celebrations next month.

Anisa Ahmad, a marketing executive based in Kuala Lumpur, has been to Oktoberfest events in various pubs around the city. Along with the Saint Patrick’s Day drinking sessions, she also enjoyed Oktoberfest for color and vibrancy.

“It’s another opportunity for Malaysians to hang out together and enjoy good food and drink,” she said.

“But it’s such a pity that an innocent event like Oktoberfest has to be politicized like anything else, which is really ridiculous. But hey, it means more beer for those of us who aren’t. don’t want to complain.”

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