KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Selangor has hosted the Bon Odori festival for decades, said Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari, who viewed the event as a celebration of Japanese culture, rather than religion.

Commenting on the religious affairs minister’s advice for Muslims to avoid the event, Amirudin said he will nevertheless confirm the matter with the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais).

"So, I don't know if there are religious elements or not, but let us see get the (feedback) from the authorities.

“If it's true (that there are religious elements), then we have to adhere to that advice. If not, then what to do?" he added during a press conference. His office shared recording of Amirudin's response with Malay Mail.

Earlier, he said he was made to understand that the Bon Odori fest was part of the country’s Look East policy, and was a cultural celebration to enhance ties between locals, Japanese businesses and those involved with the Japanese culture.

Yesterday, national news agency Bernama reported Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Idris Ahmad as advising Muslims not to participate in the Bon Odori Festival to be held at the Shah Alam Sports Complex in Selangor on July 16, claiming that it contains elements of other religions.

The PAS vice-president cited a study by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) that purportedly found religious elements in the Bon Odori Festival that were causing controversy online among Muslims.

Bon Odori simply means the "Bon dance", which is performed during Obon, the season observed by Japanese to honour the spirits of their ancestors.

Malaysia is one of just a handful of countries where the festival is observed outside of Japan. The festival was first organised here by Japanese expatriates to introduce their country’s culture, arts, and cuisine to Malaysians.

This year’s edition will the 46th Bon Odori in Malaysia, marking the return of the annual event after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.