JUNE 8 — After a hiatus of two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, plans are underway to celebrate Bon Odori, the Japanese cultural festival, in Selangor, Penang and maybe other places.
Both the Selangor and Penang state governments have given the green light for the festival.
It is not that the Bon Odori festival has suddenly been introduced, it has been held for a number of years before this.
The whole idea is to bring the Japanese community and Malaysians together in the larger interest of goodwill and harmonious relations.
The fact that such a festival might promote trade, investments and tourism might be incidental.
It is purely a cultural event.
It has nothing to do with the promotion of religious practices of the Japanese with roots in ancestor worship among non-practitioners.
The beginnings of this festival might have had religious elements but Bon Odori has evolved to the extent it has become a cultural event with cross-cultural contents.
In this respect, it is wrong or myopic of the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (religious affairs) Idris Ahmad to advise Muslims in the country to stay away from the festival.
Similarly, Penang Mufti Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor has asked Muslims not to participate in the event as it is polytheistic in character.
Yes, if you go back a few thousand years back to the days of the origins of the festival, religious elements might be discernible.
Which ethnic culture in the world is free of religious influence? It serves no purpose for the religious extremists in the country to evaluate Bon Odori at the time of its origin.
What it was before and what it is today might be vastly different.
They must look at the festival today as a purely cultural event.
Nothing less and nothing more.
Wan Salim is a reasonable and considerate man who should not jump to the defence of Islam when there is no apparent or perceived threat to the religion.
It is entirely up to Muslims whether they want to participate in the Bon Odori event or not as there is no compulsion whatsoever.
I don’t think there is a need on the part of the Islamic religious authorities to make a mountain out of a molehill.
Time is better spent on other pressing matters such as combating corruption and other social ills.
I am looking forward to the Bon Odori festival in Penang.
I am sure that my religious credentials as a Hindu would not be diluted or impaired by my participation.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.