Wall Street Journal Looks Into Why Malaysia Is Banning Halloween, Oktoberfest And Dogs

A string of events involving Muslim groups calling to protect the sensitivities of Malay Muslims in the nation have caught the attention of political analysts at The Wall Street Journal.

  • Over the past month, Malaysia has seen Muslim groups calling for a ban on Oktoberfest, "I Want To Touch A Dog Event" and Halloween

    • Muslim leaders recently criticized a dog-petting event in Kuala Lumpur, accusing the organizer, himself a Muslim, as spreading un-Islamic practices. Dogs are considered unclean in some interpretations of Islam. Oktoberfest beer celebrations, while aimed at Malaysia’s large ethnic-Chinese and Indian populations, have also been criticized.

      wsj.com
  • On 28 October, The National Fatwa Council issued a fatwa prohibiting Muslims from celebrating Halloween

    • Muslims are now prohibited from celebrating the Halloween festival traditionally held at end of this month, according to an edict released by the National Fatwa Council today. Based on the fatwa released on its website, the council has categorised Halloween as a Christian celebration of the dead and against Islamic teachings, and is urging Muslims to pray for their deceased instead.

      themalaymailonline.com
    • “The Halloween celebration is clearly against the values of Shariah,” said the council, referring to Islamic laws and codes. “It cannot be celebrated by Muslims. To remember those who have passed away, Islam suggests the practices of reciting doa (prayers) and Quran.” Despite declaring Halloween to be a Christian festival, the council noted that it is now celebrated through costume parties, trick-or-treating, lighting bonfires, visiting haunted locations, pranks, and horror story-telling.

      themalaymailonline.com
  • Political analysts at The Wall Street Journal view this string of events as an attempt by some Malay groups to use Islam to hold on to the reins of power

    • But while Islamic beliefs have seen a renaissance in Malaysia, as they have done in other Muslim countries around the world, political analysts say what’s really going on here is an attempt by some of the country’s ethnic-Malay majority to use Islam to ensure they hold onto the reins of power here, as they have done since independence from Britain over 60 years ago.

      wsj.com
  • They attribute the controversy over Islam to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim who is championing for a more liberal and pluralistic Malaysia. To Muslim conservatives, Anwar is seen as a stooge of the West.

    • A good portion of the broader controversy over Islam in Malaysia revolves around Mr. Anwar, 67. While a Muslim himself, he is viewed with distrust by some Muslim conservatives who fear his blossoming multiracial opposition movement will open the door to a more liberal, pluralistic Malaysia where Islam—and the Malay majority—might lose its prestige.

      wsj.com
    • Figures such as Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, president of Islamic lobby group Malay Muslim Solidarity, known by its Malay acronym ISMA, describe Mr. Anwar as a socialist or, worse, a stooge of the West.

      wsj.com
  • With the May 13 1969 riot still fresh in mind, others worry Anwar will upset the delicate racial balance of the country where Muslims make up 60%

    • Some older Malaysians worry that Mr. Anwar risks upsetting the delicate racial balance in a country where 60% of the 30 million population is Muslim Malay, but where much of the economic wealth flows to ethnic-Chinese-owned businesses. The memory of race riots in 1969 still resonates deeply.

      wsj.com
  • Simply put, the rise in Islamic rhetoric is a matter of racial politics

    • Briefly put, the rise in Islamist rhetoric in Malaysia is racial politics by another name.

      wsj.com
    • “Malay supremacy was the old school. People like Abdullah Zaik and others like him belong to the new school, and that’s Islamist supremacy,” says James Chin, a professor at the Malaysian campus of Australia’s Monash University. “It’s potentially more volatile.”

      wsj.com
  • The Wall Street Journal warns that with calls for Bible burning, introduction of hudud, and the growing influence of religious authorities, temperatures are definitely rising

    • Temperatures are rising, though. Prominent Malays such as Mr. Abdullah Zaik have described ethnic-Chinese and Indians as intruders and invaders, despite many Chinese and Indian Malaysians tracing back their ancestry in the country for generations. Ibrahim Ali, the head of a Malay-rights group called Perkasa, has called Malay-language Bibles to be burned.

      wsj.com
    • Divisions are appearing within Mr. Anwar’s own opposition coalition, too. The Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party is one of the main members of Mr. Anwar’s People’s Alliance. While the party has made common-cause with the opposition’s platform of publicizing and tackling allegations of corruption, some of its more conservative members are pressing for the introduction of strict hudud Islamic laws in Malaysia, including punishments such as amputation or stoning.

      wsj.com
    • Religious authorities in Malaysia’s various states are exercising growing influence, occasionally embarrassing the national government. Earlier this month, for instance, a young Malaysian activist fled the country after posting critical statements about some of the country’s Malay sultans--regional monarchs whose role is to defend the Islamic faith, among other largely ceremonial tasks.

      wsj.com
  • The nation was surprised when the Attorney-General's Chambers ruled that Ibrahim Ali's threat to burn Bibles is not seditious but a matter of defending Islam. Even former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir has defended the controversial decision.

  • On the other hand, prominent Muslims politicians such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Khalid Samad who have spoken out in defence of non-Muslims had been criticised by religious conservatives

    • Khairy, who is also the Youth and Sports Minister, yesterday reiterated his personal stand that Ibrahim’s call to burn bibles is seditious in nature. “If it’s my personal opinion, ….a statement to burn other people’s kitab (holy scriptures), that is sedition. Imagine if there is anyone who said the same about Al-Quran, that will certainly be sedition,” he was quoted saying by The Star’s Malay language portal Mstar yesterday after chairing an Umno Youth exco meeting.

      themalaymailonline.com
    • Perkasa Youth chief Irwan Fahmi Ideris issued a dare to Khairy, challenging him to get the Umno Youth wing to endorse the opinion that Ibrahim had committed sedition. “Since a few cases where pig’s head and pork meat was thrown at a few mosques and prayer rooms, KJ is not seen at those mosques and prayer rooms. But when a church is burned, KJ is among the earliest ones to appear,” Irwan claimed, referring to the Youth and Sports Minister by his moniker.

      themalaymailonline.com
    • PAS lawmaker Khalid Samad also defended the Oktoberfest event, saying that Muslims have no right to tell non-Muslims what they can or cannot eat and drink, despite being criticised by his own party colleagues and religious conservatives. PAS lawmaker Khalid Samad also defended the Oktoberfest event, saying that Muslims have no right to tell non-Muslims what they can or cannot eat and drink, despite being criticised by his own party colleagues and religious conservatives.

      themalaysianinsider.com
  • At his sodomy hearing, Anwar Ibrahim said that the rising number of racial and religious slurs reflect the government's willingness to "allow a deepening atmosphere of intolerance" in the country

    • Speaking before the final appeal hearing in his sodomy trial, which began on Oct. 28 and is set to continue on Friday, Mr. Anwar complained that rising number of racial and religious slurs being bandied around Malaysia reflect the Malaysian government’s willingness to allow a deepening atmosphere of intolerance in the country. “It has been very disconcerting,” he said.

      wsj.com

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