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Beer Fest Ban: Why Is JAKIM Involved In Barring Tourists From Entering Malaysia?

The travel ban was announced following widespread news that a purported gay party was to be held in Malaysia following the cancellation of Better Beer Festival 2017 last week.

Cover image via Instagram @vickytheng / John Doe

In the aftermath of the Better Beer Festival controversy, it has emerged that the Immigration Department is planning to impose a travel ban on tourists who could be entering Malaysia for the beer festival and a rumoured "gay party"

Following the furore surrounding the cancellation of the annual craft beer convention, news of a "gay party" in Malaysia - supposedly leading up to the infamous White Party in Bangkok - began spreading on social media.

The Immigration Department announced on Sunday, 24 September, that it is working with the police and JAKIM to identify and "red-flag" potential attendees of both events under the Deputy Prime Minister's instruction

According to Immigration Department director-general Datuk Seri Mustafar Ali, the police and the Malaysia Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) are identifying the purported individuals and sharing information with the Immigration Department so they could be red-flagged in the system and served with the Not To Land (NTL) notice upon their arrival in Malaysia.

"Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had instructed me not to allow them to enter the country, and I had also conveyed the information to the 137 entry points managed by us," he said in a press conference at the Penang International Airport on Sunday.

"The beer festival or gay party is against our country’s culture and we will be strict in denying their entry," he added.

In that regard, MCA President Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai has expressed his surprise over JAKIM's involvement in the travel ban, saying that it is not up to them to decide whether or not non-Muslims should consume alcoholic drinks

Image via olivermcgee.org

Liow likened JAKIM's involvement in barring foreigners entering the country over the beer festival or purported gay party as "moral policing".

"For example, I am a vegetarian and I don't drink. But I respect other people's freedom of choice (whether or not they want to drink). It is my right (not to drink), but it is also others' right (to drink)."

"As such, it is our right to decide whether we want to drink or not. It is not up to the Immigration or JAKIM to decide whether we (non-Muslims) can drink," he was quoted as saying by Sin Chew Daily yesterday, 25 September.

Liow also questioned JAKIM's role in the Immigration Department's initiative to bar entry for foreigners who might be entering Malaysia for the beer fest and gay party

"I am surprised the Immigration's 'blacklist' (of foreigners to be denied entry) was said to have come from JAKIM. Why is JAKIM, who is in charge of Islamic affairs, overstepping its boundaries to moral-policing (non-Muslims)?" Liow said.

"I can understand if the 'blacklist' is given by the police out of security concerns, but not if it comes from JAKIM.

If they advocate terrorism or are trouble-makers, we should ban them, but if they come to drink beer, I think we should stand up for their rights and freedom as guaranteed under the Constitution," he added.

Meanwhile, it would appear that the furore over the purported "gay party" may be unfounded, as the organiser has released a statement saying that they had no intention whatsoever to bring the event to Malaysia

According to a New Straits Times report, a representative from Cloud 9 Inc. clarified that the White Party - Asia's largest gay circuit party - will only be held in Bangkok, Thailand and not in other countries.

"Cloud 9 holds the White Party franchise in Asia and has no intention of bringing the event to Malaysia. There is no White Party festival as claimed in the press in any part of Malaysia on Sept 30, or any (other) time," he said in an email to NST, adding that he hoped this would end the spread of false news on social media and other publications over the matter.

The Better Beer Festival 2017 was set to make a return for its sixth year before DBKL instructed the organiser to cancel the event due to "political sensitivity":

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