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Muslims Should Not Go To Bon Odori, Says Minister; Gets Flack From Literally Everyone

Muslims Should Not Go To Bon Odori, Says Minister; Gets Flack From Literally Everyone

Bon Odori is a yearly cultural festival first started in 1977 by The Japan Club of Malaysia.

Anne Dorall

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Datuk Idris Ahmad, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs), has said that Muslims should not go to the popular Japanese cultural event Bon Odori, according to Malay Mail.

Bon Odori is a yearly Japanese summer festival held in Malaysia by the Japan Club of Malaysia. This event features Japanese activities such as traditional dances, as well as Japanese food and merchandise stalls.

It first started out as a small affair for Japanese expatriates to immerse their children in Japanese culture in 1977. It has now grown into a much-awaited annual event of about 35,000 participants each year.    

Often times, participants will wear traditional Japanese clothing such as yukata (lightweight summer robes). Participants will also be able to watch or take part in dance performances.

Religious elements in the event?

Idris noted that a study by the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) found religious elements in the proceedings of the festival. Hence, JAKIM and the Religious Affairs Ministry are advising Muslims to not take part in the Bon Odori.

However, Shah Alam councillor Muhammad Shakir Amir has denied that Bon Odori has any religious ties. Instead, he claims that PAS has shown its ignorance and lack of understanding on cultural diversity in Malaysia.

People are upset… again

Not many are happy with the advice. Bon Odori has been around for many years without a hitch, and more importantly many find the reasoning to avoid a cultural festival weak at best.

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

While it has its roots in Shinto Buddhism, modern Japanese Bon Odori has lost its religious influences. Usually, Bon Odori is celebrated with a festival (matsuri), and is widely celebrated by most Japanese people simply as a fun event to attend.

Netizens defended the festival, saying that it is simply a good opportunity to rest and relax on the weekend.

Whether or not you plan to attend Bon Odori, the festival organizers urge the public to take public transportation or their free shuttle bus to reduce congestion.


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