Every year, barring Covid restrictions, Malaysia’s Japanese community organises the Bon Odori festival.
Despite being celebrated by the masses, recently, there has been some controversy surrounding the festival.
A month before the festivities Religious Affairs Minister, Idris Ahmad advised Muslims to deter from participating in the summer festival, saying that it is “swayed by elements of other religious faiths.”
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shar also chimed in and stated that the festival has been held in Malaysia for decades, and that it strengthens ties to organisations and communities in both Japan and Malaysia.
Even Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah had attended the festival himself, and confirmed that he “did not recognise any aspects that could deplete Muslim faith,” via his director, Datuk Mohd Shahzihan Ahmad. He later green-lit the festival and distinguished the difference between religion and culture.
“His Highness believes that several cultures are interconnected with religion, but that religion is not always a part of a culture.”
The Bon Odori festival was officially held on Saturday evening at the Shah Alam Sport Complex. According to The Star, an estimation of 35,000 participants from across Malaysia attended the festivity.
At a press conference, Japanese ambassador to Malaysia Katsuhiko Takahashi commented on how this year’s festival is celebrated in accordance with the 65th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between both countries.
“Japan highly appreciates Malaysia’s cultural diversity and tolerance. The diversity and tolerance have been an engine to promote bilateral relationships in all aspects including this Bon Odori festival.”
“This is simply a culture event. Of course, we open (Bon Odori) to everybody,” he said.
Even the Muda president attended the festivities, and he clearly had a good time enjoying the cultural performances and Japanese cuisine according to his tweets.
Rata-rata yang datang Bon Odori hanya nak makan dan lihat persembahan.
This is the beauty of our people. We celebrate different cultures.
Most importantly, the food will always bring us together.
Ja ne, jumpa lagi tahun depan! pic.twitter.com/GOnqvA6b2H
— Syed Saddiq (@SyedSaddiq) July 17, 2022
“I believe that Malaysians, regardless of race and religion, are moderates at heart. We do not put up with intolerance and the massive turnout was proof of that,” said the Muar MP.
It almost seems as if the massive turnout was a result of all the controversy that sparked earlier last month. A security personnel at the event was approached by The Vibes, and what he says sums it all up.
“Bad publicity is still publicity. The festival got a lot of attention from that and maybe the effect can be seen well enough today.”