After much ado regarding the long-celebrated Bon Odori festival set to take place in Shah Alam next month, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (Jais) has confirmed that the cultural ceremony has been green-lighted by the Selangor Sultan.
As per its director, Datuk Mohd Shahzihan Ahmad, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah summoned officers from Jais and the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) for a meeting earlier today.
They were collectively advised that all rulings must take into account the state’s residents’ diversification and individual belief systems.
“His Highness attended the event a few years ago and did not recognise any aspects that could deplete Muslim faith,” he explained, according to Malay Mail.
Mohd Shahzihan also asserted that the Sultan urged Jais and MBSA officers to attend the event and witness it for themselves.
“His Highness believes that several cultures are interconnected with religion, but that religion is not always a part of a culture.
“The statement also emphasised on the distinction between the act of worship and the act of observation.”
Yesterday, the Selangor state government had disclosed a similar viewpoint.
Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari noted that there had been no oppositions towards the Bon Odori festival before, simultaneously mentioning that the festival is domestically significant and can strengthen ties between Japan and Malaysia.
This came after the festival gained multiple bouts of religion-related criticism from influential persons across the country, as well as displeasure expressed by some netizens as the event’s poster featured a hijab-wearing woman clad in a traditional Japanese kimono.
The event first faced backlash when Religious Affairs Minister, Idris Ahmad advised Muslims against participation as he feared that they may be “swayed by elements of other religious faiths”.
Penang Mufti Datuk Seri Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor also stated that he believed the involvement of Muslims in the Bon Odori Festival could encourage “syirik” (polytheism).
The celebration was originally established here by Japanese expats with the intention of paying tribute to their ancestors as per tradition, while exposing and introducing Malaysians to their nation’s values, art history, and food culture.
This year’s version will be Malaysia’s 46th Bon Odori, highlighting the annual event’s return after a two-year hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as marking the 40th anniversary of Malaysia’s Look East policy, which encourages citizens and local authorities to draw inspiration from Eastern values and ethics.