Sarawak open to Oktoberfest, says state minister

Sarawak minister says Oktoberfest isn’t a beer drinking festival but a German culture and food festival, and adds that Muslims shouldn’t force their beliefs on non-Muslims.


PETALING JAYA: Sarawak is open to Oktoberfest being celebrated in the state as it is a culture and food festival, says Sarawak Tourism, Arts, Culture, Youth and Sports Minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah.

While opposition persists against the celebration of Oktoberfest in the Klang Valley, Karim said there was no issue with it being held in the state as long as it wasn’t promoted purely as a beer drinking festival as the event wasn’t just about that.

“In Malaysia, Oktoberfest has been misconstrued and promoted by pubs as a beer drinking festival.

“Since my school days, I’ve seen hotels in Sarawak organising Oktoberfest and I’m just puzzled why this has become an issue in 2017,” he told FMT.

Karim said he would disagree if anyone organised an alcohol drinking festival, as it had always been the government’s policy to discourage the consumption of alcohol, which includes the promotion of drinking alcohol.

“But is Oktoberfest purely a drinking festival? No, it’s not. It’s a food and culture festival, and for Germans, drinking beer isn’t uncommon.”

Karim said if non-Muslims wanted to celebrate Oktoberfest, they could do so, and whether or not they wanted to consume alcohol like the Germans would be up to them.

“Muslims can also celebrate Oktoberfest as a food and culture festival, just don’t consume alcohol.

“We must remember that Malaysia is a multi-religious and multiracial country. Muslims cannot force non-Muslims not to eat or drink food which they aren’t allowed to consume.”

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Karim said this was especially the case in Sarawak, where drinking alcohol was part of the culture of non-Muslims.

“If Muslims in Sarawak are not tolerant and try to force their beliefs on non-Muslims, we would see Sarawak’s united society breaking up.”

Recent objections against Oktoberfest began with calls from PAS for a halt to the Better Beer Festival 2017.

The event was initially slated to be held on Oct 6 and 7 at the Publika Shopping Gallery in Kuala Lumpur, but Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) rejected the organisers’ application to host the event, despite it being held in the city before.

Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun later said in a statement that the event was cancelled due to security reasons as militants were planning to sabotage the festival.

The event’s organisers, MyBeer Malaysia, said they had been told by the authorities that the beer fest was “politically sensitive”.

This followed opposition to the event by PAS, with the Islamist party’s central committee member Riduan Mohd Nor labelling it as a “vice festival” and claiming that such events could lead to Kuala Lumpur becoming known as Asia’s vice centre.

Earlier today, PAS also raised objections against the organisation of a German food and beverage festival by a shopping mall in Klang, Selangor.

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Bahagian pelancongan Malaysia merupakan salah satu sektor yang penting dalam ekonomi negara. Sehingga kini, sektor pelancongan merupakan sektor kelima terbesar negara selepas sektor perkhidmatan kewangan, kelapa sawit, borong dan runcit, gas dan tenaga, dan petroleum dengan menyumbang sebanyak RM36.9 bilion kepada Keluaran Negara Kasar (KNK).

Pun begitu pada peringkat awal selepas pasca kemerdekaan negara, kerajaan tidak memberi penekanan kepada sektor pelancongan. Kerajaan pada ketika itu lebih memberi tumpuan kepada pembangunan infrastruktur negara dan melawan ancaman communism. Selain itu, faktor ancaman dari luar seperti konfrantasi dengan negara jiran turut menjejaskan fokus kerajaan pada ketika itu. Ia serta merta melambatkan pekembangan sektor pelancongan di Malaysia.

Pada era tahun 60-an, sektor pelancongan masih belum memainkan peranan yang utama terhadap perkembangan ekonomi negara. Kerajaan pada ketika itu memberi tumpuan kepada sektor hasil bumi seperti bijih timah dan getah. Sektor hasil bumi tersebut telah menyumbang sebanyak 45% kepada keluaran Negara kasar (KNK) pada tahun 1970.