Into the month of October, the entire country is in a fix over whether beer festivals should be held.
In Germany, or anywhere else in this world, Oktoberfest is a merry celebration of food and drinks. Some six million liters of beer could be gulped down in Munich alone, enough to fill several Olympic-sized pools.
But here in Klang Valley, we simply lack this kind of generous appetite. When Oktoberfest was first celebrated here a few years back, we still had malls openly promoting their bottoms-up parties. But as some began to protest the indecency of drinking in public, the shows had to be hastily moved into dimly lit covered car parks in a spooky ambience that resembles more of an All Souls’ Day observation than Oktoberfest celebration.
But this year, local government permit was held back until last minute. Without the official go-ahead from the local authority and endorsement from the police, this year’s event might just have to be scrapped like that.
According to the politico-religious doctrines of Malaysia, any policy involving politics and religion is a one-way traffic. No turning back or compromise!
If the party is held back this year, having it come back next year is next to impossible!
That is exactly the way we are headed to as a result of Islamization!
Well, Oktoberfest is nothing more than a transplant of the German merry-making culture to Malaysia, in which local businesses find a good cause to promote their liquor sale and drinkers a good excuse and the right atmosphere to gulp down a few more mugs.
But even a market behavior reflects stark contrasts in the value systems of our Malaysian society.
To most non-Muslims, drinking is not a bad thing but a kind of necessity especially during a wedding feast, a family reunion dinner, or a casual weekend get-together with acquaintances.
Beer is consumed when we are happy or feeling down, when we are bored or are preoccupied with something thorny.
Drinking can be a good thing if we don’t get drunk, and if we refrain from drink driving or creating trouble.
Urban middle class, in particular the Chinese, are big fans of the Oktoberfest culture. Strangers are brought together by the alcohol in celebration, not unlike the football-watching crowd cheering in unison.
But to the Muslims, alcohol is a big no-no, the source of all vices outlawed by their religion.
When Muslims in this country become increasingly devoted to their faith, coupled with the religious fundamentalism heavily promoted by PAS, the continually expanding religious bureaucracy of the BN government and the emergence of Islamic renaissance elsewhere in this world, the Malaysian society is invariably led down the path of religionization.
In the past, Oktoberfest was the sole business of non-Muslim consumers, so long as Muslims were not involved, and would rarely trigger a contention.
But today, our mainstream Muslim society, the religious bureaucracy and political forces on both sides of the divide, no longer see Oktoberfest and other similar events as having nothing to do with them. They start to step in as they feel a threat such events are going to taint the overall sanctity of the society.
While you may argue that they are denying non-Muslims’ right to drink, they believe they are defending the well-being of the society.
In the end, the side with the strongest political clout will have its say.
Whether Oktoberfest can eventually be held will put the diverse Malaysian society to a stringent test, a tug-of-war between religious fundamentalism and secularism.
And it is obvious now which side has the upper hand!