SABAH UMNO FORCED TO RESPECT NON-MUSLIMS: ORGANISERS RUSH TO DROP ‘ISLAMIC’ LABEL FROM KAAMATAN EVENT AS FURORE ESCALATES

KOTA KINABALU— The organisers of an “Islamic” Kaamatan festival here have agreed to drop the word from its event following concerns it may present the wrong impression to non-Muslims, a Sabah minister has confirmed.

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun claimed the event organiser, Nicholas Sylvester of the Hidayah Centre Foundation, had ”good intentions” in holding the event called “Kaamatan Islamik” for native Muslims converts.

“I conveyed to him our concern with the use of the term ‘Islamik.’ I told him that the use of it may create a wrong impression that the celebration is non-inclusive of others who are non-Muslims.

“Kaamatan should be celebrated by everyone, how or in what manner it’s celebrated is up to the organisers. Nicholas agreed to drop the word ‘Islamik’,” said Masidi.

Masidi, whose ministry has backed the event, told Malay Mail Online that the organiser’s intent was “honorable.”

“They are organising it to remind converts that they do not forsake their ethnic culture just because they have converted to the Islamic faith,” he said.

When asked to comment whether an “Islamic” Kaamatan would take away from the essence of the Kadazandusun harvest festival, Masidi said the organisers have a right to celebrate it according to their own faith.

“Isn’t theirs a thanksgiving too, the difference is in compliance with their religion? The churches too celebrate Kaamatan with no Bobohizan rituals, alcohol and Unduk Ngadau — nobody complains,” he said, referring to a beauty pageant held during the harvest festival.

Photos from the Hidayah Centre’s organised event showed several women dressed in a long, loose robe-like variation of the traditional Kadazandusun black-and-gold costume, but with their arms and heads covered.

Kaamatan, the Kadazandusun harvest festival, is largely rooted in the beliefs of the indigenous people who are giving thanks to their gods for a bountiful harvest.

The traditional old rituals have old pagan roots which has over the years given way as natives embraced Islam and Christianity.

However, many natives continue to retain their unique cultural identity, even though it may seemingly occasionally clash with their new faiths.

A Kadazandusun leader, who declined to be named said that the reality of today was that many natives are Christians and Muslims and have the right to celebrate Kaamatan, which had universal spiritual values.

“The Kaamatan spiritual values were founded upon our Momolian religion, which are universal and never claimed to monopolise spiritual mode and manner in expressing gratitude and thanksgiving to God,” the leader said.

“This is why our Kadazandusun community celebrated the first state level Kaamatan celebration with a Roman Catholic Corpus Christi procession way back in 1960 at St Michael’s Church Penampang. Our Catholic and other Christian denominations continue to celebrate Kaamatan in churches and parish halls.

“It is a reality that today we have a large community of natives who have embraced the Islamic faith. I think they are entitled to celebrate Kaamatan in their own spiritual way,” he added, referring to the Kadazandusuns.

However, he called on all natives to unite and to protect the sacred socio-spiritual integrity of Kaamatan and guard against sacrilegious programs or events.

Meanwhile, Penampang MP Darell Leiking said that government authorities should be careful not to sponsor any religiously-inclined event “disguised as a cultural celebration.”

“Kaamatan is and was at all times, a cultural celebration by all and should not be dictated by any religious practices be it Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and all other faiths.

“I fear a time in the not too long distant future where everything will subjected to a religious beliefs. Just that thought reflects a scary and bleak future,” he said.