‘Sexy’ dance in Buddhist temple rattles Kelantan politicians

Mustafa K. Anuar

People of other faiths apparently gatecrash a Loy Krathong festival concert at a Buddhist temple in Bachok. – Facebook pic, December 1, 2023.

Commentary by Mustafa K. Anuar

THE Loy Krathong festival concert that was held at the Wat Pathumviharn Buddhist temple in Bachok, Kelantan recently caught the attention of certain curious Muslims in the state.

More than that, the organiser of the festival, which has been held for the past 29 years virtually without a hitch, faces the prospect of being fined up to RM10,000.

The heavy penalty may be imposed by Kelantan authorities if the organiser is found to have flouted conditions stipulated in the state’s Entertainment Control Enactment.

A Thai singer and dancers in the concert were said to have clad scantily. There’s the rub, which seemed to have increased the temperature in the PAS-run state.

Kelantan PKR women chief Nor Azmiza Mamat was adamant that the organiser had crossed the line, especially in a Muslim-dominated state.

To understand where such altercations came from, we must place her condemnation of the concert in the larger context of her party and PAS competing for the hearts and minds of their Malay-Muslim constituents. 

It would seem that the Siamese and Buddhist communities were, unfortunately, caught in the holier-than-thou crossfire between PKR and PAS.

This brouhaha came on the heels of the controversial Coldplay concert that was held in Kuala Lumpur despite objections from Muslim quarters, particularly PAS. The Madani administration permitted it. 

Fearing that this incident would unnecessarily spark racial tension, chief priest CM Chee of the Buddhist temple understandably called for cool heads to prevail.

He said that concerts were held to attract the young people from the Thai and Buddhist communities to the temple, mingle with the priests and learn about religious practices.

In other words, holding concerts is one of the ways the temple authorities use to try to lure their youth, which partly explains why posters about the event were only written in the Thai language.

The Loy Krathong festival is a traditional religious celebration for the Siamese community in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore who are generally Buddhist.

This issue begs a few questions, though. For one thing, if it is true that the concert organiser had indeed contravened the conditions stipulated in the permit, should the organiser be subjected to rules crafted by people whose values and belief system are different?

Put it another way, wouldn’t applying your measuring rod to a different set of people be problematic? 

Secondly, the concert was meant to be a closed-door affair, and only for the benefit of the Buddhist devotees. It was out of bound to outsiders.

Hence, people of other faiths, particularly Muslims, who apparently gate-crashed despite the Rela guard reportedly trying to stop them, could be considered as transgressing the limits of the private event.

So, the next question is, shouldn’t such intruding Muslims be hauled up by the state authorities – instead of penalising the concert organiser?

By the same token, should organisers of Hungry Ghosts Festival, for instance, be imposed fines because there are times when scantily clothed singers strut their stuff on the makeshift stage in the full view of a few unexpected Muslims in the audience?

The cynics might mischievously call for the surreal help of “ghostbusters” as a way of solving this supposed conundrum. But this suggestion is clearly insensitive to the cultural practices of the people concerned.

It should be obvious that there are certain ground rules, such as mutual understanding and respect and tolerance, that need to be observed by people living in a diverse society such as ours.

Breaching these rules may disrupt precious bridge-building endeavours. – December 1, 2023.

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