Sabah harvest festival organisers apologise for 'Islamik' title

Desmond Davidson

A man in traditional Dusun costume drinks tapai at Kamaatan, the Sabah harvest festival. – CEphoto, Uwe Aranas, May 8, 2017.

Organisers today apologised for adding the word “Islamik” to Kaamatan, the Sabah harvest festival, and have dropped it from the cultural event central to the ethnic Kadazan Dusun Murut community.

The organisers were accused of trying to turn Kamaatan, which has its roots in pagan-animistic belief as thanksgiving to the various gods for a bountiful harvest, into a Muslim festival.

“It was quite unnecessary really, for the word ‘Islamik’ to be there,” Nicholas Sylvester, who chairs the Sabah branch of the Hidayah Centre Foundation, told The Malaysian Insight.

The centre is the welfare organisation for converts.

Nicholas, who also chairs the pro-tem committee of Malaysian Momogun Muslim Association, officially Pertubuhan Momogun Muslim SeMalaysia, one of the sponsors of the “shariah compliant festival”, blamed “lower ranking officials” for inserting that one word that had sparked the brouhaha.

Nicholas said the event was now officially known as “Kaamatan Harmoni” to reflect the organisers’ true intention of getting Sabahans of all religious beliefs to celebrate together, minus the food and drink forbidden to Muslims.

“That’s why we have dropped that ‘Islamik’. It was never our intention to turn Kaamatan into an Islamic religious thing or something divisive.

“What we meant was, we want to celebrate it within our religious guideline.”

In a media statement today, Nicholas said: “We have no bad intentions or other objectives in organising this event”.

He also stated the association was open to dialogue with anyone on the issue “in the interest of harmony and national integration”.

The event organised by Hidayah Centre Foundation will take place in Penampang and Keningau this Saturday, Tamparuli on May 14, Kudat on May 16, culminating in a two-day finale in Kundasang on May 20 and 21.

The brouhaha started when photos of women dressed in a variation of the traditional black-and-gold Kadazandusun costume, but with their arms and heads covered up, were circulated on social media.

Sabah Tourism Minister Masidi Manjun has said that the festival organisers’ intentions were “honourable” as they were reminding Muslim converts of their roots.

The event has the support of Masidi’s ministry, the Sabah Islamic Religious Affairs Department and the Islamic Development Department Sabah.

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

Masidi said he did raise his concern over the use of the word “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-Muslim.

“Kaamatan should be celebrated by everyone; how and in what manner it is celebrated is up to the organisers,” he said. – May 8, 2017.

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