KL permits Oktoberfest while debate over beer fests in Malaysia continues

While Kuala Lumpur is allowing Oktoberfest celebrations to proceed, states like Johor Bahru and Terengganu are banning the celebration.

The Malaysian government’s decision to allow Oktoberfest celebrations in Kuala Lumpur this month has resulted in a heated debate over the appropriateness of the celebration in an Islamic country.

The annual festival – which originates from Germany – is under fire from religious leaders as the consumption of alcohol is illegal under Muslim law.

While the previous Barisan Nasional government did not approve of Oktoberfest, the new Pakatan Harapan government is allowing the event, so long as organisers follow a set of rules. These include holding the festival in a private indoor venue, and having enforcement officers around to ensure no Muslims participate.

While KL has the go ahead, authorities in Johor and Terengganu have made the event illegal in their states.

The festival is a source of debate every year, with advocates claiming that banning it fails to respect the rights of non-Muslims. Malaysia’s Economic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Azmin Ali said the event was not a beer festival, but “merely an annual event”.

Even Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said in a Facebook post last year that he was not against the festival.

For me, if non-Muslims drink alcohol or beer until they faint, that’s their problem. The important thing is they do not cause problems for other people, like driving while drunk,” he wrote in Malay.

Oktoberfest is not the only festival to have drawn flak from religious groups and local authorities.

Events such as last year’s Better Beer Fest in Kuala Lumpur were also axed for similar reasons.