‘Drink beer and eat beef at appropriate places’

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KUALA LUMPUR: Renowned Turkish-born intellectual Mustafa Akyol has spoken of the need for majority and minority groups in a plural country to respect one another’s values and lifestyles.

Referring to the current controversy over Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s decision to ban the Better Beer Festival, the award-winning writer said: “In Malaysia, there are a lot of Malaysians who drink alcohol and they should be allowed to engage in their own lifestyles.”

He added, however, that the sensitivities of groups that saw alcohol consumption as a negative practice should also be respected.

“So, don’t have the beer festival next to mosques or in a neighbourhood where you know that a lot of people will have a problem with that,” he said.

City Hall banned the festival, scheduled to be held next month at a shopping centre, following objections from Muslim groups, including PAS, which said the event would encourage vice.

The police then stepped in to claim the festival had to be cancelled because it could be a target for militants.

The craft beer event had been held in Malaysia annually since 2012.

Akyol was addressing a forum at the Renaissance Hotel here when a question on the beer festival was raised by Amanah Wanita chief Siti Mariah Mahmud.

Siti Mariah said she had often been criticised by certain groups as being too liberal at times. “But I spoke up about how the beer festival was a promotion of something that was not only offensive to Muslims, but could also be detrimental to the health of all Malaysians,” she said.

Akyol acknowledged that he was known for his advocacy of liberal ideas, but he said even he found some liberal ideas “too much”.

He said the beer festival should be held at places where people who formed the majority were drinkers and would enjoy such a festival.

“Similarly, Muslims eat beef and even though the majority of Malaysians are Muslims, this does not mean that we can have beef-eating festivals in areas largely populated by Hindus because their sensitivities need to be respected as well.

“In India, Muslims have been killed just for eating beef in the privacy of their own homes.”