Mufti 'all wet' about Songkran

PETALING JAYA, MALAYSIA: A Muslim leader is taking heat from Thai residents for his call to ban Muslims from attending Songkran festivities in Perlis state near the Thai border, according to a local report.

Perlis mufti Juanda Jaya does not understand the tradition of the celebration, Thai community leaders told the news outlet Free Malaysia Today (FMT).

Former Malaysia Siamese Association chairwoman Siw Chun Eam said Songkran was a cultural celebration to usher in the Thai New Year.

And because Songkran traditionally falls at the hottest time of the year in Thailand, festivities include water splashing.

Celebrants enjoy Songkran fun in Chiang Mai last year. (Post File Photo)

"It's similar to Chinese New Year. Would you call Chinese New Year a religious occasion? No," she told FMT.

Ms Siw Chun said that some Buddhist devotees take the opportunity to bathe Buddha statues but it was not an integral part of Songkran.

"Wesak Day is a religious occasion, but Songkran and Loi Krathong (floating decorations) are certainly not," said the former senator.

Mr Juanda took a different view in comments made earlier.

"The Songkran festival is clearly a religious occasion as during the ceremony, the statue of Buddha is bathed and the water is then distributed to the attendees for them to receive blessings," he said.

A large-scale three-day Songkran celebration was scheduled to begin on Friday night in Kuala Perlis. Among the guests of honour expected to attend was Nazri Aziz, Malaysia's are Tourism and Culture Minister.

Songkran is officially celebrated in Thailand from April 13 to 15.

Ms Siw Chun, the organiser of the celebrations in Perlis, said none of the guests had indicated that they would not attend following Mr Juanda’s statement.

"This is not the first time the state religious body has done this, they issued a fatwa before," she said.

"But the celebration I have organised is geared toward promoting tourism. There will be 15 booths and all have been booked by Malay companies. ... "So is the mufti trying to say these people cannot join as well?"

Manit Sripradith, a spokesman for the Kedah Siamese Community Culture Association said, "Juanda should have got his facts correct, before speaking. Songkran is a cultural occasion for everyone to join in."

There are about 60,000 Thais in Malaysia, mostly residing in the northern peninsular states bordering Thailand.

Related search: Thailand, Malaysia, Songkran

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