Malaysia school incurs wrath of Muslim groups, refuses to abort Halloween activities

FIRST it's Oktoberfest, then a dog-touching event; and now, Halloween.

Muslim groups in Malaysia have hit out at an international school in Negeri Sembilan for promoting and organising Halloween activities that will take place on Oct 31, urging the government to pull the plug on the event.

But brushing aside calls to abort the event, the Matrix International School has said it will go ahead with its Perayaan Halloween, or Halloween Celebration, the Chinese-language Sin Chew Daily reported on Sunday.

Ikatan Guru Muslim Malaysia (IGMM) deputy president Mohd Azizee Hassan said the celebration of Halloween is inappropriate as it clashes with Malaysian culture and traditions, the Sinar Harian Online reported.

The president of Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia (Isma), Mr Abdullah Zaik Abdul Rahman, claimed further that Halloween celebrations were intended to spread atheism, according to the Malay Mail Online news site.

"We notice that such events are held to test moral limits or religion, and they are usually done by groups which are not religion-based - they are usually organised by non-Muslims.

"What they are doing is promoting something that is anti-religion. Maybe it is done by atheists who want to shake one's faith," Mr Zaik was quoted as saying by the website.

Halloween, which is celebrated on Oct 31 every year, has its origins in the ancient Celtic festival known as Samhain. It was believed that the deceased would return to life on this day and cause havoc to the world.

The Matrix International School has come under fire from conservative Muslim groups since it put up Malay-language banners promoting its Halloween celebration in Malay-majority neighbourhoods.

Mr Felix Lee, CEO of Matrix Global Schools that runs the international school in Bandar Sri Sendayan, Seremban, told the Sin Chew Daily that the school has taken down all the banners to avoid offending the groups and Muslims.

But he has stopped short of calling off the controversial activities.

Last week, a dog-petting event at the Central Park in Bandar Utama, Selangor, to encourage Muslims to touch a dog - which is considered unclean in Islam - led to threats made to the participants. The organiser, Mr Syed Azmi Alhabshi, had to apologised on Saturday for the "trouble and insensitivities" that the programme had caused.

Earlier this month, Muslims in Selangor tried to get the authorities to cancel the annual beer festival Oktoberfest held at the One Utama shopping centre in Petaling Jaya. Alcohol is forbidden in Islam.