KOTA KINABALU: Kadazandusun paramount leader, Joseph Pairin Kitingan has lambasted the organisers of ‘Kaamatan Islamik’ for being either “ignorant” or having intentions to alter the real meaning of Sabah’s beloved harvest festival celebration.
Incensed and in disbelief at the notion of an “Islamic Kaamatan”, Pairin who is also Sabah deputy Chief Minister said the Tadau Kaamatan or Harvest Festival is a cultural celebration for everybody and is separate from religion.
Pairin, the KDM ‘Huguon Siou’ said he first thought that ‘Kaamatan Islamik’ was not a true event.
“But now it seems that someone has actually initiated such an event. Kaamatan is a cultural festival and has nothing to do with religion,” he said in a statement.
“Either the organisers are completely ignorant of the noble intentions of Kaamatan just as we all celebrate Hari Raya and Chinese New Year or they have a deliberate agenda to completely change Kaamatan into something completely different.”
The organiser of the event, Hidayah Centre Foundation chairman Haji Nicholas Sylvester has since said he had no ill intent and would remove the word “Islamic” from the event.
He added he was merely providing a Shariah-compliant celebration for the native Muslims.
Photos of the event with ladies covered up from head to toe in loose robes went viral on social media, with most criticising the organisers for bringing religion into the cultural festival.
Pairin said the theme of this year’s celebration ― “Kaamatan Foundation of Unity” ― was chosen to reflect that the festival was for everybody regardless of background, race or creed.
He said it has been his hope that the Kaamatan Festival will enhance the understanding and spirit of friendship among peoples of different background.
According to Pairin, the Prime Minister has underlined the philosophy of “wasatiyyah” or moderation to be society’s guide over the years, and it would be a shame if the country’s unity were destroyed by a handful of people who may have been “misled in their zeal to overshadow other people.”
Meanwhile, Kadazan Society of Sabah deputy president Datuk John Sikayun also said that Kaamatan must be about cultures, traditions, and the preservation of the Sabahan native’s ancestral heritage.
“To the KDM, it’s a sacred tribute to paddy…. our source of life since time immemorial…and nothing to do with religion,” he was quoted as saying on an online news portal.
“It’s taboo to digress from it and never part of the equation,” he said through text message, using the acronym for Kadazan Dusun and Murut.
“How you celebrate it is up to you but the elements and the very essence of the Kaamatan is the important factor for it to have a meaning.”
The celebration of Kaamatan is largely rooted in the pagan beliefs of the indigenous people, who are thanking their Gods for a bountiful harvest.
The traditional rituals performed by Kadazandusun high priestesses include age old-chants passed down orally over the decades and also has numerous practices and other beliefs.
Over the years, various customs has given way as natives embraced Islam and Christianity.
However, many natives comfortably continue to retain their unique cultural identity, even though it may seemingly occasionally clash with their new faiths.