KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia has reversed an earlier ban on Muslims attending a concert by U.S. hip-hop band the Black Eyed Peas, saying it had no right to keep people from entertainment events.
The September 25 concert is sponsored by Guinness as part of celebrations of the alcoholic brew’s 250th birthday. Guinness is owned by the world’s biggest spirits group, Diageo.
Information Minister Rais Yatim said it was up to the individuals’ “better judgment” to decide whether they should attend events organized by an alcoholic beverage company.
“We have no legal powers actually to bar people from attending functions,” The Star newspaper quoted Rais as saying on Wednesday.
Muslims account for 55 percent of the 27 million people in this Southeast Asian country and are barred from consuming alcohol, although the rules are regularly flouted, especially in big cities like the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
However, a 32-year old Muslim woman caught drinking beer at a hotel was sentenced to six strokes of the cane by an Islamic court recently in a case that sparked debate about growing Islamization in the country.
Malaysia has a dual-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws that are applicable to Muslims existing alongside civil laws.
Foreign music acts often draw protests by Malaysia’s opposition Pan Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS).
Last week the party called for Danish soft rock band Michael Learns To Rock to be banned from performing because it was a “grave insult” to Muslims observing the fasting month of Ramadan.
Since 2007, PAS has campaigned against performances by singers including Beyonce, Rihanna, Gwen Stefani, Avril Lavigne and Mariah Carey.
Malaysia’s Guinness Anchor, which sells Guinness and other brands here, had sales of 1.2 billion ringgit ($339.8 million) in 2008.
Reporting by Royce Cheah; Editing by Miral Fahmy