Malaysia LGBT say intolerance against Islam
KUALA LUMPUR: With the recent seminars on “how to curb” lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) behavior in the country, many within the community are speaking out and hopeful that despite the government sponsored message of intolerance, the Southeast Asian country can mend its ways.
The recent spate of anger towards the government came after a reported 16,000 people participated in “seminars” sponsored by the Education Ministry aimed at teaching parents and educators in the country about how to identify LGBT behavior in youth and combat it.
Deputy Education Minister Mohd Puad Zarkashi said 21 seminars had been held and the ministry would be conducting more.
“It is like a disease but it can be cured with early intervention,’’ he told a press conference after opening the seminar.
For Mohammed Islam, the continued intolerance against the LGBT community is directly opposing the professed message of tolerance being pushed by the government and Prime Minister Najib Razak about Islam.
“I feel this is counter to everything we are being told and what we are telling the world about Islam,” the 24-year-old graduate student and gay Malaysian, told Bikyanews.com. “If we are going to be a leader in the world and talk about tolerance, we must be accepting to all people and citizens. These seminars are just continuing to show Malaysia as a backward country.”
Unfortunately, this is not the first time the ruling government has lashed out against the LGBT community. Last year, the government called LGBT “of the devil.”
The Umno, in ending its final assembly gathering ahead of elections that must take place before April next year, said that anti-Islamic elements threaten the country, singling out homosexuality and those who promote liberalism in “mainly Muslim Malaysia.”
One delegate called for a rehabilitation center for the LGBT community to “re-educate” them and bring them back to society.
“We want to transform them from zaman kejahilan (dark age of ignorance),” Tanjong representative Mohd Shaharudin Mohd Hasan Tajudin told the over 2,000 delegates at Umno’s cavernous Putra World Trade Center (PWTC).
Shaharudin also suggested that high school students be taught to reject the LGBT lifestyle — along with pluralism and liberalism — in their religious education.
Another delegate, Ariffin Mohd Arif from Kimanis, called for an official sanction against those who spread pluralism and liberalism, which he called a “teaching of the Devil.”
“Just like al-Arqam … we must take action against these people. Our actions must be strict, and we must not budge,” Ariffin said.
The religious issues elicited animated responses from the delegates, with Shaharudin exclaiming that Umno fighters shall be “bathed in blood” should anyone mock Islamic principles.
“This LGBT is haram in Islam. (But the opposition) is making LGBT halal … they even said that the law on sodomy is obsolete,” said Pendang delegate Mohd Kamal Saidin, who accused Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim as the man responsible for the promotion of “vice.”
The ruling coalition and the opposition have been at loggerheads on the issues of LGBT, pluralism and liberalism, which are deemed sensitive in Muslim-majority Malaysia.
Earlier in the week, Muhyiddin Yassin had revealed that Prime Minister Razak had objected to the inclusion of LGBT rights when signing ASEAN’s first human rights charter recently, saying Malaysia could not accept principles that go against the order of human nature.
The deputy prime minister took a swipe at Anwar when warning him against legitimizing these “twisted practices” just because they were accepted by western nations, suggesting that it was the opposition leader’s “hobby”.
The Malaysian government recently came under heavy fire again when it was reported to have endorsed a list of identifiable gay and lesbian traits for schools and parents, purportedly to prevent the spread of the phenomenon among teenagers, especially students.
In October, the country’s education minister said that being gay leads to HIV.
Mohd Puad Zarkashi lashed out at a few campaigns that jokingly criticized the governments recent efforts to “educate” parents on how to catch “symptoms” of their children being gay or lesbian.
He said that LGBT issues int he country “should not be a joking matter.”
He was commenting on the recent campaigns that saw a local restaurant offer discounts and free biryani to men wearing V-neck t-shirts after the government labeled that one of the tell-tale signs of a potential gay child.
He added that his ministry is determined to push forward to “curb the trend of LGBT” in Malaysia’s schools.
He said this “trend” appears to be prevalent in society and popular media, making it imperative for the government to prevent it from penetrating schools.”
LGBT activists have laughed at his comments, but told Bikyanews.com that the reality is the government continues to attack something as if it is a disease, “instead of understanding that it is not a choice.”
But the minister was obstinate.
“It is not prevalent in school yet but preventive action is needed to ensure that it does not spread among students,” he said.
When asked how prevalent the phenomenon is in schools, he said the ministry has no data currently.
“I don’t know because we don’t have the facts. We don’t have the data to show how serious it is,” he told the Sunday Star.
He added that when the issue “exploded” – specifically the disputed LGBT-symptom guidelines – he received a lot of criticism, but it has only made his belief that the LGBT lifestyle “is not a healthy way of life.”
“There are two reasons: it is the biggest cause of HIV after drugs. It also causes a lot of social problems such as broken marriages. That is why we need to nip it in the bud,” he said, even though international health professionals have dispelled the myth that being gay or lesbian is a cause of HIV.
Activists in the country have repeatedly spoken out against the continued crackdown on the LGBT community, which has seen ministers and officials level accusations against the community over the past few months ahead of a general election.
Reiterating the government’s commitment to its project, the minister stressed that it is crucial for parents to get exposure and knowledge of the LGBT trend so that they can be more vigilant of the signs and tackle the threat early.
However, he declined to elaborate on what action would be taken to “correct” or “prevent” LGBT in schools, arguing instead that the “science of it is debatable.”
“I don’t want to be drawn into the debate of whether it (LGBT) is a lifestyle or natural instinct. That is why we want to bring it out in the open because it can be debated on. However, it is not something that should be joked about,” he continued.