LGBT: a Malaysian problem made to look Malay

[Malaysiakini published an edited
version. Aliran too.]

The LGBT issue has been splashing the headlines. Non-acceptance of the LGBT community is made to look like a Malay or Muslim problem. It is not. It is a Malaysian problem. Let us not fall into the trap of the media campaign, whether social or mass media.

Has the LGBT issue been politicised? Statement by the Deputy Health Minister about the organic origin of LGBT is among the few who are apolitical. That is an invitation for the nation to be logical, medical and scientific. The difference can be seen on brain scans.

When both sides of the divide developed that habit of accusing each other of politicising issues, how do we tell whether a news item has been politicised or not?

Recall Mahathir’s own words at a human rights conference, “Imagine a gay PM… Nobody will be safe.” Tell us, how can a gay person ever be less safe than a non-gay?

Why are those muftis’ anti-LGBT statements spinning their rounds on the media, while Mahathir’s statement never seems to get quoted? Our viral squad has been pretty selective – the same way Zamihan’s problem with laundrettes and the mis-quote that taking Uber or Grab was khalwat were shared many round over, but not a surau’s offering flood shelter to Allah’s (non-Muslim) creation, or Khairy’s words of wisdom, “It is compulsory (wajib) for you to observe the five pillars. It is not compulsory for people to catch you not doing it.”

Meticulously censoring Mahathir’s stand and sanitising Pakatan Harapan – at the same time condemning the censorship of the portraits of Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik from the George Town Festival – is clearly politically biased. This is perhaps partly because people find black-and-white easier to handle than gray – not censoring Mahathir and not sanitising Pakatan Harapan would hurt some simple minds.

Numan Afifi too, has been capitalised in the same media campaign against ‘conservative Malays’. Numan was pressured into quitting as Syed Saddiq’s press officer.

Amidst crossfires, who are actually fighting against whom? Imagine we run a referendum on LGBT rights, do we think non-Malays and Pakatan supporters would vote in favour of LGBT rights? Of course not! Majority of Malaysians are unable to accept LGBT.

Yes, we do have Malaysians whose hearts and minds are open enough. But that’s a small minority. Most Malaysians are stuck, they are not unable to see the person beyond the LGBT tag. LGBT is not a PAS or UMNO problem. The problem is neither Malay’s nor Mahathir’s either. It is a Malaysian problem. Let us not fall into the trap of the media campaign.

Many are keeping quiet, gaining both ways, silently clapping their hands each time a Muslim leader makes an anti-LGBT statement. On the one hand they keep their heads down and leave it to others to fight the anti-LGBT cause they share in common. On the other, they tap the golden opportunity to step up the campaign against ‘conservative Malays’.

The LGBT issue is just another opportunity, so was Nurul Izzah’s dress code – is that a Muslim’s problem? Some churches specify on their projection screen permissible measurements for sleeves, collars, tops and bottoms — all given in inches! The point is: some but not all Christians are like that, just as some but not all Muslims are like that. Muslim or Christian, a truly spiritual believer would be able to let go of thoughts and judgements the very moment he or she notices a particular dress code.

Likewise, child marriage has been painted as a Muslim issue. As pointed out by WAO vice-president, last year’s statistic showed that 52% or 968 from the total applications for child marriage were non-Muslims.

Along the same vein, wanting leaders from one own’s tribe is made to look exclusively Malay. So, what is so Malay about, ‘Muslim groups oppose local elections, fearing more non-Malays in power’? I assure you many from non-Muslim denominations feel they should vote for candidates from their own faith too; some who are in the position even instruct others to vote for candidates of their own faith. The point is: some but not all Christians are like that, just as some but not all Muslims are like that.

Campaigners cheer each time they see how defensively Muslim leaders and NGOs react. Really, Muslims with a bit of wisdom could refrain from reacting more than necessary. Know that they are just being used. Any reaction would attract like a magnet the media squad who are on standby.

Those on calculated silent mode turn out to be the loudest and the noisiest in almost all other issues. GE14 is frequently spoken of as, “the people’s voice is heard”. Well, that is not completely true. The loudest voice is heard, and the loudest voice isn’t quite the people’s voice. With so much said about championing the rakyat’s right and fighting for the nation, ‘rakyat’ and ‘nation’ became mere over-used propaganda, when the group’s interest is really their exclusive self.

Beware of the on-going painting exercise which began even prior to GE13. We see that aggravating in recent months. Note the connotation around ‘rural Malays’, an over-used term now. ‘Rural Malays’ are painted as folks who are not educated, who don’t know smartphones and social media – who support Najib and in one way or another, part of his corrupt company. ‘Rural Malays’ are deemed ‘not with us, but against us’ — people who get in our way.

At this critical juncture as we correct ourselves as a nation, let us consider longer-term stability. Now is the opportune time to strive towards a balanced, sustainable and inclusive society – or we lose it altogether. Each of us can be motivated towards this goal by different reasons. Some need to be threatened with the prospects of riots and looting, they then see the need for a balanced, sustainable and inclusive society. Some need to be threatened with the fires of hell, they then feel the need to be balanced, sustainable and inclusive. Others need no threatening, just motivated by a conviction deep down. Whatever the motivation, we do need a balanced, sustainable and inclusive society.

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