Abstinence and guilt trips: Jakim’s rehab tools against LGBT in e-book

According to Mujahid, the e-book is part of the government’s attempt to 'rehabilitate' the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. — Reuters pic
According to Mujahid, the e-book is part of the government’s attempt to 'rehabilitate' the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 25 — Minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa caused a stir on Tuesday after he told the Dewan Rakyat that the Islamic Development Department Malaysia (Jakim) published an e-book aimed at aiding homosexual Muslims to “return to the right path”.

The book titled Penghijrahan Diri Menuju Jalan Yang Benar — Strategi Untuk Mengatasi Masalah Homoseks (Malay for Self-Migration Towards the Right Path — A Strategy to Overcome the Problem of Homosexuality) is available online for free, and according to Mujahid, part and parcel of the government’s attempts to “rehabilitate” the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Here are some things Malay Mail discovered about how Malaysia’s federal Islamic authority views sexual minorities, from the 146-paged e-book.

Advice from a ‘former gay’ Muslim

The first thing one realises after downloading the e-book is that it is neither a new application nor publication. The book was published way back in 2011 during the Barisan Nasional administration, while the app hosting it has been around since 2016.

The Hijrah Diri-Homoseksualiti app on Google Play Store.
The Hijrah Diri-Homoseksualiti app on Google Play Store.

Strangely enough, the e-book was presented as if it was written by an anonymous self-proclaimed ex-gay Muslim, which was then endorsed by Jakim.

The app itself has questionable privacy settings, such as needing access to your location in order to “optimise” its services.

Other features include audio downloads of religious sermons, contact details, feedback column as well as a breakdown of all nine chapters -- with titles such as “Start of the Journey”, “Realisation”, “Understanding the Challenges and Tests”, and “Controlling Your Lust”.

The e-book starts off with the unnamed author offering some introductory words of wisdom like “as you continue in your efforts to leave homosexual relationships, eventually it will leave you.”

Essentially, the e-book offers no such cure for being gay. Instead, it presents merely all-too familiar themes that religious authorities use in their daily engagement to with sexual minorities: abstinence, faith, prayer, and guilt.

The author blames human lust for homosexual acts, and claimed that he has learned to control his urges one day at a time.

The front cover of the e-book.
The front cover of the e-book.

The e-book also attempts to instill a degree of guilt in its would-be readers, by asking questions like “what will you achieve with homosexuality?” and how being gay will affect personal relationships with loved ones as well as a person’s reputation.

“Are days of pleasure on this Earth more important than temporary sexual release?

“You can only treat this disease by treating the root cause; fixing your personal life and controlling your urges,” read a particularly disparaging excerpt from one of the chapters.

It goes on to offer ways in which to “treat” the so-called “disease” via a three-pronged process: adhering to a strict regimen of keeping busy and fasting, spending more time with devout Muslims instead of gays, and spending much of the day (and night) thinking about the consequences of being gay.

“What tortures await you in the grave? Are you ready to die? Can you meet your Creator with the burden of the sins you have accumulated?” the author asked.

Interestingly enough, the e-book suggests that same-sex attraction does not necessarily mean sexual attraction, and that some men admire other men for their qualities but instead confuse that feelings as sexual attraction.

Getting a grip on masturbation

According to the e-book, masturbation is an “addiction faced by majority of the male populace of a certain age group”, before absurdly naming the sexual act as one of the reasons why for men “turn gay”.

“The danger of masturbating is that it can be done anywhere, therefore there is a risk for you to do it frequently,” another chapter on masturbation read.

The options menu for the Jakim-endorsed app.
The options menu for the Jakim-endorsed app.

The author claims that men who excessively masturbate will end up becoming bored of visualising naked women and will eventually turn to images and videos of men, and that unchecked lust will end in unnatural “wild sex”.

“Do not allow your sexual organs to be a tool to release forbidden sexual urges which will lead to self-destruction. It should only be used when you are married to find happiness and to love your wife and to procreate,” said the book.

It also urges male readers to avoid touching their genitals “without valid reason”, and that touching it should be confined for cleaning the organ, and not to arouse oneself towards erection.

The book warns that so-called ex-gays are in danger of walking away from the straight and narrow path if they ever reminisce on their past sins and “feel happy” about them, or if they even discuss them with those who had similarly committed them.

“In the end, abstinence is better than treatment,” according to another excerpt from the e-book.

Jakim adamant on ‘fixing’ LGBT

In 2017, Malay Mail had reported another similar attempt by Jakim suggesting that sexual orientation can be changed with extensive training, in a video explaining how Muslims can approach the LGBT issue.

In the video, Jakim had likened sexual orientation with horse-riding, claiming that when someone realises that he has “different” orientation from others and wishes to change that orientation, he should receive extensive training and guidance.

Jakim said to change one’s sexual orientation, one must intend to do so for God’s sake instead of being forced and repent one’s homosexuality, in addition to leaving activities that would lead to same-sex relations.

It also urged a repentant homosexual to fulfill his sexual desires through marriage, or subdue such desires by among others resorting to fasting.

Conversion therapy, which consists of psychological treatment or spiritual counseling to change a person’s sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual, is widely seen by medical and scientific community as potentially harmful and a form of pseudoscience.

The practice is opposed and has been legally challenged, or even banned, in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In 2014, several medical and gender experts questioned the “success” of Jakim’s spiritual rehabilitation camp for transgenders, insisting they need medical care to transition them into their affirmed gender identities rather than rehabilitation to return them to what some may consider “normal”.