FEBRUARY 8 — Ed Sheeran is coming to town.
PAS, the effervescent party of joy, has a few issues with it.
The primary objection being that he is coming to town.
The four-time Grammy winner is too LGBT-friendly, and therefore antithetical to Malaysia, the complaint goes.
If he plays music, and attendees listen to him, fall for his charms, croon to his tracks, dance to his sappy tunes, then, then, the central core of the nation and the integrity of our moral soul collapses. Irrevocably and damningly.
Because it is one more step in the direction of accepting LGBT culture.
Personally, I’d like PAS to throw more of a tantrum when Michael Learns To Rock, sorry, sorry, MLTR to fans, show up in Kuala Lumpur. If anyone is destroying music and our souls, MLTR has the mettle to claim the title.
Them and Modern Talking.
Instead, PAS trains its eyes on the diabetes-inducing Sheeran.
Expect the toxicity to rise over the fortnight to the February 24 showtime, replete with protests around the stadium. Hope that the nay-sayers — those vehemently opposed to LGBT culture, presence and prevalences — use public transportation. We can all protest without leaving too much carbon footprint. RapidKL’s RM50 monthly pass allows even bigots to be Earth lovers.
Though what captured my attention was the Communication Minister Fahmi Fadzil’s method to deflect by saying Jakim and many, many other agencies — 16 apparently — sit in Puspal which lets in (or not) foreign acts.
Malaysia Madani is about leaders who lead Malaysia forward or find excuses to keep things the same?
To begin with, why should 16 agencies decide?
Let’s reverse the question, what type of band or artist challenging norms and values in the world they live in would be palatable to any of the 16 Malaysian agencies?
Why must music and artists who perform them be approved and appreciated unanimously by government powers? Why can’t it be their fans listen to them, end of.
Does that mean, Malaysians can only listen to safe, wholesome entertainment inside the federation?
It is curious that something has to be meaningful to all in order to be meaningful to some of us. That is actually contrary to Article 10 of our Constitution which guarantees free speech, assembly and association.
The state protects all of its citizens but it should be careful when it strips its citizens of free choice in order to perversely protect citizens from themselves.
We can do our own thing, as long as it does not threaten public order. And the means test to what constitutes a threat to other Malaysians has to be reasonable and quantifiable. The fact it annoys many of us is not the same as it hurts a few of us.
It appears officials are happier to punish the young and deny them what appeals to them on the basis it may empower and unleash their youth.
That the young are shut out because they are easy to shut down.
Think about how then-US president Barack Obama was treated majestically when he visited Malaysia in 2014? Was he not the man who upon taking up office declared in 2009 — five years prior — that June was Pride Month for the LGBT community?
Was the fact Obama did not hold a guitar when he spoke to one impressionable group of young Malaysians to the next mean he did not transmit inclusion and openness to our people? Was he not embedding his liberalism in Malaysia far more than Sheeran?
When gay marriages were legalised in one US state after the other in 2015, Obama said the famous line, “Love is love.”
He gave more encouragement to millions around the world to get on with their sexual preferences, far more than The 1975’s Matt Healy kissing one man on a Malaysian stage last year.
If there was a morsel of doubt remaining on where Obama stood on the issue, after the same-sex marriage legalisations he ordered the White House, the centre of global power, to glow in rainbow colours to celebrate.
And yet, Obama was feted in Malaysia again in 2019, after his presidency.
Why is it that international performers are easy targets for our enforcers and international leaders who have done far more to legalise and normalise LGBT culture in their society and the entire western world are left untouched?
This surely is what the Madani government should reflect on.
Are they doing young Malaysians a favour by shielding them from the rest of the world?
This is a discussion about what leading constitutes in a rapidly changing globe, what can allow Malaysians to engage with the world, not deny themselves the world.
The reverberations from these protections — to block liberalism — can be far reaching.
The government has gone on record repeatedly that Malaysians must embrace AI technologies.
Yet, if a 15-year-old asked ChatGPT how should conservative societies deal with LGBT issues, it would urge for more acceptance and tolerance while admitting that some societies may have serious reservations about liberal sexual norms.
Would that mean our students are to only agree with AI technologies and the knowledge they hold only as far as they remain consistent with our officially approved values and norms?
Is that possible, or is Malaysia only fighting off the inevitable?
At a time where more are wired into their TikTok than their government programming, old methods grow stale too quickly.
The more the government digs its heels in, prohibits Malaysians and forewarns perpetually about foreign content, the more it loses the hearts and minds of the young.
And increasingly it becomes more difficult to differentiate from its predecessors.
Ed Sheeran is not one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
There are way more seamless ways the rest of the world seeps into our living rooms, and most certainly our bedrooms daily.
To hit out at bands and artists and deny our young, while being completely inconsistent with international political allies when it comes to LGBT acceptance highlights the banality of the efforts.
When intent only to deflect, Malaysia Madani loses the opportunity to engage and then lead on the issues.
If this persists, there’ll be worse outcomes than too many sugary Ed Sheeran tunes. Like more MLTR tunes.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.