Growing intolerance of LGBTIQ community due to Islamisation, forum told

File picture shows gay rights activists carrying a rainbow flag during a protest at Tunel Square in Istanbul. — Reuters pic
File picture shows gay rights activists carrying a rainbow flag during a protest at Tunel Square in Istanbul. — Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 21 — Islamisation in Malaysia has contributed to the growing intolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and questioning (LGBTIQ) community in the country which has sometimes resulted in hate crimes as well, panellists said today.

Social activist Azrul Mohd Khalib added that those from the LGBTIQ minority group are facing increased persecution on a daily basis as Islamic teachings in Malaysia were against sexual orientations that differed from the heterosexual norms.

“The Islamisation agenda that is being played out today puts the LGBTQI community at risk and vulnerable to what the agenda wants to impose.

“It oftentimes involves criminalisation of community to demonstrate piety to the religion,” he said during a forum by the Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF) titled “Hate Crime And LGBTIQ: Where Is The Love?” He added that skewed religious beliefs that insisted on punishing the LGBTIQ also did not adhere to the fundamental liberties recognised by the Federal Constitutions which guarantees everyone’s right to the freedom of religion, speech and expression, among others.

“Very often this is against the Federal Constitution. We cannot blind ourselves to this reality where there are agendas being played out that are eroding, or worse, not even recognising fundamental liberties under the Federal Constitution,” he added.

DAP Wanita national assistant publicity secretary Syerleena Abdul Rashid, also a panelist at the forum, added that religion is so embedded in today’s society that it has stifled all discourse thus narrowing the field of what is considered the norm, and oftentimes excluding the LGBTIQ community.

“Being Malaysians, we’re stuck in between rock and hard place. It has lots to do with, what I feel, is religion become deeply intertwined in our society. And the type of religion dictated leaves no room for discourse or debate.

“You can’t ask questions and can’t challenge the norm. That’s when things become dangerous. In other words, it makes others think it’s okay to treat others a way you shouldn’t be treating them,” she said when speaking about hate crime being perpetrated within the LGBTIQ community.

Syerleena, also a Penang city councillor, added that it was crucial for the government to play a more active role in decriminalising acts and relationships that may differ from heterosexual norm or the persecution will worsen.

“We have an idea of what criminals should be and how they act. Clearly prosecuting someone based on sexual orientation makes no sense. It’s absurd, ridiculous.

“It is proven to be part of nature they haven’t done anything wrong. The whole system should focus on real criminals other there,” she said.

Another key component in ensuring the equality of all, regardless of sexual orientation, was to teach that same equality to children, she noted, especially since kids today have plenty of access to the Internet which is a breeding ground of hateful rhetoric.

“We also educate the young because there is a lot of information out there. As adults we need to sit down and focus on this and find an effective way to educate them,” she said.

Activist Pang Khee Teik, who founded the annual sexuality rights festival called Seksualiti Merdeka, added that instead of focusing on the Islam which may preach discriminating against the LGBTIQ, Muslims should instead focus on creating a sense of community in order to, among other things, create a safe space for discourse.

“This is insufficiently talked about because in Islamic culture, community is everything. Community overrides the individual.

“There will continue to be the friction and tension of any sort community anywhere in the world but that conversation needs to happen. We need to be reminded of our community so that we can defend justice and equality like in Islam,” he said.

The local LGBT community remains in the shadows, particularly Muslims, fearing persecution from religious authorities in the predominantly Muslim country that has religious laws prohibiting same-sex relationships and cross-dressing.

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