JANUARY 28 — Controversial blogger Papagomo, who has been unmasked as one Wan Muhammad Azri Wan Deris, has been trying to reinvent himself ever since his public fall from grace.
In February 2014, a High Court had awarded Opposition de facto leader Anwar Ibrahim RM800,000 in damages and RM50,000 in costs after he filed a defamation suit against Papagomo.
The decision was challenged and in December 2015, the Court of Appeal not only upheld the damages but added another RM10,000 in costs.
It went further up to the Federal Court, and the apex court also decided that the appeal had no merit. Papagomo was ordered to pay another RM10,000 in costs.
It was only last month that Papagomo settled the total payment of RM951,260.27 — almost RM1 million.
He had reportedly paid RM950,000 via a bank draft, and another RM1,260 in RM1 notes, and 30 sen. “I even donated three sen to Anwar,” he was quoted saying by New Straits Times.
The NST report also quoted his lawyer saying that he managed to gather the sum in just three months, thanks to Wangsa Maju Umno members and his supporters.
For the past four years, Wan Azri has consistently tried to reinvent himself as a hyper-masculine crusader — now calling himself “Sir Azri.”
In 2016, he allegedly took up a crusade against “sexual harassment”; he beat up a foreign worker who he claimed had harassed four women he knew.
Papagomo was slapped with a fine of RM4,300, but his action earned him numerous praise from some in public who lauded him for being “protective” of women.
I had written in my March 2016 column that Papagomo’s action was symptomatic of the so-called “crisis in masculinity” that is affecting Malaysian men.
We see this crisis manifesting again in Papagomo’s latest crusade against the LGBT, and particularly trans women.
Earlier this month, Papagomo had uploaded a video of him calling the minister in charge of Islamic affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, to report that celebrity entrepreneur Nur Sajat Kamaruzzaman is a “transvestite”, using the derogatory Malay term pondan.
“We receive the minister’s explanation and we hope quick action can be taken to eradicate deviant symptoms committed by Sajat and [her] gang,” Papagomo had said in a Facebook post with the video.
And acted quick they did. On the same day itself, Mohd Izwan Md Yusof, an enforcer with federal Islamic authority Jakim posted an open letter on his Facebook profile asking for a “date” with Nur Sajat to “know her better” and advise her on “identity and gender confusion.”
The call was endorsed by Jakim’s director-general himself, who said the agency wanted to “help not punish.”
Izwan, of course, is the public spokesman of Jakim when it comes to “rehabilitating” the LGBT.
In a questionable video last year, Izwan and his team had likened sexual orientation to 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.
He had also spoken at an anti-LGBT forum held in University of Malaya last year which also featured a self-professed “former transgender sex worker” and a self-confessed “former lesbian.”
Izwan has since met with Nur Sajat — with her parents chaperoning her — and announced that Jakim will now “formally identify” Nur Sajat’s gender in a lengthy process that is expected to take at least one month.
The announcement should be terrifying to many who do not conform to gender binary. It effectively sets a precedence that if one is Muslim, you may be subject to public humiliation as Jakim gets to “define” who you are.
Gender identity is simple. It is not determined by what is in between your legs. Not by what is noted in your identity card either. It is what you identify with. How you feel. You know, and choose your own gender identity. Nobody else.
Nur Sajat herself has responded with grace and humility. She said this week that she will follow Jakim’s instruction to the letter — no matter if the “test” takes one month, or two months.
But what choice does she have? When you are faced with the whole might of the State, furthermore one that wields the authority of Islam, what else can you do when you are a public figure like her? When your own safety is in question, what can you do?
After it was suggested that Jakim’s probe against her was a result of Papagomo’s complaint, Nur Sajat posted on her Instagram that she did not know who the former was... except that he had been messaging her on social media.
Nur Sajat revealed that Papagomo had previously invited her to the opening of his gym — which by Papagomo’s own posts is shown to be filled with sweaty overweight Malay men working out topless, and wearing jeans. She had ignored the invite.
“I realised that he had been diligent commenting on my photos in Instagram, but in Facebook, he had insulted me,” a perplexed Nur Sajat said in her post.
Yes, Papagomo’s hyper-masculinity is a problematic issue but it is hardly the biggest one.
What is worrying is how such a man has the ear of the establishment and ultimately affects how Islam is being policed in this country.
We should lose countless nights’ sleep over this.
* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.