Bigot, troublemaker, agent provocateur? Alvin Tan prefers ‘free speech activist’

Tan’s recent ‘R&B cover’ of the azan was made to expose Malaysians’ attitude towards freedom of expression, which he said ‘has a long way to go’. — YouTube screengrab
Tan’s recent ‘R&B cover’ of the azan was made to expose Malaysians’ attitude towards freedom of expression, which he said ‘has a long way to go’. — YouTube screengrab

KUALA LUMPUR, May 3 — Fugitive Alvin Tan has claimed to be a “freedom of speech activist” in a recent interview with the BBC World Service published in the “BBC Trending” podcast today.

According to the former sex blogger, his recent “R&B cover” of the azan — the Muslim call to prayer — in a  video was made to expose Malaysians’ attitude towards freedom of expression, which he said “has a long way to go”.

“You could say sex blogger, a bigot, troublemaker, agent provocateur. If you want to go by my definition, I'd just say freedom of speech activist,” Tan said in the interview after he was asked to describe himself.

“The whole intention behind the video was to show that Malaysian society has a long way to go in terms of appreciating the importance and how free speech should and can work,” Tan commented on his video.

In the two-minute-and-50-second video uploaded to his official Facebook page last month, Tan appears topless with a pair of sunglasses on, and plays a keyboard while reciting the azan.

Speaking to the BBC, Tan said that controversial speech such as his need protection, compared to those which are “mellow” and “chilled down”.

Accused of Islamophobia over his actions, Tan said that the label is unfair against those who criticise Islam when the religion is being used as a base of governance and policies that directly affect them.

“What is a photograph, a video compared to the death threats that I have received?” he asked, admitting that his posts are just “attention-seeking antics” that do not have real consequences such as the death threats.

Tan also claimed that Muslims do not have the credibility to demand respect for their religion when they do not respect the human rights afforded to the public, such as with laws that severely punish apostasy.

Commenting on the podcast on his Facebook page later, Tan complained that the interview was edited in a way that would please BBC’s audience.

“The actual interview of course lasted much longer, but apparently they cut and paste the things listeners want to hear and deliberately leave out the things that seem to benefit me and discredit Islam,” he said.

Tan, who first shot to fame here over his sex blog with a former girlfriend, fled the country last September to seek political asylum in the US after authorities prosecuted him for insulting Islam on Facebook.

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