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Malaysia: Muslim fundamentalists target LGBT’s and Women’s March

Saturday 10 August 2019, by siawi3


Malaysia: stop targeting LGBT, says PSM

Sunday 19 August 2018,

by Annabelle Lee,

PSM has defended the right of LGBT activists to participate in public events like the International Women’s Day demonstration. This in response to Islamist criticism of government and police “failure” to intervene against LGBT participants earlier this year.

The latest attack on the “liberal” approach of the Pakatan Harapan government comes from the deputy president of the Islamist PAS party, Tuan Ibrahim Tuan Man.

Parti Sosialis Malaysia Deputy chairperson S Arutchelvan was responding to Tuan Ibrahim dismissing the government’s response on the matter as “shallow and disappointing.”

On the contrary, the PSM leader described de facto Deputy Law Minister Mohamed Hanipa Maidin’s parliamentary reply on the matter as “correct and spot on.”

“Freedom of assembly is a fundamental law guaranteed by Article 10 of the Federal Constitution. Nobody can stop any citizen from exercising their right to this freedom.

PSM urges Tuan Ibrahim not to look at these issues from a shallow perspective,” he added in a statement this afternoon.

Arutchelvan said the police could have taken action against the participants if laws were broken.

“But you cannot use laws to segregate certain groups of people and criminalise everything we are not comfortable with. We cannot criminalise or stereotype people as we wish.

“We need to be more inclusive in differences in our society as long as it does not violate the individual rights of another,” he added.

Arutchelvan pointed out that PSM, in its recent national congress, also passed a resolution asking the government to take a clear stand to protect the LGBTIQ community against hate, violence and discrimination.

In his parliamentary reply on Wednesday, Hanipa said the Women’s March did not violate Article 10 of the Federal Constitution, which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.

However, Tuan Ibrahim wanted the deputy minister to retract his statement.

“I urge the deputy minister’s answer to be withdrawn as it contradicts stipulations in the law and statements from the police.”Such an answer is seen as not addressing the real issue and could confuse the public," said the PAS leader.

Women’s March didn’t violate Federal Constitution, says Hanipa

PARLIAMENT | The Women’s March, in which a pro-LGBT group took part, did not contravene the Federal Constitution, de facto Deputy Law Minister Mohamed Hanipa Maidin said.

“The Women’s March involving the LGBT group did not violate Article 10 of the Federal Constitution,” Hanipa said in a parliamentary reply yesterday.

Article 10 of the Federal Constitution allows all citizens the right to assemble peacefully without weapons.

He was responding to Siti Zailah Mohd Yusoff (PAS-Rantau Panjang), who asked why the government classified the Women’s March involving the pro-LGBT group as “no further action” when it “obviously violated Islam and the Federal Constitution”.

Explaining further, Hanipa said the government did so as the police investigation found the event organiser had submitted a notice to the police 10 days prior to the march, in line with Section 9(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act.

“During the assembly, there was no incident that breached the law,” Hanipa added.

“Even if the honourable MP’s (Siti Zailah’s) accusation that what happened had violated Islam was true, under the law, the attorney-general has no power to charge those who go against Islam,” he said.

Participants in the march in Kuala Lumpur on March 9 put forward a list of demands, which included an end to child marriage and gender-based violence.

However, the demands were overshadowed by intense criticism over the presence of LGBT participants in the demonstration.

Police previously questioned nine people in connection with the Women’s March.

The police also conducted an investigation under Section 9(5) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act 1948, after receiving reports from the Dang Wangi district police headquarters.

In May, Home Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said the case was classified as ‘no further action’.

A guide to what happened at Women’s March

KINIGUIDE | The presence of LGBT participants at yesterday’s Women’s March in Kuala Lumpur has courted swift and growing backlash from both sides of the political divide.

De facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa slammed the defence of LGBT rights at the march as an abuse of democratic space, as he said it was against Islamic teachings.

Bersatu supreme council member Wan Saiful Wan Jan, meanwhile, criticised the participants for “polluting” the march and destabilising the country, while Wanita Umno chief Noraini Ahmad claimed that advocating LGBT rights would lead to “great destruction to social institutions.”

At least three police reports are expected to be lodged against the march organised by Penang Pakatan Harapan Youth, Selangor Bersatu Youth and a group calling themselves Gerakan Srikandi Malaysia.

But what was the march about? What did LGBT participants do and demand for?

Here, Malaysiakini recaptures what happened on the ground yesterday.

What was the march about?

The march was held in conjunction with International Women’s Day, and its main theme was “Hentikan Keganasan, Hormati Perempuan” (Stop violence, respect women).

It focused on five demands:

Ending all violence based on gender and sexual orientation;
Banning all child marriages;
Ensuring women’s rights and freedoms to make choices over their own bodies and lives;
Ensuring a dignified minimum wage of RM1,800; and
Destroying patriarchy and building genuine democracy at all levels of society.

Throughout the march, these demands were written on a large banner and repeatedly emphasised in the chants.

Were LGBT participants present at the march?

Among the 300 or so people present, some were seen holding rainbow flags, a popular symbol of solidarity for the LGBT community.

Some were also seen holding placards advocating just treatment of LGBT people, among them “People of quality do not fear equality” and “We exist.”

Is it true there were ‘Hidup LGBT’ chants?

Yes. Shouts of “Jangan kacau LGBT (Leave the LGBT community alone)“and “Hidup LGBT (Long live LGBT)” were heard during the march.

The majority of the chants, however, called for an end to violence against women, rape culture, sexual harassment, child marriage and patriarchy.

Were there demands for ‘LGBT rights’ at the march?

One speech by a self-identified transwoman highlighted the recent killings of those from the community, and called for an end to gender-based violence and discrimination.

She also stressed that transgender people were equal citizens who were protected by the Federal Constitution.

She repeatedly denied that they sought any “special rights” or special treatment.

The other speeches had called for an immediate ban on child marriages and advocated the rights of Orang Asli women, disabled women, female university students, refugee women and female domestic workers.

Critics have listed SIS and WAO as the organisers of the march. Is this true?

No. According to the Women’s March’s website, it was coordinated by a “loose coalition comprising various actors including collectives, non-governmental organisations and individuals.”

The Sisters in Islam and the Women’s Aid Organisation clarified to Malaysiakini that none of their members was on the organising committee.

However, both groups stressed they were in full support of the march.

What about reports that the march did not receive a police permit?

The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 stipulates that organisers need to notify the police 10 days before a march or assembly is held, but makes no mention of a permit.

In a statement to Malaysiakini, the organising committee stated that it had notified Dang Wangi police on Feb 25, 10 days before the march.

Despite meeting with the police to inform them of the names of the organisers and the proposed route, they said they did not receive “further communication or objection” from the police before the march.

Throughout the two-and-a-half hour march, at least one police car and several police outriders were observed monitoring traffic conditions and participants.

How have the organisers responded to the backlash?

The organisers have condemned the singling out of LGBT participants at the march.

“This borders on incitement to hatred and violence towards a section of Malaysian society who are already at risk and facing multiple forms of discrimination.

“We strongly reject such a move, and the continued escalation of this hostile and aggressive treatment.

"A healthy democracy rests on the full and equal participation by all levels of society,” read an excerpt.

For this, they attributed blame on the media as well as the “political opportunism by individuals in positions of authority.”

This installment of KiniGuide is compiled by ANNABELLE LEE.

original sources:



History shows gender, sexual diversity not alien to Malaysia

Monday 1 July 2019,

by Mayang AL-MOHDHAR , Sarah NGU

FEATURE | For many decades, government officials have trotted out the party line that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) rights are ‘Western’ and not ‘Asian’ values.

A couple of weeks ago, the Centre for Human Rights Research and Advocacy (Centhra) released a statement saying that LGBT rights are “foreign Western imports that are alien to Malaysia”.

But the historical record suggests the opposite. Southeast Asia has a rich history of gender and sexual diversity, one that was eventually erased largely due to Western colonialism.

As early as the 15th century, there are records of Malay androgynous priests, or sida-sida, who served in the palaces of sultans in Negeri Sembilan, Kelantan and Johor, among others.

The sida-sida were typically “male-bodied priests or courtiers” who undertook “androgynous behaviour”, such as wearing women’s clothes, and likely “engaged in sexual relationships with individuals of the same sex” or “both sexes”.

They resided in the inner chambers and were tasked with safeguarding women, to ensure the food and clothing of royalty were not tampered with by humans or spirits, and to oversee ritual protocol.

The sida-sida essentially guarded the palace’s physical and spiritual ’boundaries’ between mortals and divinity.

Shika Corona, a trans woman who plays in a queercore, KL-based band Tingtongketz, recalls hearing of an elderly trans woman who used to work in such a palace before she passed away.

“I feel very proud that we’ve been around for so long in Malaysia,” Shika said.

“Generally people here do not know who the sida-sida are. Since the 1980s, the media has been trying to say that trans women are something new… that LGBT is a Western thing.”

In Borneo, both the Ngaju Dayak and the Iban have rich traditions dating until the mid-20th Century of the basir and manang bali, who were typically male-bodied individuals who adopted feminine dress and demeanour, and who took normatively gendered males as their husbands.

Both the basir and manang bali were mediators and held roles of great ritual importance among the Iban. The manang bali were typically wealthy village chiefs known for their healing arts.

Early Iban society was not known for its gender non-conformity, yet people made an exception for the manang bali because they recognised their religious calling and the gifts and talents that they offered.

As Joseph Goh, a Malaysian queer theologian who writes on the manang bali, asks: “What would happen, I wonder, if present-day Malaysians, of all gender and sexual persuasions, courageously took a leaf out of the history book of the Ibans, and learned ways of living together in mutual respect and appreciation in the midst of persistent and irreconcilable differences?”

These gender-bending ritualistic roles were a function of age-old indigenous belief systems, that took on Hindu/Buddhist inflections, which portrayed the gods as androgynous or made up of male-female pairs.

Given this view of divinity, people who embodied both masculinity and femininity in their gender and/or sexuality were believed to be closer to the divine and uniquely capable of mediating between the spirits and humans.

Some believe that the Indian hijra – considered a third sex – whose origins are closely tied to Hindu mythology, is a figure that parallels or echoes the sida-sida.

Southeast Asian heritage

Acceptance of gender and sexual diversity is part of not just Malaysia’s indigenous history, but that of Southeast Asia at large.

How did Islam relate to this gender-bending ritualistic tradition? For many centuries, Islam was known in the region for its syncretism and integration with indigenous, even queer practices.

In the 1980s, the government offered gender-confirmation surgeries – the only other country in Southeast Asia to offer the surgery, aside from Thailand.

Trans health was so widely embraced that even the government contributed funds towards the Mak Nyah Association.

Many attribute the decline of “queer acceptance” within Islam to the global rise of reformist movements – such as Wahhabism and Salafism – in the 1980s.

These movements, formed largely as a response to Western hegemonies, established schools of learning in Saudi Arabia and other countries where many Southeast Asian Muslims were sent to study.

They returned home with a desire to reform Islam and purify it of all syncretic and superstitious traditions, such as the roles of sida-sida.

But not many know that it was the British who consolidated and expanded syariah law in Southeast Asia in their quest to bureaucratise and legally regulate public life.

In fact, the five Islamic countries with no anti-homosexual laws are those that were never colonised by the British.

Today, more than half of Southeast Asian countries – including Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, and Myanmar – that legally prohibit sodomy do so based on laws created by the colonial British in the early 1900s.

British officials were driven to police sexual behaviour, not just out of a desire to Christianise indigenous customs, but also out of fear that its all-men military camps would turn into “replicas of Sodom and Gomorrah,” as soldiers may be tempted by “special Oriental vices,” such as sodomy.

“I feel for a long time we’ve been cheated by the West to think that the West brought liberation to women and gays, when in fact it was the West that brought homophobia to Southeast Asia,” says N, a 32-year-old Malay lesbian.

“Our own histories are filled with so much sexual and gender diversity.”

Growing up in a Wahhabist Islamic school, N only came to learn about different, LGBT-friendly interpretations of Islam while in university.

She read about an Islamic boarding school for trans women in Yogyakarta (which has since been shut down, after coming under fire), and discovered Siti Musdah Muliah, a feminist scholar who argues that Islam accepts homosexuality.

Later on, she learned about the sida-sida and manang bali through a friend.

Like N, Joshua Chun Wah Kam was born into an middle-class family in Kuala Lumpur.

He grew up in a Christian, home-schooled environment where he learned sexual education through curricula from Christian American organisations, such as Focus on the Family.

After they found out he was gay, Chun’s parents enrolled him, a teenager then, in Christian counselling, which was run by the organisation Pursuing Liberty Under Christ (PLUC).

He watched gay films when his mother wasn’t around, but they all featured skinny, white characters living in Australia or America.

“All knowledge of LGBT-ness I had was mediated through whiteness. I had no understanding of what it was like to fall for an Asian dude,” he said.

As Chun grew older, he became curious if he had any “gay ancestors” (his family traces their lineage back to Fujian).

It was then he discovered Tu’er Shen, a historical Fujianese ’rabbit god’ who was worshipped as the patron deity of male homosexuality, as Fujian was a province historically known for male homosexuality.

“What gives me fuel to keep on is the knowledge that I’ve had ancestors who lived wonderful gay lives in Fujian… I feel this weight behind my back, the weight of ancestry,” he said.

The queer ancestry of Malaysians is certainly not entirely lost – there are still many threads of community. Mak nyah and lelaki lembut are disproportionately represented in the entertainment and beauty industries, even achieving public stardom, so long as they maintain a level of discretion.

Some maintain a particular ritual role as the mak andam, who plan weddings and beautify brides and who act, in a way, as mediators between brides and grooms. The role of the mak andam is a longstanding tradition that likely has its origins in the ritualistic roles of the sida-sida.

Especially in more rural, less Westernised areas, there is a deeply embedded, even if sometimes limited, familiarity and acceptance of gender and sexual non-conformity.

No perfect blueprint

Nevertheless, Malaysia’s history of gender and sexual diversity should not be taken as a perfect blueprint for the present. Historically, ’same-sex’ relationships involved hetero-gender pairs: a masculine and feminine person.

A ’masculine’ man attracted to other ’masculine’ men would be unheard of, and vice versa for women. Indeed, the invisibility of feminine lesbians is something that N, who does not identify herself as a ’masculine’ pengkid, struggles to combat.

Still, the queer history of Malaysia is worth reconnecting with, not just to counter the empty allegations that queerness is a Western invention, but to find inspiration for ways of being queer that is uniquely Asian.

The Centhra statement last week contrasted “LGBT rights” with “Asian values”, that is, “individualism” as opposed to “community and responsibility.”

The implication is that LGBT identity is ultimately an individualistic identity that disrupts the “peace and cohesiveness of society.”

It is a trope that goes back to Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s writings in the 1990s about communal “Asian values” versus individualistic “Western values.”

But Malaysia’s queer history does not fit neatly into this individual vs communal binary.

For the sida-sida and manang bali, their gender and sexuality were inseparable from the communal and religious roles that they played.

The manang bali, for instance, were often village chiefs who were responsible for mediating conflicts and communing with the spirits for the prosperity of the villages.

If they failed their ritual obligations, they would be held responsible for natural calamities. They held these roles because of, not in spite of, their gender and sexuality.

It may be more accurate to use the language of ’roles’ as opposed to ’identities’, and ’communal obligation’ instead of ’individual desire’, to properly capture who they were.

One cannot understand the sida-sida and manang bali individually, apart from their context.

In other words: is this not the essence of ‘Asian values’?

MAYANG AL-MOHDHAR, a Malaysian writer, contributed writing to this article.

Excerpts from Michael Peletz’ Gender Pluralism in Southeast Asia can be read here.

References to the sida-sida are scattered throughout the Sejarah Melayu and Misa Melayu. Historian Leonard Andaya has also written about this. Some believe the sida-sida are similar to the eunuchs who guarded Prophet Muhammad’s tomb in Medina since the 12th century.

As for the manang bali, you can go to the colonial archives in Kuching to see for yourself, but Joseph Goh has written on it here.

To understand that this queer religious phenomenon extends beyond Malaysia and is a huge part of Southeast Asian history, see my article in Vice.

SARAH NGU, who was born in Sarawak, is a freelance writer based in Brooklyn. Her works have been published in the South China Morning Post, Jacobin, Sojourners and aired over Public Radio International