A Malaysian issue made to look Malay

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LGBT is not a Pas or an Umno problem. The problem is neither the Malays’ nor Mahathir’s either. It is a Malaysian issue, writes Mary Chin.

The LGBT issue has been splashing the headlines.

Non-acceptance of the LGBT community is made to look like a Malay or Muslim problem. It is not. It is a Malaysian problem. Let us not fall into the trap of the media campaign whether social or mass media.

Has the LGBT issue been politicised? The statement by the deputy health minister about the organic origin of LGBT is among the few which is apolitical. That is an invitation for the nation to be logical, medical and scientific. The difference can be seen on brain scans.

When both sides of the divide develop that habit of accusing each other of politicising issues, how do we tell whether a news item has been politicised or not?

Recall Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s own words at a human rights conference: “Imagine a gay PM […] nobody will be safe.” But tell us, how can a gay person ever be less safe than a non-gay?

Why are those muftis’ anti-LGBT statements spinning their rounds on the media while Mahathir’s statement never seems to get quoted? Our viral squad has been pretty selective – the same way as with the quotes regarding laundrettes and the misquote that taking an Uber or a Grab was similar to khalwat.

These were shared many rounds over but not a surau’s offering of flood shelter to all of Allah’s creation (including non-Muslims) or Khairy Jamaluddin’s words of wisdom: “It is compulsory (wajib) for you to observe the five pillars. It is not compulsory for people to catch you not doing it.”

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Meticulously censoring Mahathir’s stand and sanitising Pakatan Harapan’s while at the same time condemning the censorship of the portraits of Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik from the George Town Festival are clearly politically biased.

This is perhaps partly because people find black and white easier to handle than grey – not censoring Mahathir and not sanitising Harapan would hurt some simple minds.

Numan Afifi too has been capitalised in the same media campaign against “conservative Malays”. Numan was pressured into quitting as Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman’s press officer.

Amidst crossfires, who is actually fighting against whom? Imagine if we run a referendum on LGBT rights – do we think non-Malays and Harapan supporters would vote in favour of LGBT rights? Of course not. The majority of Malaysians are unable to accept the LGBTs.

Yes, we do have Malaysians whose hearts and minds are open enough. But that is a small minority. Most Malaysians are stuck; they are unable to see the person beyond the LGBT tag. LGBT is not a Pas or an Umno problem. The problem is neither the Malays’ nor Mahathir’s either. It is a Malaysian problem. Let us not fall into the trap of the media campaign.

Many are keeping quiet, gaining both ways, silently clapping their hands each time a Muslim leader makes an anti-LGBT statement. On the one hand, they keep their heads down and leave it to others to fight the anti-LGBT cause they share in common. On the other, they tap the golden opportunity to step up the campaign against “conservative Malays”.

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The LGBT issue is just another opportunity as was Nurul Izzah’s dress code – is that a Muslim problem? Some churches specify on their projection screens the permissible measurements for sleeves, collars, tops and bottoms – all given in inches!

The point is that some – but not all – Christians are like that, just as some but not all Muslims are like that. Muslim or Christian, a truly spiritual believer would be able to let go of thoughts and judgements the very moment he or she notices a particular dress code.

Likewise, child marriage has been painted as a Muslim issue. As pointed out by the Women’s Aid Organisation (WAO) vice-president, last year’s statistics showed that 52% or 968 of the total applications for child marriage were non-Muslims.

Along the same vein, wanting leaders from one own’s tribe is made to look exclusively Malay. So what is so Malay about, “Muslim groups oppose local elections, fearing more non-Malays in power”? I assure you many from the non-Muslim denominations feel they should vote for candidates from their own faith too; some who are in the position even instruct others to vote for candidates of their own faith. The point is some, but not all, Christians are like that just as some but not all Muslims are like that.

Campaigners cheer each time they see how defensively Muslim leaders and NGOs react. Really, Muslims with a bit of wisdom could refrain from reacting more than necessary. The should know that they are just being used. Any reaction would attract like a magnet the cybertroopers who are on standby.

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Those on a calculated silent mode turn out to be the loudest and the noisiest on almost all other issues. The 2018 general election is frequently spoken of as, “the people’s voice is heard”. Well, that is not completely true. The loudest voice is heard, and the loudest voice isn’t quite the people’s voice.

With so much said about championing the rakyat’s right and fighting for the nation, the terms rakyat and nation became mere over-used propaganda when the group’s interest is really their exclusive self.

At this critical juncture, as we correct ourselves as a nation, let us consider longer-term stability. Now is the opportune time to strive towards a balanced, sustainable and inclusive society – or we lose it altogether.

Each of us can be motivated towards this goal for different reasons. Some need to be threatened with the prospects of riots and looting; they then see the need for a balanced, sustainable and inclusive society. Some need to be threatened with the fires of hell, they then feel the need to be balanced, sustainable and inclusive. Others need no threatening, just motivated by a conviction deep down.

Whatever the motivation, we do need a balanced, sustainable and inclusive society.

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