Malaysia probably saw its first pro-LGBT march in the country but it has more than that to worry about with a surge in ‘religious’ attacks online
Last week was an eventful one for Malaysia, with an LGBT march in Kuala Lumpur, the arrest and jailing of Malaysians for insulting the Prophet of Islam.
The country also saw the condemnation of the government for its anti-LGBT stance and for apparently condoning the ‘harsh’ sentencing of the islamophobic offenders.
Malaysian Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religion Mujahid Yusof Rawa lambasted the LGBT community and civil rights organisations for what he calls “the misuse of the democratic space to defend things that are wrong in the religion of Islam.”
Shouting in Malay saying “Hidup LGBT” (long live LGBT), the marchers challenged the norms in Malaysia, risking the full brunt from the authorities but surprisingly enough they were allowed to carry out their illegal march.
Mujahid later reaffirmed the government’s rejection of the LGBT ‘practices here,” though he was the first Malaysian Minister who stood with an LGBT representative last year to proclaim their ‘rights’ to an existence.
However, the country’s authorities have bigger problems on their hands with a sudden surge of religious strife on social media, prompting the Pakatan Harapan government to threaten it will vote a new law to curb on the freedom of speech.
The actions taken by the authorities against the Islamophobic attacks are not unique but it is the long jail term of 10 years and 10 months that shocked many.
Many from the non-Malay community are asking whether the country is going against the freedom of the citizens to criticise and to post comments on the Internet.
A former Minister in ex-PM Najib Razak’s cabinet who turned against the latter Zaid Ibrahim posted a comment that gained traction.
He asked whether this was the ‘new Malaysia’ where a citizen gets arrested for criticising Islam while a foreigner with permanent residence is not targeted for ‘insulting’ other faiths.
Zaid was probably referring to Zakir Naik, the Indian religious figure who is well known for his scathing speeches against other faiths during debates.
Zakir was given permanent residence by the Najib regime but has been allowed to stay in Malaysia by the government of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
The current government and the Najib regime did not see any harm in Zakir’s speeches and do not agree that he insulted anyone in the country.
Nevertheless, the government has a plan in its attempt to curb the rising religious intolerance online where all parties are attacking each other’s faith.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo on Monday this week made it clear his government is mulling a new law against news portals that purportedly allow insensitive comments to be left on their online platforms by readers.
The DAP Minister said his ministry has received numerous public complaints regarding such inflammatory remarks on news portals or the social pages of the news organisations.
The Malaysian social media scene has become the battlefield for a few who are either calling for the death sentence for those insulting Islam or for stronger regulations of the Internet in the country.
Mujahid Yusof Rawa said last Thursday the Islamic Affairs Department had set up a unit to monitor writings and communications insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
Some non-Malays are threatening to use their voting power to oust any government that does not act fairly against all forms of religious and racial attacks, but the Pakatan regime is now solidly in place.
Perhaps it needs to impose itself a little bit more in order to calm the spirits that are disturbing the peace in Malaysia?