Public persecution of the gay community is almost commonplace, with certain members of the public, politicians, and other authorities calling for both earthly and divine punishments upon homosexuals. This has also led to gay Malaysians petitioning for political asylum in more tolerant countries, citing fear of persecution due to their sexual orientation.

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Why does Islam have a special status?

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Answer

Few can forget Malaysia’s longstanding obsession with politicians purportedly engaging in sodomy, or how the nether regions of infamous individuals continue to make headlines.

Read about sodomy laws in Malaysia and elsewhere here.

While there is no civil law expressly forbidding homosexuality in Malaysia, Section 377 of the Malaysian Penal Code deems the act of sodomy a punishable ‘unnatural offence’, with those found guilty facing a maximum penalty of up to 20 years in jail, caning, and a fine.

Read Tilted World’s detailed take on Section 377 here.

Despite efforts by liberal communities such as Seksualiti Merdeka and Tilted World, who strive to create awareness and acceptance on sexuality issues, the fairly recent furor over Azwan Ismail’s ‘Saya gay, Saya OK’ YouTube video spoke volumes about the common (conservative) man’s deeply discriminatory attitude against homosexuality.

Read more about LGBT rights in Malaysia here.

Although Azwan’s video was applauded by the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender) community and other allies, it was met with fierce rebuke and death threats from many other quarters. About 240,000 views and over 3,500 largely negative comments later, the video was removed for his safety.

However, the commenters who engaged in hate crime against Azwan by threatening death and violence against his person were not charged for their wrongdoings, though their conduct would be punishable by law in many other countries.

Read Seksualiti Merdeka’s statement on the death threats here and learn about hate crime laws around the world here.

Public persecution of the gay community is almost commonplace, with certain members of the public, politicians, and other authorities calling for both earthly and divine punishments upon homosexuals. This has also led to gay Malaysians petitioning for political asylum in more tolerant countries, citing fear of persecution due to their sexual orientation.

Read about Azwan’s ‘manhunt’ here and about gay political asylum here and here.

But how has this culture of hostility against homosexuality – arguably an increasingly accepted way of life in many parts of the world – become entrenched in the people’s psyche?

The answer can be attributed to the country’s religious beliefs, which exert considerable influence and warrant a separate set of Syariah laws that apply to the Muslim majority. Apart from civil laws that criminalize sexual acts ‘against the order of nature’, state level Syariah laws also punish homosexuality and sodomy.

With homosexuality considered worse than the act of adultery, liwat (sexual relations between male persons) and musahaqah (sexual relations between female persons) are deemed punishable offences under the Syariah Criminal Offences (Federal Territories) Act 1997. Thus, gay Muslims such as Azwan and many others face severe repercussions for practising their sexual orientation without observing the religious regulations in place.

Refer to the Syariah Criminal Offences Act 1997 here and read more about the Act in this reproductive rights paper here.

However, one cannot dismiss the longstanding rationale of why homosexuality is considered taboo in Islam. Homosexuality is mentioned in the story of Sodom and Gomorrah (Lot’s people) in the Holy Quran. While Islam acknowledges that people can be born with gay inclinations, it is believed to be a mere test for them to overcome. Whether the individual acts upon their urges or refrains and repents is their own choice.

Read about Islam’s stance on homosexuality here, a collection of articles about why homosexuality is haram here and references to holy verses here.

The Malaysian mainstream media also shoulders part of the blame. Pang Khee Teik, a noted Malaysian gay activist, has critiqued the Malaysian Film and Censorship Board’s stance – the inclusion of gay characters is only allowed if they repent or go straight – with his photographic narrative Repent or Die! which depicts unfortunate endings for unrepentant homosexuals.

Read more about his work at the World Images exhibition in Paris here.

While Pang’s tongue-in-cheek critique has drawn global attention to how homosexuality is perceived in Malaysia’s mainstream media, the discussion must not end there. The continuation of existing efforts by awareness groups may produce a more holistic society that embraces homosexuals as fellow human beings with every right to live and love without fear of persecution.

For the Nut Graph’s in-depth view on Malaysia’s polarization of opinions on homosexuality and dire need to rethink its sodomy laws, read here (and the discussions in its comment thread) and here.

MENGAPA GAY TAK OKAY DI MALAYSIA?

Tidak ramai yang boleh lupakan obsesi yang berpanjangan berkaitan dengan ahli-ahli politik yang kononnya terlibat dalam kes liwat, atau bagaimana anggota badan seseorang individu itu terus kekal popular di dalam berita utama.

Baca mengenai undang-undang liwat di Malaysia dan di temat-tempat lain di sini.

Walaupun tiada undang-undang sivil nyata yang melarang homoseksual di Malaysia, Seksyen 377 dalam Kanun Keseksaan Malaysia mendapati perbuatan liwat merupakan ‘kesalahan luar tabii’ yang boleh dihukum apabila disabitkan kesalahan dengan hukuman maksima penjara sehingga 20 tahun, sebatan dan denda.

Rujuk perincian Tilted World berkaitan dengan Seksyen 377 di sini.

Walaupun usaha-usaha ada dijalankan oleh masyarakat liberal seperti Seksualiti Merdeka dan Tilted World, yang berusaha untuk mewujudkan kesedaran dan penerimaan ke atas isu-isu seksualiti, baru-baru ini muncul rakaman video YouTube oleh Azwan Ismail berjudul ‘Saya gay, Saya OK’ telah mendedahkan bagaimana kebanyakan orang biasa (konservatif) mendiskriminasi golongan homoseksual.

Baca lebih lanjut mengenai hak  LGBT di Malaysia di sini.

Walaupun video Azwan ini menerima banyak menerima pujian daripada komuniti LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, MakNyah, Biseksual) dan sekutu-sekutu lain, ia telah menemui satu tamparan hebat buatnya dan ancaman bunuh daripada banyak pihak. Kira-kira 240,000 penonton dan lebih 3,500 orang yang mengutuknya. Selepas itu, video itu dikeluarkan demi keselamatan beliau.

Walau bagaimanapun, pihak yang memberi komen yang terlibat dalam jenayah kebencian terhadap Azwan dengan mengancam untuk membunuh dan mengacukan keganasan terhadapnya tidak dikenakan sebarang kesalahan atas ancaman yang dilontarkan mereka, walaupun kelakuan mereka akan dihukum oleh undang-undang di banyak negara lain.

Baca kenyataan Seksualiti Merdeka atas ancaman bunuh di sini dan ketahui mengenai bagaimana undang-undang jenayah benci berfungsi di seluruh dunia di sini.

Penganiayaan secara umum berkaitan dengan komuniti gay telah menjadi sesuatu yang biasa, dengan terdapatnya ahli tertentu dari kalangan orang awam, ahli politik, dan pihak berkuasa lain yang mendesak hukuman duniawi dan yang berlandaskan keagamaan mengenai homoseksual ini. Perkara ini juga telah menjurus kepada rakyat Malaysia dari golongan gay membuat rayuan supaya diberikan perlindungan politik di negara-negara yang lebih bertolak ansur, akibat kerana takut dianiaya kerana orientasi seksual mereka.

Baca mengenai ‘pemburuan orang seperti  Azwan’ di sini dan kira-kira suaka politik gay di sini dan sini.

Tetapi bagaimana budaya permusuhan terhadap homoseksual ini – yang boleh dikatakan satu cara yang semakin diterima di dalam masyarakat di kebanyakan pelosok dunia – berakar dalam jiwa rakyat?

Jawapannya boleh dikaitkan dengan kepercayaan agama di sesebuah negara itu, yang mempunyai pengaruh yang agak besar dan disempitkan dengan undang-undang Syariah yang terpakai bagi majoriti Islam. Selain daripada undang-undang sivil yang menghukum perbuatan seksual  ’yang bertentangan dengan sifat semulajadi’, undang-undang Syariah kerajaan ini juga menghukum homoseksualiti dan perbuatan liwat.

Dengan kegiatan homoseksual dianggap lebih buruk daripada perbuatan zina, liwat (hubungan seks antara lelaki dengan lelaki) dan musahaqah (hubungan seks antara perempuan dengan perempuan) dianggap kesalahan yang boleh dihukum di bawah Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah (Wilayah-Wilayah Persekutuan) Akta 1997. Maka, umat Islam gay seperti Azwan dan lain-lain lagi akan berhadapan dengan akibat yang lebih teruk kerana golongan ini mengamalkan orientasi seksual mereka tanpa mematuhi peraturan-peraturan agama yang ada.

Sila rujuk Akta Kesalahan Jenayah Syariah 1997 di sini dan baca lebih lanjut mengenai Akta ini di sini.

Walau bagaimanapun, kita tidak boleh menolak rasional yang difahami selama ini tentang mengapa homoseksual dianggap tabu dalam Islam. Homoseksualiti yang disebut melalui kisah Sodom dan Gomora (orang Lot) di dalam Al-Quran. Walaupun Islam mengakui bahawa manusia boleh dilahirkan dengan kecenderungan gay, ia dipercayai menjadi ujian semata-mata bagi mereka untuk mengatasinya. Sama ada ianya suatu perbuatan individu itu sendiri untuk menurutinya atau menahan diri dan bertaubat adalah pilihan mereka sendiri.

Baca mengenai pendirian Islam mengenai homoseksual di sini, koleksi rencana tentang mengapa homoseksual adalah haram di sini dan rujukan kepada ayat-ayat suci di sini.

Media arus perdana di Malaysia juga patut dipersalahkan  dalam hal ini. Pang Khee Teik, seorang aktivis gay Malaysia yang dikenali ramai, telah mengkritik pendirian Filem Malaysia dan Lembaga Penapisan Filem, di mana penglibatan watak-watak gay hanya dibenarkan jika mereka bertaubat atau beraksi seperti lelaki tulen. Beliau menyatakannya melalui naratif fotografinya berjudul Repent or Die! yang menggambarkan pengakhiran yang malang bagi homoseksual yang enggan bertaubat.

Baca lebih lanjut mengenai kerja-kerja beliau yang dilakukan di pameran World Images di Paris di sini.

Walaupun kritikan panas Pang telah menarik perhatian global bagaimana homoseksual dilihat dalam media arus perdana Malaysia, perbincangan tersebut tidak harus berakhir di situ sahaja. Penerusan usaha-usaha yang sedia ada dengan kumpulan kesedaran mungkin mampu menghasilkan masyarakat yang lebih holistik, yang merangkumi homoseksual sebagai sesama manusia, dengan hak setiap hidup dan kasih sayang tanpa rasa takut dan dianiaya.

Untuk paparan Nut Graph yang mendalam mengenai polarisasi pendapat di Malaysia mengenai homoseksual dan pengkajian perlu memikirkan semula undang-undang liwat, baca di sini (dan perbincangan dalam ruang komen) dan sini.