More than a decade after Malaysia triggered a raging controversy by putting its then deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in the dock for alleged sodomy, the Southeastern nation witnessed a fresh uproar this week with a government MP attacking homosexuality as an ‘evil concept’ and ‘security threat’ that could ‘spark inter-religious conflict’.
Noh Omar, a former minister whose United Malay National Organization is a member of the ruling coalition, caused an uproar in parliament Wednesday when he attacked homosexuality, Ibrahim, who is now the opposition leader, and an alliance of NGOs who are in Geneva attending the Universal Periodic Review on human rights with the recommendation that the Malaysian government endorse sexual orientation and gender identity rights.
The debate in parliament on a security act turned into an ugly attack on homosexuality when Noh called it a Western practice alien to the teachings of Islam and insinuated the opposition was backing it because of Anwar.
Noh said the security threat had started with communists, followed by racial conflict, terrorism and now gangsterism and religious conflict. Since homosexuality was banned in Islam, he said if it was allowed in Malaysia it would drive other Muslims to fight the phenomenon, leading to riots.
‘What will happen to our children, Malays and Muslims in particular, if (the) LGBT (lifestyle) becomes an accepted culture?’ Noh said. ‘Sex change is not allowed in Islam.’
‘These things can’t be fought for at international level. If not contained, this virus will spread… I worry that this would lead to riots and inter-religious conflict.’
The catalyst for the outburst was the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs (Comango), a bloc of 54 NGOs, attending the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) on human rights in Geneva.
‘Human rights in the West are different from ours,’ Noh later told the media. ‘There is no need to take the issue to Geneva, they don’t understand our culture.
‘They are all about minding their own business, but in Islam, we have the concept of propagating good and forbidding evil.’
Noh also said Comango was in Geneva to push for free sex.
When another MP asked Noh to focus on other human rights issues like child abuse, human trafficking and maltreatment of migrant workers, the former minister retaliated by asking the interjector if he would like it ‘if a man had sex with another man’.
As Anwar’s daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar, also an MP, stood up, she too was attacked by Noh, who asked her if she supported sodomy.
It was a veiled allusion to Anwar’s being arrested, jailed and put on trial for sodomy.
Though Anwar rejects the charge, saying it was politically motivated, and was acquitted by a court, the government is now challenging the acquittal in court.
Angry MPs asked the deputy speaker to reprimand Noh but the official refused to do so.
Noh has also asked for action if any NGO in Comango is found to be unregistered.