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Malaysia hits back after politician blames natural disasters on LGBTI people

Malaysia hits back after politician blames natural disasters on LGBTI people

Malaysia’s opposition leader, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi (Photo: Facebook)

Politicians, rights activists and LGBTI supporters have denounced recent homophobic comments made in parliament by Malaysian opposition leader Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, head of the United Malays National Organisation, said the LGBTI community was to blame for the recent earthquake and tsunami in Indonesia.

Malaysia, where gay sex is illegal under a colonial-era law, is witnessing increasing attacks on the marginalized LGBTI community.

‘It was said that over 1,000 people were involved in the [LGBT] activities and the area was hit [by the disaster]. This is a punishment from God’ Zahid told parliament, according to local media.

He urged Malaysia’s Islamic development department tackle the LGBTI community ‘so that we can avoid similar punishment from God’.

A minister said in reply LGBTI ‘culture’ was not accepted. But, the minister from the Prime Minister’s department argued, the government would take different approaches to address it.

‘As Muslims, we believe that any calamity that took place happened naturally with the approval from God,’ the minister said.

Anti-LGBTI comments from Malaysia’s leaders or attacks on the community have become regular occurrences in the Southeast Asian nation.

Last week, a religious leader said children should be taught not to be LGBTI from a young age.

‘Height of stupidity’

Lawmakers, government ministers, and rights advocates jumped on Zahid’s ill-informed comments.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh took to twitter to say corruption, not LGBTI, was the ‘biggest social ill and immoral activity’ in Malaysia.

“Of all the pressing issues the Opposition leader @Zahid_Hamidi could have raised, he chose this.

Netizens widely shared a photo of Yeoh frowning as Zahid made his comments.

Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman asked Zahid: ‘How about those who are corrupt and in cahoots with those who steal the people’s money? Will misfortune fall?’

Lawmaker Charles Santiago took to Facebook to call Zahid’s comments the ‘height of stupidity’.

Majidah Hashim from Sisters in Islam called the lawmaker’s comments ‘unsympathetic and disrespectful to the thousands who died’

Rights group, Pelangi, said ‘queer bodies are not your punching bag’.

Crackdown continues

LGBTI Malaysians have complained of deteriorating rights since a new government came to power earlier this year.

Malaysia’s religious affairs minister earlier this week warned Malaysians not to let the LGBTI community’s ‘extreme ideas dictate you’.

He echoed Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad’s comments to Malaysia’s human rights body that the country would not accept LGBTI people.

‘In Malaysia, there are some things we cannot accept,’ Mahathir told reporters. ‘Even though it is seen as human rights in Western countries’, he reportedly explained.

A 2013 survey found 86 per cent of Malaysians believed homosexuality should not be socially accepted. Only nine percent said it should.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia under Section 377 of the Penal Code. Its similar colonial-era legislation to the anti-gay law that India dismantled last month.

Furthermore, advocacy groups have warned of a backsliding in human rights for LGBTI Malaysians since a new government took power.

In the last two months, Malaysia caned two women for attempting lesbian sex. Police also raided the oldest gay club in the country. What’s more, ministers and politicians have spoken out against the LGBTI community.

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