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University runs contest for students to convert gay people in Malaysia

University runs contest for students to convert gay people in Malaysia

Two men in black t-shirts facing each other with their arms in the air and smiling at each other

From the country that brought you ‘how to spot a gay’ checklist, comes a competition for university students to try and convert their gay classmates.

The Muslim Students’ Association at the Universiti Sains Malaysia on the island of Penang ran the competition as a part of ‘Back to Fitrah’ forum. The competition had the approval of university authorities.

Back to Fitrah refers to living in the ‘primordial essence’ of faith as a Muslim.

One of the forum organizers, Abdul Hadi Radzi, told NBC News they wanted to ‘reach out to LGBT’ people. He said the association ‘loves’ LGBT people and ‘we want to help’ them.

‘We are trying to educate people. This is our view to correct LGBT. Not to persecute. Not to condemn them,’ he said.

‘The LGBT community is brave enough to do their programs openly. We don’t want more people to get involved with them.’

Homosexuality and transgenderism is illegal in Malaysia, where the community faces a lot of violence and persecution.

Malaysian trans advocacy group, Justice for Sisters, said it was ‘extremely concerned by the overall harmful impact’ of the competition.

‘Such programmes create a toxic and unsafe environment for all students and staff, LGBTI and gender diverse persons in particular, and run counter to the aim of such institutions that are supposed to provide an open learning environment for all,’ the group said in a statement.

Malaysia and conversion therapy

The university competition’s posters featured the Malaysian Department of Education’s seal. Last year another government department also endorsed gay conversion therapy.

In February last year, Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) released a video explaining how LGBTI people could change their sexuality.

The video said it was like learning to ride a horse and if a LGBTI person wanted to become heterosexual they should receive training and guidance.

It suggested people should marry the opposite gender or to subdue sexual desires by refusing to eat.

Trans people also don’t have it much better when it comes to conversion therapy. The state of Terengganu will run official ‘courses’ to help trans women find a ‘path to make the best choices for their lives’.

The lives of LGBTI people in Penang is a mixed bag. Openly gay movies movies have been banned from screening there and last year a teenage boy died from his injuries after a homophobic bashing.

But a group of local politicians are trying to make laws to protect the rights of trans people in Penang.