‘Okay to be gay’ video courts death threats

By Syed Jaymal Zahiid, Free Malaysia Today

KUALA LUMPUR: When Azwan Ismail decided to come out of the closet and posted a video on YouTube titled “Saya Gay, Saya Okay (I’m gay and I’m ok)”, it was meant to instill courage and drive home the point that it was fine to be lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender (LBGT).

However, the engineer was humiliated and chastised instead. Worse still, he had also received death threats. There were also those urging the Muslim individual to repent.

Azwan’s video was part of a project called “It gets better in Malaysia”, the brainchild of LBGT rights group Seksualiti Malaysia.

It is the Malaysian chapter of a US-based initiative meant to promote acceptance towards LBGTs following the rise in suicides among LBGTs which rights groups claimed is caused by social alienation.

Azwan’s video received 150,000 views. His is among the 15 contributions received for the project and one of the four videos put online for public viewing.

A check on the comments posted on his video revealed that most of the 3,400 postings were hostile.

Expressing disappointment, Seksualiti Malaysia said the comments were a reflection of the prevailing Malaysian mindset.

“The intolerant and vicious comments prove that Malaysia is a hostile environment preventing any LGBTs from leading honest, open and meaningful lives,” read a statement posted by the movement in its website today.

Homophobic politicians

Malaysia’s level of tolerance towards LBGTs was again tested by this project and for those belonging to this group, the government had failed to address the issue.

Responding to the videos, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Jamil Khir Baharom immediately instructed the federal Islamic authority Jakim to monitor the activities of gay groups.

“We must monitor their movement to contain it because their activities can tarnish the image of Islam,” he had said.

However, Seksualiti Malaysia took the minister to task over his “irresponsible” remarks.

The movement also slammed Jamil for failing to ask the authorities to “criminalise those who post abusive and vulgar comments which threaten Malaysian citizens with violence and death”.

“The minister’s primary concern is the image of Islam being tarnished. We never intended to tarnish the image of Islam. We simply wanted to give hope.

“However, we feel that Islam’s image can also be tarnished by those who speak with hate and intolerance, completely without a trace of humanity,” read the statement further.

Calling for debate and discourse, the group urged national leaders to address the increasing threats of violence towards LBGTs.