Threat of LGBT Violence Used as a Political Weapon in Malaysia

Protests in NYC against Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir

In the wake of the long ordeal of Malaysian politician Anwar Ibrahim, whose career was derailed for years by legal battles and convictions for sodomy, a campaign against LGBT people in Malaysia has been ramping up since Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir came to power this year.

Gays have been publicly caned, beaten in the streets, subjected to police raids and daily repression. Analysts say the campaign is being waged in order to keep figures like Mr. Ibrahim, now the head of the People’s Justice Party, in line and in the coalition that keeps Mr. Mahathir in power.

Sex, Lies, Videotape, And Sharia In Malaysia

Mr. Ibrahim was publicly promised the prime minister’s post after a two-year period, but leaked audio tapes suggest this was a ploy to gain the support of his followers after he was pardoned and released from prison earlier this year. The campaign against gays is meant to scare Mr. Ibrahim in to submission, with the fear of returning to jail for a long period of time.

There have also been tapes of certain Malaysian senior official on tape boasting about the current government’s ability to control officials, coalition members, through intimidation, blackmail and threats.

Threat of LGBT Violence Used as a Political Weapon in Malaysia

The point of this column is not Mr. Ibrahim’s sexual orientation, but the threat that corruption and abuse of power pose to Malaysia.

It appears that Prime Minister Mahathir is using the sexuality of a rival for political purposes, stoking the fires of repression against a certain segment of the population in order to maintain power.

It’s a campaign that is not going unchallenged: Organized protests followed Mr. Mahathir when he came to New York for last month’s U.N. General Assembly, even rallying outside his hotel. The gay community in Malaysia feels the only hope left for equal rights and legal protection is to appeal for support from the West.

Speaking in Kuala Lumpur last month, Mr. Mahathir told reporters, “There are certain things that we cannot accept even though it is accepted as human rights in the West. This includes LGBT and same-sex marriage. … A couple with their own children, or even adopted children, is considered a family. But two men and two women is not considered a family.”

People can have differences of opinion over lifestyles or same-sex marriage, but persecuting a certain part of the population or using the issue to blackmail a fellow politician is just wrong and cannot lead to good outcomes for Malaysia.

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Human rights are human rights no matter what your sexuality is.

Mr. Mahathir was returned to power earlier this year as Malaysian voters expressed frustration with the endemic corruption that former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, just charged with 25 counts of abuse of power and money laundering, could not address.

With Islamist extremism growing rapidly in Southeast Asia, Malaysia could be a beacon of stability in the region. Another corrupt regime in Kuala Lumpur will not lead the nation in that direction.

Originally posted at The Washington Times

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