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Dispatches: Choose Your Bigots Carefully, Malaysia

“Islam is evil” is just one of many anti-Muslim slurs uttered by retired Lt. Gen. William “Jerry” Boykin, executive vice-president of the Washington-based Family Research Council (FRC) and former undersecretary of defense for intelligence under US President George W. Bush.

So one might assume that Malaysia, a predominantly Muslim country, would keep its distance from the likes of Boykin and the FRC. Think again – whatever reservations the Malaysian government might harbor about Boykin’s anti-Muslim views appear to have been set aside in a common, irrational fear of homosexuality.

Last week, the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (JAKIM), a government agency in the Prime Minister’s Office formed to protect the “purity of faith and the teaching of Islam” distributed a pamphlet with text adapted directly from an FRC pamphlet entitled “10 Myths about Homosexuality.”  The pamphlet suggests that homosexuals are not disadvantaged by discrimination and are mentally ill. 

The FRC is well known in the United States for distorting research, using discredited research, and relying on junk science. The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center designated FRC a hate group for knowingly spreading demeaning and false propaganda against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Given the blatantly anti-Islam bias of the FRC, it was particularly surprising to see Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar, the deputy dean (academic and research) of Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (Usim) medicine and health science faculty, stepping in to defend the pamphlets.

The pamphlet arrives as Malaysian courts have recently ruled on two cases that have a significant impact on the LGBT community. The Putrajaya Court of Appeal ruled last November that a state Sharia (Islamic law) ban on cross-dressing was “degrading, oppressive and inhuman.” Unfortunately, the government has appealed the ruling. 

The second case involves the recent conviction of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, sentenced to five years in prison under a colonial-era sodomy law that was once again dragged out for politically expedient purpose. It’s the second time Anwar has been charged under a law that has been invoked only seven times since 1938.

It’s time that the Malaysian government in general, and JAKIM in particular, realize that what the FRC says about homosexuality is as false and unreliable as what they say about Islam. JAKIM should withdraw the pamphlet, and the Malaysian government should stop spreading lies about LGBT people in Malaysia, and worldwide.





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