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9 Jul 2008

Wouldn't it be easier if Anwar were really gay?

Once again, the word 'sodomy' reverberates through Malaysian politics. Once again, the accusation is widely believed to be a device for cutting opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim down to size.

Naturally, the sexual accusation is denied, but lost in the whole affair is any sensible discussion of why a political leader must necessarily be heterosexual.

Mohd Saiful Bukhari bin Azlan (inset) has accused opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sexual assault
On Saturday, Jun 28 2008, a 23-year-old university dropout, Mohd Saiful Bukhari bin Azlan, made a police report alleging that he had been sexually assaulted by Anwar on eight separate occasions at an apartment in Desa Damasara Heights condominium.

Immediately, Anwar called it a fabrication, questioning the motives of the younger man. Parti Keadliaan Rakyat (PKR), of which Anwar is the unofficial leader, suggested that Saiful was a plant when he volunteered to help in the lead-up to the March 2008 general election.

Malaysian daily The Star also reported that Saiful had met up with Deputy Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak at the latter's home a few days prior to the police report, a fact that Najib confirmed. Najib however said he merely listened to the distraught young man and did not direct him to make the police report.

With a strong counter-attack by Anwar and such revelations by the media, it was unsurprising that a survey finding by the Merdeka Centre showed only six percent of Malays believed the allegations of sodomy. Fifty-nine percent saw them as politically motivated. The Malays form the largest ethnic group in Malaysia, constituting about 60 percent of the population.

Certainly, the timing is suspicious. Anwar had been piling pressure on the government of Abdullah Badawi. The opposition leader had been boasting for some time now that he had enough secret defections from the ruling coalition to bring down the government at a time of his choosing. In any case, Prime Minister Badawi's collapsing support, as seen in the last election, has made his departure from office a matter of time, even if his coalition hangs on to office. In line to succeed him is Najib.

However, in order for Najib to succeed Badawi smoothly, the threat of Anwar has to be neutralised, and this is how many Malaysians are seeing the latest accusations - as a replay of what happened in 1998.

That year, Anwar was sacked from his Deputy Prime Minister's job by then-Prime Minister Mohamad Mahathir, with accusations of having committed sodomy with two men, Sukma Darmawan Sasmitaat Madja and Munawar Anees. The two were convicted under Malaysia's Penal Code for having "allowed themselves to be sodomised" by Anwar Ibrahim, and sentenced to six months' imprisonment. They later retracted their confessions, saying that they had been made under duress.

Anwar himself was convicted of "carnal intercourse against the order of nature" in the same year and served six years of his sentence before the conviction was overturned by the Federal Court on appeal.

This latest accusation thus reminds everyone of the malice behind sodomy accusations, once again reflecting the no-holds-barred nature of Malaysian politics.

Saiful got himself examined at Kuala Lumpur Hospital soon after making the police report and the New Straits Times quickly reported that doctors at the hospital, "after a battery of tests, found indications that Saiful had engaged in anal sex," though the hospital itself denied speaking to the media about this, saying they would not be so unprofessional as to discuss any individual's case.

This too reminds everybody of how the two young men in the 1998 case had their anuses examined, and how the mattress upon which the alleged sexual act took place was trundled into court for semen stains to be given full play.

The bottom line is this: For sodomy accusations to serve their purpose as tools for character assassination, they have to be made as sordid as possible. Thus anuses, mattresses and semen. In response, Anwar has to deny it as forcefully as he can.

Nowhere in this circus is there any space for a dispassionate examination of the questions: So what if someone engages in anal sex? Why should it be an issue? Why should it be a crime? Both accuser and accused take the same position either explicitly or implicitly - that homosexuality is shameful and a disqualification for high office.

For example, in 1998, Mahathir called Anwar "unfit" for high office because, as the allegations, now overturned by the courts, went, Anwar was allegedly a homosexual. While the latter denied he was one - in the end successfully - the dictum that if someone is homosexual, he must necessarily be unfit has never been rebutted.

Has this also cemented in many people's minds that gay people cannot be entrusted with positions of responsibility, whatever level of public or corporate life?

The fact that a vast majority of Malays disbelieve the allegations so quickly suggest that not only do they think Saiful's claim is political skullduggery, but they just cannot bring themselves to imagine that a leader could be gay.

Indeed, caught between loud denials and ever more sordid imagery are the gay Malaysians. Brave ones among them have written letters to the press, most recently, a certain "Nellson" with his letter to Malaysiakini, published on Jul 3, 2008. Other letters and commentaries have been published before, but the issue never seems to gain any traction. A very uphill task, it appears to be.

And it may not only just be due to the way the country's political dish-throwing has made "sodomy" more a voodoo curse than a human issue, for Islam is Malaysia's official religion. Within this framework, it is no doubt even harder to make the case for decriminalisation.

Then there is the accident of history, where much of gay Malaysians' hopes for community leadership have been channelled through Pink Triangle, which is essentially an HIV-focussed organisation. It does good work against daunting odds and over the years has gained the trust of the government, with financial support as well. From the beginning, it has parlayed its standing into creating safe spaces for LGBTs, but its strengths are also potentially its weaknesses.

In moments like this, when the gay issue is one of rights, with no relation to HIV, what position can it take? Especially as it depends on government subsidies to fund its HIV work, can it afford to speak up for rights, since doing so would almost surely be seen as antagonistic to the government?

Gay Malaysians have their work cut out for them. They are faced with unique challenges - Islam, HIV, and the unenviable position of being the trampled grass as elephants fight. They'll need to be creative in finding their own way, and the latest saga is not helping any.

In a moment of frustration, one might almost wish that Anwar were really gay. Sure, it might destroy his political career, but in the process, it would also allow the issue to be aired with some sympathy.

Alex Au has been a gay activist for over 10 years and is the co-founder of People Like Us in Singapore. Alex is the author of the well-known Yawning Bread web site. He can be contacted at yawning@geocities.com.

Indignation - Singapore's pride season - will feature one
event on Sat, Aug 16 in which gay Malaysians' voices can be heard. Titled Heartbreak Heroes, it will feature 4 Malaysians: Prof. Farish A. Noor (Senior Fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, Nanyang Technological University), Jerome Kugan (writer-musician), Jac sm Kee (a feminist writer, activist and poet) and Pang Khee Teik (Arts Programme Director of The Annexe Gallery). Visit the Indignation web site for more info.


Reader's Comments

Comment #1 was deleted by its author
2. 2008-07-09 18:40  
Reading this you'd think that Malaysia was a really homophobic place. However KL is one of the most gay friendly places I've ever been to, on a personal level: the straight and gay people from whichever section of the community are the most friendly and hospitable I've ever met. Most people I know there are straight, half my extended inlaws family are Malaysian, and my being gay is totally accepted by them.

People there assured me there has never been a prosecution under the anti gay law except for the Anwar case which was described as "purely political". It seems obvious that the present allegations are likely to be seen as "purely political" too. The law itself is nonetheless an immoral invasion of privacy put in place by some Victorian British politicians.

I know nothing about politics over there, or what the various parties stand for. It seems clear though that if this disreputable law is being used by one party to make allegations to smear an opponent, as most people will view it, particularly as the charges were overturned on the last occasion, it seems very likely that the allegations will backfire on the people making them, to their own cost.

3. 2008-07-09 19:04  
i couldnt agree more with steveuk. yes, malaysia is an islamic country, but you could see the tolerance among the people (read: not the government) towards the gay community are really fine. in fact, i think it is better than many other asian countries.

gay communities, although are more of an underground life in KL, it is an open secret. there are many gay bars and gay couples living throught malaysia.

one have to be in malaysia to know it...

so, what you waiting for.. come here!!
4. 2008-07-09 19:10  
You assume Anwar is not gay?
5. 2008-07-09 19:11  
Malasian political b.s...real sickening!as never been heard in other part of the world
6. 2008-07-09 19:45  
The best drama ever made. No need to watch Sex and The City or Desperate Housewives. Just watch Malaysian politic news! Malaysia Boleh!
7. 2008-07-09 19:54  
Ah...the great ' Malaysian Political arena ' whereby ' sodomy mudslinging ' is considered a tool for character assassination...how pathetic! One does not see other countries behaving like this.

I am most eager to learn whether there are any 'grave consequences ' for the goverment , Prime Minister Badawi, or Najib if he succeeds, if ALL these allegations prove to be but a 'political tool' to derail the ooposition.

Now, surely somebody has to be held accountable for all this mudslinging and I hope the shit sticks to the guilty parties involved.

Nevermind in politics, but in 'a civil society', anybody found to be perpetuating 'false and malicious 'rumours will find themselves at the end of a lawsuit.

This is exactly what should happen....SUE THEIR ASS OFF.

That should teach any future 'aspiring' wannabe politician the real meaning of a 'sodomy accussation '.
8. 2008-07-09 21:19  
Mohd Saiful Bukhari bin Azlan is CHUN! However, if he's gay, why would he filed the police case? It's sodomy / it's rape? If you are him, would you think this is the way to push forward the GLBT movement in Msia? What a brave? or what a shame?
9. 2008-07-09 21:38  
Anwar is GAY!
10. 2008-07-09 22:50  
Whether Anwar is gay or not, whether he becomes the gay prime minister or not, IS NOT THE QUESTION.

The question is, is it a political murder? I believed so, as it goes, so what if Anwar is gay?

It is just a consipiracy that the bullshit people plot to end his politcal career - as we all know, Anwar is capable of bringing down the Abdullah government.
11. 2008-07-09 23:08  
OMG a talking dickhead (for those of you using V5).
12. 2008-07-09 23:26  
what if Anwar is gay ? You assumed he is not ! There is no smoke without fire. Politicians, by their nature,
would not use the same trick twice especially when the first time failed. They are shrewd enough to find other tricks, at least not one with an uphill task given its past failure. Planting an aide for months would allow BN to obtain 'insider information', won't that be more useful ? What if Anwar is bi and was caught by the accusation/revelation off-guard. He then paid the private investigator to make the first statutory declaration against Najib to divert attention. The PI later cleared his guilt by releasing the second SD. It won't matter anymore. The purpose had been served. The PI can flee to other country with his big $$$ and never return. More diversion. Meanwhile, Anwar used his much needed space to think of his next step. Now, find 4 males who witnessed the sodomy, otherwise no
fornication under Islamic law ! The issue should not be sodomy or rape (if the victim were
a female), unfortunately the homosexual act over-shadowed the real concern. The issue that Malaysians should be concerned about is potentially having a monster as the next prime minister if the above is true.
13. 2008-07-09 23:38  
Whether he did it or not, everyone has a right to be gay. It's personal and this out-dated law should be withdrawn by now! I wonder are we living in the middle age? Why gays still being abused and threaten. We should stand up for this!
14. 2008-07-10 00:34  
Education, instruction, teaching tolerance and about diversity is the key,from early childhood, for all people, of all cultures and religions in all countries. it takes generations to achieve, but we have to start (and some did already).
Anyways, fanatic people are, usually, just motivated minorities.
15. 2008-07-10 00:39  
So what if he's gay ? or Bisexual ? Doesn't make him lesser of a human being. And the guy who got his anus examined ? Why would he report now ? After 8 incidents of assault ? Obviously he liked it and maybe now he has something in for him. Idiots!
16. 2008-07-10 00:46  
nothing really matters as long as he can lead the country to better success and the citizens of Malaysia to a better standards of living and less poverty. there is nothing to discriminate beside a bad leader
17. 2008-07-10 00:49  
I wish I could say I was open-minded about this whole issue, but I'm not.

It's really ironic for me, but I could never accept that Anwar is gay. Neither can Malaysia have a gay PM or leader in high office. It's just not possible nor acceptable.
18. 2008-07-10 01:11  
ok off topic abit ah....the sodomized guy is errrr....quite cute huh....hahah
Comment #19 was deleted by its author
Comment #20 was deleted by its author
Comment #21 was deleted by its author
22. 2008-07-10 08:21  
lets put the political issues aside for a minute. as a gay person, how would you feel if you were imprisoned for 6 years for having gay sex?
23. 2008-07-10 09:20  
Don't keep blaming the British for enacting this law. Malaysia had had fifty one years to repeal it if it wanted , but it would never offend the "heartland" yes just like Singapore.

Najib is Mahathir's man,two evil cobras like Mugabe.
Why are Malaysian people so lovely and their politicians so dreadful? Some dirt on Mahathir's family and Najib's family ought to be where the spotlight rests.

There are heaps of closet and open gay prime ministers and presidents all over the world, and mayors, always have been. Abraham Lincoln, Ambrose Pierce, Martin Van Buuren and now in Australia, I cannot help thinking, Kevin Rudd.
Indeed the openly gay Greens leader Bob Brown is far more of a real man than Rudd whio looks such a
big nelly rice queen! But always afraid of that "heartland" aren't they? Courage seems to have been a quality not needed in politics ever since television emerged.
24. 2008-07-10 10:11  
It amazes me that now independant states hang on to some British law simply because it suits their purposes, when they discard much of what was good from their colonial past because it conflicts with their current aims. The essentials of simple humanity and justice are missing in this equation. Britain has recognised that it's 1949 sodomy law was unjust, is it not time that the realisation dawns on Asia that it it impossible to defend what has been declared indefensible even by it's creators? Let's hope that India's test of this proves this point!
25. 2008-07-10 10:15  
It's quite funny that the people (politicians) who maintain nasty pieces of legislation become the victims of their injustice. perversly perhaps that is indeed just!
26. 2008-07-10 10:21  
what's up if a leader country are a guy who love guy, but importanct thing is good governace leader.

or a guy who love guy doesn't have.....
sexualism is off....

Comment #27 was deleted by its author
28. 2008-07-10 11:16  
the answer that lead to another question :
is it easy or not?
29. 2008-07-10 11:46  
A sexual assault 8 times on an adult male? What would keep him coming back? Love? Threats? Money? Opposition plot?

In the internet age, are there any emails or pics exchanged between the two?

Is this a vestige of the British law which was repealed in the UK, about 50 years ago? Or, is it the Islamic law? I am no expert on Islam, but don't there have to be 4 witnesses to somehing like this under Sharia. And isn't this criminal law in Malaysia basically lifted from the Sharia?

20+ years ago there were 15,000 Malaysian students studying in the USA. At my school (our school) the Malaysian students were such kind, welcoming people who were so proud of their country and its accomplishments. That was the first time I learned anything about Islam thanks to them. Again, this religion was shown to me to be kind, compassionate, loving and inclusive.

It seems politics gets ugly and dirty whether in the USA or elsewhere. The ends justify the means oftentimes, sadly.

I continue to enjoy friendships with people from Malaysia. I am going to pray for a positive outcome in their politics.
30. 2008-07-10 13:49  
There might be many reasons for Saiful to offer his ass to Anwar (if this story is not a fabrication), yes: money, potential job opportunity, etc. What motivates Saiful to report to the police might be a better offer from Najib to stab Anwar, or Anwar has had enough of Saiful's ass and he wants to terminate this kind of sexual transactions.

My gaydar is telling me either Anwar is gay or bi. Perhaps, Anwar is doing it the Ancient Greek style, having a young boy to serve him while he has a hetrosexual family life.

In politics, they have to dig the most disgusting (I guess in the Islamic setting) crimes such as sodomy to destroy Anwar. In USA, they can use extra marital affair e.g. Bill Clinton, to ruin the reputation of a 'good' man.

I see this whole issue in twofolds.

1. If Saiful was forced to have anal sex with Anwar, whether they are (or one of them is) gay or not, it should be reported to the police. I do not think GLBT community can encourage or support RAPE.

2. If Anwar is gay or bi, he should make a good icon for gay politicians. One's sexual orientation does not judge one's leadership in politics. Unless he continues to bring his aides to bed or to sleep with his opponents.

I honor Saiful having the courage to come out to the public saying he has been sodomized (at least from the medical evidence perspective). It is not an easy thing to do.
31. 2008-07-10 15:49  
Come on Keadilan has been making steadways way in front of the other parties definitely a setup and scam....

Besides if he really wanted to commit sodomy would he not choose some hunkier guy rather than this pathetic looking one!
32. 2008-07-10 16:27  
Wouldn't it be easier if Anwar were really gay? so... who's next, anyone here wanna be liwath-ed by Anwar Ibrahim? :)
33. 2008-07-10 18:14  
Do we need to wish Anwar to be gay to justify our existence ?

Hope not.

Dont pin our gay dreams or gay hopes on highly profiled people

(be it a politician or a drop dead gorgeous looking celebrity) to

become the community's unofficial unspoken mascot .

34. 2008-07-10 21:55  
I personally find it gravely idiotic for anyone to believe a grown man like Saifu, & for that matter, the 2 men in the past sodomy case against Anwar, could be so easily sodomised. Unless Anwar was a Sumo wrestler or Arnold Schwarzenegger with a gun to boot! Gimme a break. Too many gay porn fantasy & wishful thinking here I suppose...zzz

Politics is dirty and deadly anywhere; maybe some being more gutter trash like in Malaysia in this instance, but nevertheless, it's very very dirty. To achieve the ends, any means will be deployed.

I wish Anwar well, even to just wish a fellow man and human being to seek justice for the crimes against him. Whatever the outcome, destiny has plans.
35. 2008-07-11 00:39  
I heard rumours that Anwar was gay back in 1991 when I was holidaying in KL. A l ot of us older gays seem to know, even the type of guy he likes.
The authoritries must have caught hold of this rumour but cud not pin him down as he covered his tracks well.
When theer's smoke there's fire. Just that Anwar is not that dumb to be caught with his pants down.I don't mind being done by him!
36. 2008-07-11 01:50  
I hope he isn't PLU. He ain't that pretty :-)

Seriously, it's not whether he is gay or not; it's the whole point that THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING GAY, F&*&ING, S&*&, WHATEVER I DAMN WELL PLEASE THANK YOU VERY MUCH PRIME MINISTER. IT'S MY BUSINESS.

Please Malaysia run a country not run a person down.

There's plenty of cock-ups in Malaysia without discussing whether someone has a cock up someone :-)

Gay and proud. Love sodomy.
37. 2008-07-11 01:55  
Today I did something against the 'order of nature' - I took a train to my yoga class. God didn't provide me with wheels on my feet when I was born, so I had to make a choice between a slow walk using the natural feet I was born with or the unnatural modern train.

Yesterday however I woke, as natural as the day God made me. As usual I showered, had my healthy natural breakfast, and got my bag ready for work. As I walked out the house door to the delight of my neighbour I realised I'd forgotten to dress. God likes me natural but my neighbour likes the unnatural side.

So many people to please. Ho hum.
38. 2008-07-11 13:09  
Malaysia only needs to look north of their border to see how asian gay people can hold positions of high office and responsibility: at least one Thai king and two prime ministers! but there they have the basic decency and respect to keep one's private life out of politics...

...and what of Anwar's accuser: hmmm some interesting questions we all would like to ask him...

39. 2008-07-12 08:30  
here comes a question, how to you keep your authority as a boss while happily being gay? i am a manager in some company and i feel pressured to concede my orientation, i would like to keep it in private but it sometime implies that i have to pretend hetro. and i hate that.

my ex boss is gay, and he was the laughing stock in the office and people pointed fingers behind his back.

i can understand why politicians would deny it. afterall the society is not tolerant. cruel even.

40. 2008-07-12 12:01  
8 times!? Ooops, how did that happen?

Comment #41 was deleted by its author
Comment #42 was deleted by its author
43. 2008-07-12 23:52  
Let's try to imagine the torment of a poor straight wimp who has been "sexually assaulted" SIX times and goes back for more.

"Will the powerful 5'2" /120 lb opposition leader 'assault' me another time? Hmmm... but I still must go to that apartment where I have no business whatsoever. Who knows, maybe this time he doesn't assualt me and the world is beautiful again. Ah, yet another 'assault'! :-( And yet I have to keep on coming to the apartment for more assaults..."

Kinda very logical and coherent.
44. 2008-07-15 12:45  
One thing comes out of this hubbub: Malaysians can proudly enter their country into the Guinness World Records for having the highest percentage of people knowing the meaning of the word sodomy. At least that is an improvement.
45. 2008-07-19 00:28  
How shocking that Fridae has nothing to say about the Anwar arrest except Alex Lu's tongue in cheek comment a week ago.

I thought the statement from Fridae was that the Nation parties were being stopped so that Fridae could concentrate on its gay rights campaigning etc etc good causes, yet it has nothing sensible to say about the arrest of Anwar in Malaysia.

Oh yes, sorry, it's not happening in Singapore. So much for Asian values.
46. 2008-07-19 12:41  
This is precisely why 377A needs to be repealed, so that a perfectly \"natural\" sex act cannot be used to demonize and victimize someone.

Unless Anwar suddenly decides to come out, or something else material happens, I don\'t see why anyone should be interested in Malaysian politicians\' maneuvers, intrigue and conspiracy theories just because it involves \"sodomy\".

What does that have to do with gay advocacy? It\'s just Malaysian politics.

47. 2008-07-22 01:32  
while we are at this ...

Focus on country, not homosexuality
Seethalakshmi S | Jul 21, 08 4:18pm

48. 2008-10-01 03:12  
leave him alone, he has his own way to get revenge, he can kive as gay or non gay, who knows the future will tell, wait and see how he is going to change the law.
49. 2010-02-04 18:57  
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