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31 Dec 2010

Islamic department powerless to act against gay Malay man: Malaysian official

Following recent reports that the Islamic Development may take stern action against Azwan Ismail who came out in a YouTube video, a spokesperson now says the organisation has "no power to take legal action."

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) says it will not take any legal action against a Malay-Muslim man who came out as gay in an online video two weeks ago. The video, which is part of Seksualiti Merdeka's It Gets Better 15-video campaign, had attracted over 150,000 views on YouTube and a flurry of news reports, blogs and comments by various political leaders and even death threats before it was removed on Dec 29.

Azwan Ismail, 32

Organisers of the campaign Seksualiti Merdeka said it has decided to remove Azwan Ismail's "Saya gay, saya okay" video for "his safety as his life has been threatened by various comments and blogs, while the religious authorities have also been reported as saying they plan to charge him." Organisers also "regret that so far nobody in authority has denounced the threats of violence," the statement read.

In the 3-minute clip, Azwan Ismail spoke in Malay about coming out as gay as being particularly difficult because of "religious and cultural factors (that) have defined our lives, telling us who we can be and who we can't."

Recent media reports had highlighted that the Islamic Development Department of Malaysia (JAKIM) would be taking stern action against Azwan for his revelation.

Just days after its release, the video clip made newspaper headlines in the Muslim-majority country with Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom, a Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, calling on the religious authorities to monitor the activities of gay groups.

“For Muslims, we must remember that being gay is against our religious teaching,” he was quoted in the local media as saying. “We want this activity to be monitored closely by the authorities and appropriate actions to be taken to prevent it from spreading as it can tarnish the image of Islam.”

However, according to The Malaysian Insider online today, JAKIM director-general Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz said that the organisation has "no power to take legal action, the ones who can do so are the state-level religious authorities as well as the police.”

He said that Jakim could only take “precautionary” measures such as working with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) as well as other agencies.

“Well, our actions do not have to be a matte of legal recourse, more of preventing the gay culture from spreading throughout the country.

“We will take measures such as providing rehabilitation programmes for those affected,” said Wan Mohamad.

To read what has been written in local newspapers, click on to seksualitimerdeka.org.


Reader's Comments

1. 2010-12-31 19:02  
Dear Azwan, please seek asylum soon... You have a valid reason that is prosecution from religious police and the state. Hope things are well for you. All the best.
2. 2010-12-31 21:55  
Aw, Lobster, dont scare people la..we should instead bring up possile suggestions to tackle this problem, in both the interest of the gay community in Malaysia and also his safety. Otherwise, we are giving a winning edge to the homophobic heteros and pushing ourselves backwards cowardly. I thought we are already "getting better" in Malaysia & near towards total recognition of rights as the straights...
3. 2011-01-01 00:42  
Good suggestion Lobster! The documented and public death threats would surely be a real reason to seek asylum overseas. Aswan can continue his fight in a non-backward country that actually sees him as a person.

As long as you have religious nutters with more "freedom to speak" than others, and where the more sane believers dare not speak out agains tthe nutters, the nutters will win.

I though Allah made every thing including homosexuals? So why would a merciful omnipotent all powerful all knowing entity make homosexuals then promptly condemn them to a life of misery? Oh wait, it's religion, it doesnt have to make ANY sense.
4. 2011-01-01 04:53  
God....what a year for him. I give you blessings bro. My heart towards you
5. 2011-01-01 06:09  
Dear Azwan. If your government want to bring you to jail. Go to Canadian Embassy in Kuala Lumpur and talk to Canadian Official. They will arrange to bring you to Canada if your life is in danger and potentially being tortured in jail. Malaysia government can't do much as long as you remain in Canadian Embassy's compound. Never let them take you, don't fight in Malaysia because you will end up in jail. It is not worth it. It is better of you come over here. You should know well what happened to your former Prime Minister. Is there any law in Malaysia?

Azwan, you better take good care. Make sure you know where to go if they really come after you. Don't run to Singapore, lol because the Chinese cocks will fuck you deep in their jail and then send you back to Malaysia for further torturing.

Go to Australia is easier for Malaysian. You can fly to Canada without a tourist visa. In fact you can try to apply visiting visa in Canadian embassy for special arrangement. Standy with it, in the even you have to leave Malaysia before they stop you at the airport.

You were the first Malay dare to come out publicly, No one knows what is your life in near future in Malaysia. You have to be smart, get yourself stanby, you started the fire, you should know how and where to run.


If you come to Toronto, I will pick you up in the airport.
6. 2011-01-01 07:17  
#5: ooh, so nice of you :D
but his bf will get extra jealous though~

wonder how will the reaction be when my video is released :|
7. 2011-01-01 10:40  
there is a need to dismantle all these middle eastern born fascist religious intsitutions once and for all
8. 2011-01-01 12:42  
Such hypocrisy. Dont ask dont tell seems to worlk in Malay society. We pretend he isn't gay. We dont wanna hear about his sexuality. Disgrace among family and peers. Result? Thousands upon thousands are pressured into marriage, and are then forced to live a double life. How fair is that on the wife and children? To be honest, the UK was like this up to the 1960s or 70s. They moved on. Moslem countries cannot.
9. 2011-01-01 16:24  
You wonder why the liberals in the west discriminate against the conservative Muslims!!!

10. 2011-01-01 19:07  
so hypocrite....y the islamic body dont take any action to their minister who r bisexual...lesbian..n so on include malaysian ambassador also r bisexual? stupid nonsense
11. 2011-01-01 22:49  
I support you. Ismail.. I gay I am ok also..
12. 2011-01-01 23:14  
#11: ismail is his father...
Comment #13 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-02 06:00
14. 2011-01-02 06:04  
Minister Baharom is merely putting his political career before the well being of the nation's gay population, wow how unoriginal!! Western leaders have been doing this for decades and see how well this point of view has served them, sodomy laws over turned, fair employment and housing laws enacted, even gay marriage! Good luck with that Minister Baharom you have a loosing uphill battle to fight. As for Islam's image I would be more concerned about the radical and often violent right wing of Islam than a group of gay Malay men who are trying to gain acceptance within your cultural and live their lives in peace.

Mr. Wan Mohamad and his rehab programmes, once again not only unoriginal but unworthy of the effort. Learn from the mistakes of the Christian right in the US, as every last one of their poster boys for gay rehabilitation have outed after the fact. Be a good Muslim and keep your nose in your own business, for if gays truly are the work of the devil it's God himself who has the authority to sort them not you!! Who died and made you Sultan?!?
15. 2011-01-02 07:18  
I know god is spiritually handicapped since human act on behalf of god :p
16. 2011-01-02 08:58  
Hello Muslims... Approximately ten percent of the world's male population are BORN gay ... and that includes muslims and christians and atheists and black and white, brown and yellow men... and no doubt it includes some immams and leaders of your beautifully hypocritical religion. Grow up and face the facts that your much deified prophet and his make believe god were nothing but ignorant discriminatory bigots
17. 2011-01-02 11:29  
#6 lol Well, I will take care of his bf too. lol

There are few Canadians who have more than one wife. By law, they have to go to jail if they have more than one wife. Canadian police have been gathering enough evidence for the last ten years to charge them. They did once in British Columbia but failed in the BC supreme court due to the head of police failed to follow the procetural laws and ended up no hearing. The police broke the laws in certain aspect, therefore the BC supreme court refused to hear the case.

Until today after more than 10 years of gathering the evidence of them having multiple wives and dozens of children. Since they live in BC province and the BC police failed to win the case in the highest provincial court - The BC supreme Court. Therefore the police in BC can no longer take any legal action against this group of people who believe they have the right to have multiple wives due to their religion and protected by The Canadian Chartered of rights and freedom.

The remaining legal room Canadian government has is charging them under Federal laws by Federal government and ultimately will end up in The Supreme Court of Canada since it has the issue of the Chartered, so to speak.

Until today, our Faderal government do not dare to charge them because they worry what happen if the Supreme Court of Canada allows multiple wives/spouses base on religion ground, which is protected by the Canadian Chartered. There is one choice only, either to fight with them and pay for the price of the nation or remain quiet. So far, no action. I believe the price of losing is too high for our nation to face. lol NOOOOOT ME. lol

Oh My God, Canada would be the first non muslim country in the world allow multiple spouses (include gay) if the Supreme Court of Canada allows it. How nice if I have few husbands? No need to F around. lol I will support multiple husbands law for gay not for straight. lol Not fair, right?
18. 2011-01-02 11:36  
Dear Azwan, kudos for ur courage to be in the video, not many people have that guts to come out to the world like this, especially in living in a muslim community. The road ahead will be tougher, but it will get better. Take care and dun forget to seek support from friends in the circle when needed. I think Kazukicanada's suggestion is ur last resort rite... Stay strong.

Dear all, lets give our fellow friend here moral support and possible physical support if possible, without the need to put judgement on religion, government or groups. Violence and hurtful remarks won't help Azwan and his situation.

19. 2011-01-02 14:25  
i admire his courage to come out and be the first one to do so. but i guess this proves that it WON'T get better for malay gay boys.
20. 2011-01-02 17:11  
Can someone please go tell our dear minister from the prime minister's department that being gay is not a culture neither is it a decease, and therefore cannot be "spread". How come the position of ministers and leaders in our country and be given to such idiots?

The other one is the religious leader who claims that muslim wearing Santa hats is acting like christians and therefore should be disallowed to do. Come on! Since when christmas is about Santa and his hat?!

Please lah... let those who do not know just simply shut up, okay?
21. 2011-01-02 19:12  
Being gay is NOT a choice, it just is, or it is not. So if something is natural, how can it be AGAINST anything or anyone? That's like saying "Driving a petrol driven vehicle is against the law".
22. 2011-01-02 19:27  
I know this has nothing to do with being gay, but since someone brought it up in this stream of comments, I would like to state that Christmas is about Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, and has nothing to do with Santa's hat! If I as a non-Christian can see that, why can't Muslims? Why would Muslims celebrate Christmas, since it is not part of their religion? Why would Muslims celebrate New Year on the 1st of January, since they commemorate their new year at Hari Raya? Since Muslims have their own religious holidays, celebrations and festivals, why are they so intent on celebrating Christian holidays and religious events, too? Do Muslims celebrate Deepavali? Do they celebrate Buddha’s religious events? All the Christians, Indians, Buddhists, etc. I know, don’t celebrate Muslim holidays or religious festivals.....
23. 2011-01-02 21:37  
Azwan, you should be awarded a newcomer hero award by the Malaysian LGBT group. Being courageous, more so in our Muslim majority country. Consult with The LGBT group or Pink Triangle Malaysia as I believe they have some useful lawyers in their committee panel to give you assurance on human rights status. Stay strong, many young emerging Malay gays are waiting for your victory!
24. 2011-01-02 22:15  
Gay culture. Right. So it's a fad then what we're feeling. Good luck living in this kind of denial, Malaysia.
25. 2011-01-02 23:59  
I just love his comment: " Saya gay, saya okay."

Cheers bro.!
26. 2011-01-03 04:11  
Azwan. If u need my help, you can chat with me in MSN. lifeandthecity@hotmail.com

Your safety is always first. It is not worth fighting alone in Malaysia, u may end up in jail. Wish u well.
27. 2011-01-03 08:53  
It's just so sad that some countries like Malaysia have lever learned to move on and accept things as they are. Please stop being hypocrites and learn to live with acceptance and love for one another.

I hope that Azwan does get support from the gay society in Malaysia and I also hope that his safety would be secured in any way possible.

Cheers to you Azwan and kudos to Seksualiti Merdeka for making this bold move to shed light on homosexuality and its issues!
28. 2011-01-03 16:20  

How long are we going to put up with this shit?
I predict the day will come in the near future when countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and other abusively judgmental countries will be punished.

The biggest problem is GAY PEOPLE! Are we such cowards?
FUCK THEM if they cannot handle it.
Tell your family to go fuck themselves if they don't like it.
I am sick and tired of hearing how weak we are as a gay society.
We are going at a snail's pace because of our own doing, not because of society.

Then, organzize a million-man gay march every month of the year until people get the message.
Boycott anti-gay businesses.
Refuse business with homophobic institutions and companies.
Even in backward places such as KSA and Malaysia, this tactic will be taken seriously if we all do it at the same time.

We take enough gay-bashing from others...why are we still fucking ourselves!
29. 2011-01-03 17:25  
As long as people make these points personal it loses the fact that as a society we all suffer if we do not celebrate our diversity.

In my decades I have seen the fight in the UK for gay rights. From my stand point, the fight stopped being a fight when the focus was placed on equal human rights for all. Deal with that and the rest falls into place.

e.g. in Malaysia a Malay must be Muslim or face servere issue. i.e. a Malay baby is instantly and forever a Muslim. No choice. No right even to change.

e.g. 2 in Malaysia there are different laws and taxes for different races. Different races! Just by being Malay or Chinese or Indian gets people different treatment.

Deal with this generic lack of human rights and the rights of gay people will follow.

The Western world was the same as Malaysia. If the British were still there then it could be argued that these rights would be in place now. But the British left Malaysia to its independance. Left Malaysia to grow up itself. It will take it many decades for it to adopt human rights.


And don't fight one man against the state. The state will win. Your life will surely lose. Better to work invisibly but powerfully. Like a martial art, use the power of the agressor against itself. Let Malaysia see that its narrow mind and abusive disrespect of human rights leaves it poorer.

I fear the backlash this will all cause to the gay clubs in KL which are already regularly raided by the local government and Police instilling fear into the customers.
30. 2011-01-03 17:51  
Azwan, you are a very brave man and stay by it. It's an uphill climb in many countries (first world or not) and it is a battle indeed that might paralyse you in your freedom. My advice may not be the best but like kazuki said, the safe word is 'Canada'! Thank God for places like Canada! Be prepared and be brave and make a decision. I don't think you have much time to waste...! Wish you all the best in whatever you decide. Cheers!
Comment #31 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-04 13:43
32. 2011-01-04 13:42  
Azwan, Sorry to tell you that Malaysia has not hope for gay. You better find ways to leave when you face danger due to your recent action. Malaysia = Muslim. Do you expect Malaysia will become the first Muslim nation to accept and giving gay the same right like straight? Who dare to think about it must be stupid. Sorry to say so. Islam is a backward religion base on its holy book. There is not hope in human rights in Islam. Woman is still woman, can't even share the same prayer room like Muslim man because woman is considered unclean in its holy book. Look at this point, if one day, women and men are considered as the same in term of cleanliness and use the same prayer room or hall, then we can talk about gay. lol Future of impossible !!! It may happen in Year 2999, perhaps never happen. lol

33. 2011-01-04 22:43  
#29 – kazul – Totally agree. Gay rights are just another aspect of Human Rights, and once human rights for one and all are accomplished, they would automatically include gay rights, too.

#28 – yesnomaybe – as your nic suggests, you’re a moron.....even though you are right in that religion are devoid of human rights and freedom of choice, regardless of which one wants ro use as an example, but your post smacks of disrespect and a gross lack of empathy, compassion and understanding, since in many societies today, it’s still difficult to come out. Tolerance takes time to learn, it’s the prime reason that we are here on this 3rd rock from the sun.....TO LEARN! In addition to that, one can never tell anyone to come out! It’s something each individual has to decide themselves, as to how, where, and/or when to do so!
34. 2011-01-05 00:53  
yes Azwan i wonder if it had been alright if ud have said u were non-religious person does that count in Malaysia?
or is that hoping for too much!
Malaysia another backword country compared with my country Canada !
i boycott all anti-gay countries with my tourist dollars!
35. 2011-01-07 01:41  
it's stupid that the Malaysian government and those who are against gay thinks that homosexuality is a lifestyle and culture by choice.

who on earth would want to live in the dark, not be open about themselves? gays r not a bunch of sick ppl who want to torture themselves with all these unnecessary pressure and attention
36. 2011-02-22 00:50  
Kazuki is DOOO FULL OF INFOS!!!hahahha, nice TO HAVE YOU HERE.. 


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