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5 Jan 2011

Malay-Muslim commentator comes out as gay in support of Azwan Ismail

Hafidz Baharom, a Malay-Muslim social commentator comes out as gay in a column in The Malaysian Insider, in support of Azwan Ismail whose appearance in a It Gets Better video sparked furore in the predominantly Muslim country.

Hafidz Baharom wrote in the The Malaysian Insider, an online news portal, on Jan 4, 2011:

I was not threatened or bullied for coming out of the closet since I did it after college. Even then, I did so covertly; at first with my family members i.e. my brothers, my closest cousins, my youngest aunt before finally coming out to my parents and then openly at The Annexe Gallery in 2008, which was mentioned very quietly in The Star [newspaper]

There is no problem being yourself in this nation. However, the government does frown upon your being too loud about it in public. 

And that is where we need to change, and that is what I’m fighting for in my own way by talking to politicians from both sides of the divide. We may be a minority. However, we are a minority of Malaysian citizens with the equal right to vote even if we don’t have the right to openly declare our love or preference for members of the same sex.

It does get better, but we need to change the nation for the betterment of everyone regardless of their race, religion, politics and sexual orientation.

And with that, I thank Azwan Ismail for bringing us one step forward towards that goal.


Reader's Comments

1. 2011-01-05 20:06  
Islam will never temper its attitude on anything. Because muslims delusionally believe all that is written in the koran is the word of god, to question any one aspect of the koran is to question the whole ( laughable) concept of the buddyship between god n mohd. Once you allow questioning of any one aspect of Islam the whole fabric of the indocrinatory process would crumble into the heap of bovine feces that it really is
2. 2011-01-05 20:21  
We need more people like them
3. 2011-01-05 21:55  
Wow...thanks Fridae...
4. 2011-01-06 00:42  
Good job! Great to see someone walk the talk! :)
5. 2011-01-06 02:58  
I also would like to express my admiration to Muslim Malaysians who have had the courage to participate in the "It Gets Better Campaign". My childhood was spent in the Middle East where my values were shaped by my Muslim friends and neighbours. From them I learned the importance of generousity and our duty to protect the most vulnerable members of society. Their humility before God would have made it unthinkable for them to presume they knew the will of Allah as a justification for harming the weak. Later in South Africa, I met people of all races who spoke the truth about the evil of apartheid, even though many Christians in that country at the time cited the bible as justification for discrimination. Intolerance is not the monopoly of any religion. People of good will of all faiths and traditions must unite to affirm the right of all human beings to dignity and respect.
6. 2011-01-06 03:04  
yes, we need more brave people like them...
7. 2011-01-06 06:13  
This is a BIG, potentially monumental, step for Malaysia. That is if more brave Malaysian gay citizens either come out to family & friends, or at least speak out in defense of gay rights. Just look at how gains were made in other countries - by first getting more, and more, and more gays to reveal themselves. Family & friends could see their loved ones were not unique. Over time the misconception that gays are "creepy things" is replaced by compassion, then acceptance. It takes time, but it will happen.
The strategy to deal with Islam is not to confront it head on. The strategy is to side-step it, and get society and government to stop any & all violence against GLBT people. You want to assure your protection & rights as a law-abiding citizen. Stop the violence - start the living. All the rest will fall in place.
8. 2011-01-06 06:58  
Ive never seen homophbia in my life and iam living a peacful gay life in my country which forbids alcohols and clubs but i salute the people coming out of the box in public it may give some closeted gay boys/men out there something to think about...Hugs
9. 2011-01-06 07:41  
Well done. Cheers.
Frankly speaking, Malaysian society may be able to change to accept gay but the laws against gay will stay forever. What do u expect a Muslim country would do for gay people? Officially a muslim country, I am sure the Muslim nations all over the world will against Malaysia if Malaysian politicians or laws change to accept gay. Any attempt will cause economic problems in foreign trade with Muslim nations for sure. Isn't it too expensive to loss in economy simple making Malaysian gays more acceptale by law? I do encourage Malaysian gays to come out but they have to be careful what their government can do to them. Economic and Religion point of view. Malaysia will remain anti gay forever by law as long as the official religion is Islam. Good to challenge the society and government. Be strong and don't forget your safety. Good luck !
10. 2011-01-06 08:27  
To all Muslim...
What is against by God & Quran, just follow even ur heart cant accept it. No means no! We just ask for forgiveness everyday in our pray frm God wat we had done wrong...
11. 2011-01-06 09:25  
Hooray! YOU ROCK!
Comment #12 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-06 10:45
13. 2011-01-06 10:46  
This is truly the spirit of ONE MALAYSIA (back in the 70's it was called MUHIBAH!!)
14. 2011-01-06 11:22  
One only needs to follow the paedophile scandal in the Catholic Church to see that many Men of the Cloth often have dark secrets to hide. Any whore in Baghdad or Teheran will tell you that the imams are their best customers; I have no idea how many of them may be child abusers too. When people all over the world gather the strength to challenge the power of organised religion, I am sure it will crumble, as the first commentator said, into a pile of bovine faeces.
Hooray! WE ROCK!!
Comment #15 was deleted by an administrator on 2011-01-07 12:24
16. 2011-01-06 12:47  
Awesome. If every Malay guy and gal in the country who was gay came out at once, it would be a true force!

And really, #15, are you kidding me with that post? Come on. I'm strongly agnostic, so I have an admittedly fair degree of disdain for ALL organized religion (especially Christianity, Islam, and Judaism), but to say that ALL Muslims are terrorists is just ridiculous and really makes you look like an exceptionally small-minded person, and hopefully that's not the case. Moreover, the vast majority of Muslims in Malaysia never even had a choice in the matter -- the onerous constitution in this country ensures that a Malay or Bumiputra baby is Muslim at birth, which is completely outrageous to me. So give them at least a bit of a break.
17. 2011-01-06 14:26  
# 15

Oh My Gosh. Where is your brain? Are u American or Korean? Shame ! Did you go to school?

Everyone here, read his profile below (really fuck man!)

"About Me
Read my profile; unwelcome visitors will be blocked.

getting fed up wit all those chinese men who sent their friend requests but the fact is we r not friend nor we ever chat before.

for all chinese out there, get a life!!! please dont bother me.

who turn me off: Chinese and Muslim.

Frankly speaking, I was speechless and shocked when I read your comment. Did ever Chinese or Muslim guy fuck you and damp u? Why u hate them so much?

Eveyone here, please spank him. Your opinion is inhuman. You are 26, your mentality is below 6.

Hey #15, read your comment again. Are u a human being?
"who care those homo malays come out of closet or not. they're all muslim and they're all terrorists. all malay regardless gay or straight should be wiped out from this world. their lazy asses do not worth a penny. dont blame i am racist. you will understand if you live there long enough."

Where do you live? In the jungle of USA? One word I want to give u. Being Compassion. Enough for u to live until u die. Ask your President Obama, Is your comment represent USA or Korea? U r not racist, you are animal. I am really pity you. Time to go back to school or home and ask your mother to spank your head until u wake you.

All human beings are equally good regardless their race and religion.
Comment #18 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-07 14:26
19. 2011-01-06 15:16  
Malaysia BOLEH La . . . . !
20. 2011-01-06 15:19  
and agreeing with #18 and Nay to #15 . . .
21. 2011-01-06 16:10  
as encouraging as the above article is, i'm still working as hard as possible to get out of this country.

and maybe one day return to a better home.
22. 2011-01-06 16:25  
#18, based on the broken English #15 uses, I think it's safe to guess he's only living in the US, but not an American citizen. A lot of my fellow Americans are indeed ignorant, but they at least can put a coherent sentence together in English. This guy... not so much.
23. 2011-01-06 17:51  
The comments from #15 do not reflect the views of the gay community, merely a single bad individual but it is sad that there are still people like this that are so closed minded. I think he does not like this article because he has a personal issue with Malay people which he chose to display in a bad manner.

It is just this kind of negativity that divides the gay community in my country ( Australia ) I wish more people were as open minded as Hafidz Baharom.

This is a really nice uplifting article and I enjoyed it immensely, the individual who tried to spoil it failed in his attempt and his views are as thin as smoke in the wind .

ALL Gay people deserve to live in peace and harmony throughout the world and we will always fight for this simple freedom :-)

24. 2011-01-06 18:17  
well done, as Malaysian, you have my support!
25. 2011-01-06 18:23  
#15 wow, but not an impressive wow. We share almost the same view, but only I like to nuke all the rude korean ahem
26. 2011-01-06 18:49  
Dear #15!

Frankly speaking, you are highly dump. In my sincere opinion, you should go home and ask your parents to teach you some manners (if they have any).
27. 2011-01-06 19:39  
yeah Aput!! go, go! wow, man you are an inspiration!
28. 2011-01-06 21:31  
Sigh....let me clear the air just a bit.

I did not come out of the closet in support of Azwan Ismail. I was openly gay since 2008 after my announcement during The Annexe Heroes awards that year, which was highlighted in The Star newspaper here in Malaysia.

While I thank Fridae for their support in highlighting my column piece in The Malaysian Insider, I just have to note that the title is very misleading.
29. 2011-01-06 21:35  
As for comment #15, for someone whose nickname mentions the Sunshine State, your English is horrendous. At least 'terrorists' such as myself and Malaysians all have the ability to watch our language and punctuation.
30. 2011-01-06 22:06  
Dear #29 aput, your comment is very funny. :P But it's unfortunate that you had to even read #15's comment, because it's so ridiculous. There are so many brilliant Malay people out there (terrorists or not :P), and it's such a pathetic attempt of an insult, not only to Malays and Malaysia, (and Muslims and Chinese), but also to Americans, Koreans and Terrorists too!

31. 2011-01-06 22:19  
Hi Room, I'm so glad that so many of you spanking him - #15. Hey #15, please delete your message. I really pity you specially your parents and country. Do and did u have parents? Usually people who grew up with love would not make sure a stupid opinion. Please contact Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon from United Nation, I think he will send you to North Korea. You will get honorable citizenship there. I don't think Americans welcome you too. There is no better place to live for you than North Korea.
32. 2011-01-07 03:59  
a bright step to the lovely future...
I hope i'll be able to contribute a bright step like this for my homeland too... Which is still very taboo about LGBT thing..

Love You Fridae...
Comment #33 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-07 04:00
Comment #34 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-07 04:00
35. 2011-01-07 04:41  
wake up guys!
dun fight like kids, lets b 2gether s one. Ok?
36. 2011-01-07 05:58  
Men fight, kids don't. I don't get together with guys who have no brain. What is the different fucking cow than man without brain?
37. 2011-01-07 15:25  
#8 – If your country bans clubs and alcohol, it’s just another kind of discrimination, by robbing people of their freedom of choice, so that’s not any good either, is it?

I have been in Asia now for more than 12 years, almost 9 of them in Malaysia, and I have to truly say that Malaysia is one of the nicest, easiest and safest places in the world to live in. As far as the gay issue is concerned, things have changed drastically already. It just all depends on the learning curve. If one looks at middle America as an example, narrow mindedness still prevails to a large extent, so gay issues are not intrinsic to the east alone. Maybe there’s been more progress in the west than here; it’s hard to say. If any statisticians are reading this, it could be interesting how various learning curves compare.

Religion, no matter what kind, denounces homosexuality - We all know this! So there, the learning curve could be much bigger. But with recent reports, that the pope may relent on contraception, it shows that changes are ever present already, however minute or slow they may be.

#8 – If your country bans clubs and alcohol, it’s just another kind of discrimination, by robbing people of their freedom of choice, so that’s not any good either, is it?

#15 - Unfortunately I did not have the chance to read their post, I can only gather by the ensuing comments, that it must have been quite a ‘humdinger’ :D
38. 2011-01-07 18:06  
... one aspect of the koran is to question the whole ( laughable) concept of the buddyship between god n mohd. Once you allow questioning of any one aspect of Islam the whole fabric of the indocrinatory process would crumble into the heap of bovine feces that it really is...

Just curious... and wondering... whats so "laughable" about the whole concept of "buddyship" between God and Muhammad?!? It seems to me that you know a lot!!!

Its more of a misconception on your part sweetheart and my advice is... if you don't know much about things, you don't freely comment at will! I think its more of you having misconceptions instead of the other way round!

Be Sensitive!
Comment #39 was deleted by its author on 2011-01-08 11:27
40. 2011-01-08 11:27  
@denseaus - #1 Thank you elderly sir for your attempt at proferring an enlightening expose on Islam, which, unfortunatley, reeked not only of contempt but also of complete idiocy, consequently earning yourself the title perhaps of a consummate idiot. BTW when was this ever about Islam? An elderly gentleman such as yourself should be ashamed to put forth such a fiery proposition instead of attemting a hand at pacification. The 'delusion', perhaps precipitated by advanced age, is more apparent in you rather than your proposed lot - the Muslims. The "bovine feces", you apparently enjoy eating, (hence your deliberate stay in a Muslim country), might too have contributed to the mad cow disease, from which you appear to suffer
41. 2011-01-08 11:37  
#7 - 'Deal with Islam' ???? That is a very naive analysis of the situation, don't you think? You surely must have meant to deal with the people, who might use Islam to justify their ends, whatever and however twisted they may be.
42. 2011-01-08 12:03  
# 1 & 40 – While #1’s post is somewhat crass and uncompassionate, he does make a valid point. Generally religions rob one of one’s freedom of choice, on top of that, it is not allowed to denounce Islam and join another religion. If a man wants to marry an Islamic woman, he HAS to convert to Islam. On the other hand, what about the Islamic woman converting to the man’s religion? However, this is not allowed. If this is not an infringement of the freedom of choice, then I don’t know what..... Men are robbed of their freedom of choice at birth already, through circumcision, and this is where it all starts, someone else always making your decisions for you, robbing one of one’s right to choose, culminating in total violation of Human Rights. No wonder it’s difficult for men of the Islam faith to come out of the closet!
43. 2011-01-08 12:31  
#42 - what a presumptuous piece of crapola!!! This need to associate the ills of men to religion is just as odious as those who wish to regulate their lives by the supposed will of the religion. Would you also speak for the millions not of the Islamic faith who remain in the closet?
44. 2011-01-08 12:49  
Terima kasih, Hafidz, for coming out in support of Azwan! I am Malaysian and I am proud of both of you..and I want to be proud of more Malaysians who come out with cheers! Malaysia boleh! Gay boleh!
45. 2011-01-08 15:07  
#14 ~ another presumptuous coot..."bovine feces" indeed...something that you all seem to enjoy eating hence your prolonged sojourn in a Muslim country / desire to live in a Muslim country.
46. 2011-01-09 01:47  
#43 - by your question, I can see you did not get the point of my post at all :-)
47. 2011-01-09 04:59  
To "hotonid"... you mentioned... "You surely must have meant to deal with the people, who might use Islam to justify their ends, whatever and however twisted they may be."

I agree with you on the above-mentioned 100%! That was exactly what i had wanted to say and you have nicely put it in words or rather in one complete sentence! Thank You sir! :)

48. 2011-01-18 11:29  
Everyone should read this scholarly and well-researched peer-reviewed history book. You can be sure the historical information included here was not in your high school or even your college history classes.

Islamic homosexualities : culture, history, and literature / Stephen O. Murray and Will Roscoe ; with additional contributions by Eric Allyn ..

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