‘No homosexuals in Malaysia,’ a Jakim success story?

KUALA LUMPUR, March 6 – Let that sink in for a while. Malaysia has a national religious department which has been spending millions for many years, out of a huge annual budget that is now close to RM1 billion, to rehabilitate homosexuals, especially gay men.

Now, a minister has told a global audience at a press conference in Berlin, Germany that there are no homosexuals in Malaysia.

Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Mohammaddin Ketapi was quoted by German broadcaster, Deutsche Welle (DW), as saying that there are no homosexuals in Malaysia.

That could only mean that the National Islamic Development Department (Jakim) has succeeded beyond everyone’s wildest expectations.

Minister’s remark to a global audience

Mohammaddin, who was at a press conference for the opening of the ITB Berlin, the world’s largest tourism trade fair yesterday, said this in response to a question by a German reporter on whether “homosexuals” are welcomed in Malaysia.

“Homosexuals? I don’t think we have anything like that in our country,” he was reported to have said.

It should be noted that DW is the equivalent of the UK’s BBC, the US-based CNN or Russia Today (RT), having a reach that extends to an audience of a few billion with it being the official “voice of Germany” as its broadcasts are aired by cable and satellite TV networks around the world.

According to the DW report, the minister had tried to avoid answering an earlier question in which he was asked if Malaysia is safe for homosexuals and Jews.

The report also claimed that Malaysian officials present had later tried “to downplay the incident”.

Protest in Germany over Malaysia’s stand on LGBT and Jews

Malaysia remains a partner of ITB Berlin, despite the objections of many German groups, including the German Green Party whose veteran leader Volker Beck wants Malaysia out due to its policies against homosexuals and Jews.

Beck had tweeted in January his protest against Malaysia’s participation, calling on the Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller to remove Malaysia because “homophobia and antisemitism cannot be a partner country. This regime must not be courted”.

The objections mainly stemmed from Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad having said in January that he will not allow Israelis to participate in the Paralympic Swimming World Championship, scheduled to take place in Malaysia in July this year, in solidarity with the people of Palestine.

Malaysia has since been removed as hosts.

LGBT tourists welcome in Malaysia, says minister’s aide

Getting back to Mohamaddin’s comment, one of his aides was reported to have said that the minister was only expressing his “personal view”.

According to FMT, the aide, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “Tourists coming to Malaysia, like any other country, are welcome regardless of their creed, sexual orientation, religion or colour.”

However, the aide added that his boss was just falling in line with the official stance by Putrajaya and the prime minister that homosexuals are not recognised, when he made the comment in Berlin.

Mahathir made this clear when he told the audience at his Oxford Union speech in January that the Malaysian government would never tolerate homosexuality.

“In our society, it is wrong. If you want to do it yourself, go ahead, but in England, not in Malaysia,” he was reported to have said.