A Freedom in Sexual Orientation in Malaysia (Seksualiti Merdeka)

Isaiah 59:9 So justice is far from us,    and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness;    for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows.

The call by UK and Australia on 28 Oct 2011 at the bienneal summit in Perth for a repeal anti-gay laws in the Commonwealth nations have instead resulted in more persecution against the GLBT community in Malaysia. If the other minorities, and religious groups do not defend the Gay community but stand by silently, there would be no one to defend them when it is their turn.

A new reign of darkness seems descending upon the GLBT community in Malaysia with the banning of the activities of the GLBT group. However, there is usually a stirring before the light of dawn and for issues of equality and social justice to be addressed. In a display of hypocrisy where corruption reigns in the political and religious scene, we have these groups calling upon gays as the greatest sinners.

On 03 Nov, the Malaysian GLBT group “Seksualiti Merdeka” or “Freedom in Sexuality” has its festival - "Queer without fear" curbed in response to complaints by Muslim religious groups triggering a political rush to make it a scapegoat by the major political parties eager to show their religious credentials. The Humans Rights Watch in New York has condemned the ban by the Malaysian Government against Seksualiti Merdeka’s festival 2011, a GLBT “festival” held since 2008 consisting of a few low-key indoor events. A similar closed door event has been held in Singapore called IndigNation since 2005 without any issues in view of providing the maximum secular space.

The ban was triggered by Perkasa, a Muslim NGO grouping, who quoted the Article 25 of the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam as a basis for their discrimination. In essence, their religious rights to practice the Shariah Law in their own religious faith have been used as the right to restrict the basic human rights of others. This sets a dangerous precedence and if Gay Muslims do not rise up and present an alternative religious discourse, there is no strong argument against it since Malaysia is not a secular country but has an official religion. For example, conversion to Christianity is also illegal as reminded to Christians in the Damansara Utama Methodist Church raid.

The ban is surprising since the festival was private and closed door event rather than any open gay pride. The invitation to Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan to preside over the event may have caused the backlash as she is a leader of Bersih, a torn in the Malaysian  Government who had campaigned against corruption.

The root of the issue is the prescriptive nature of the Muslim Faith much more than the Christian Faith which is based on few simple sacraments ordained by Christ such as Baptism and the Holy Eucharist. Jesus went around performing water baptism for people to repent and to enter the Kingdom of God, which was affirmed through His death and resurrection. It was about love rather than the insistence of religious laws.

The Malaysiakini on-line news site published an article “‘Muslim NGOs: Homosexuality is against all religions” in an attempt to gather support for their anti-gay agenda. But the reality is that the Indian, and Buddhist Faiths have less problems, and even the Christian Faith in the US and Britain are starting to re-look at the ancient text. The Jews have legalized same sex acts since 1988, but the laws have not been enforced in Israel since 1963.

The common text between the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian Faith is the story of Lot and his experiences in Sodom. Gays have become a scapegoat and a re-interpretation of history where the concern then was the abomination of having sex with the deities, producing giants, and also the abomination of idol worship which involved anal sex in particular to join one with the deities. It was considered a terrible sin to join oneself with the evil spirit through sex. Hence, the entire city was destroyed not because they were flaming gays (which is highly unlikely to be beyond 5 to 10% of the population). They were straight people whose religious worship took and joined them to the evil deities until God have had to destroy the entire city. We often lose our humanity in religion.

Gays become the scapegoat because to interpret it correctly means to acknowledge the existence of Satan and his demonic principalities, and furthermore the need to act against idol worship in our society if we were indeed so zealous for God! They took all their righteous indignation and blamed gays who were never in the picture in Sodom. Gays become a scapegoat for our self-righteous religious indignation.

Sodom and Gomorrah also speaks of a cruelty and injustice motivated by worshipping Satan, resulting in a nation that victimized and abused the nations around them until the weaker cities complained to God in heaven. They would have tortured the peoples, and the men would have destroyed the dignity of their captured slaves have having anal sex with them, thus making them as if women, ie property belong to them. They were in the slave trade. Wrong believing results in evil and cruel actions.

Hitler, a good Catholic, thought he was doing God’s work and sent more than a hundred thousand gays to death in the concentration camp. Gays are the victims of religious persecutions for a thousand years just as the Jews were persecuted because they were called after God’s name, a people of God. The Gay Community represents the grace of God, the colour of the rainbow. They are the innocent children, prevented from coming into the Kingdom of God.

We may approach Gay rights as an issue of social justice, but is it ultimately rooted in religious faith. It is in the depths of darkness that we can see the candle of light shining forth as a beacon of truth. The ban on Seksualiti Merdeka would have happened one day, and the situation could get worse. It has to be addressed at a religious front, where people of faith should stand up for the GLBT people if indeed there is love, and mercy in their respective beliefs.

 In US, and Britain, the conversation is about Gay marriage. There is a Spirit of freedom in Christ, a spirit of mercy where justice to the outcast is remembered. When we are just to the least in the community, reflecting God’s grace.  It was some time ago that Homosexuality was decriminalised in Britain, over 40 years ago. (The Sexual Offences Act 1967 in Britain).

That wave of freedom, the wave of justice, is starting to sweep Asia and the Commonwealth, and in the midst of what is seemingly deep darkness and persecution of the gay minority in Asia and Africa, there comes a Hope for a better future. It can only get better. As Christians, a people called after Christ, we are mandated to continue on the ministry of Christ on earth reflected in love, mercy and grace to a broken world. The good news is here, not only that there is freedom in our sexual orientation (or “Seksualiti Merdeka”), but God loves You, the real You within - who you are –whether gay or straight. There can only be hope when we take away the covering of religion and all its man-made laws – to see the basic humanity and dignity within.



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