Malaysian Homosexual Now Faces Death Threats from Muslims December 25, 2010

Malaysian Homosexual Now Faces Death Threats from Muslims

Azwan Ismail is a brave man in trouble. He recently came out publicly as gay (as part of Dan Savage‘s It Gets Better project):

Because he lives in the Islamic country of Malaysia, where homosexual acts are illegal, he’s getting death threats:

Azwan Ismail told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Tuesday he was taking safety precautions following fierce criticism in this conservative, Muslim-majority country over his clip, which has been viewed more than 140,000 times on YouTube in just six days.

Malaysia’s Cabinet minister for Islamic affairs, Jamil Khir Baharom, voiced concerns over the weekend that gay activists were trying to promote homosexuality. He said officials might take “appropriate action to prevent this from spreading because it would hurt Islam’s image.”

Harussani Zakaria, one of Malaysia’s top Islamic clerics, reportedly said Azwan should have not made such an open declaration that “derided his own dignity and Islam in general.”

Umm… I assure the government officials that Islam’s image is not going to get any worse because one gay guy came out of the closet. Islamic leaders and a handful of followers have done enough to ruin the faith for all the decent folks out there who still think Islam stands for “peace.”

Best of luck to Ismail, though, who has an uphill climb ahead of him:

“My intention was not to insult Islam,” Azwan told the AP. “I just wanted to represent gay Malays in this project. I hope these videos will help to create a more open society and more discussion.”

Azwan, who has a boyfriend, said he started confiding in others about his sexuality five years ago. He added that he has not broached the subject with his parents, but his brother asked him about it after news of the video surfaced.

Reader k0k is a Malaysian atheist who has a much sharper response to all this:

Then, there are the sanctimonious cunts who claim that Azwan is “insulting” Islam by being born a homosexual and having the stones to come out of the closet. The degree of self-entitlement of these self-important jackasses is frankly, quite astounding. If Allah has beef with Azwan, I’m sure the He is more than capable of dealing with him when the time comes — if it ever comes. And did they even ask Azwan if he personally believe in the teachings of Islam? I’m sure they didn’t, and in Malaysia where apostasy is both criminalised and demonised, he couldn’t renounce his affiliation with the incredible Religion of Peace™ even if he wanted to anyway. If he claims to be an apostate, they can easily take that as an “insult” to Islam too (we know there were precedents for this). From the get go, he was given no freedom of religion and no freedom of sexuality. He’s between a rock and a hard place, both promising potential repercussions from our primitive laws. Speaking of our legal system, I’m kind of at risk right now too for violating some stupid blasphemy laws. Welcome, ladies and gents, to Malaysia.

Here’s hoping Ismail remains safe.

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  • Richard Wade

    The only “insult to Islam” is in the asinine behavior of those zenophobic, homophobic, ignorance-loving bigots who denounce Azwan and who want to continue living in their barbaric past. Enjoy the 7th century, retrogressives. We’ll be in the 21st if you need anything.

  • If he’s getting death threats in Malaysia for coming out, he may qualify for asylum in the United States under the “particular social group” prong. Courts in the U.S. have recognized sexual identity as a ground for asylum and he may qualify. It does not appear that he’ll be safe there after making that video.

    Seriously, If he’s afraid to stay there, he should leave for the United States and apply for immigration asylum here. If you know him, please let him know that he can apply for asylum here if he’s afraid.

    From what I’m able to tell by consulting the State Department Human Rights Report, Malaysia does not do much to protect the rights of homosexuals. This is what the report says:

    Although there are no laws that prohibit homosexual conduct, laws against sodomy and “carnal intercourse against the order of nature” exist and were enforced sporadically. Religious and cultural taboos against homosexual conduct were widespread. For example, during the year a Health Ministry official stated that homosexual activity and masturbation helped to spread the H1N1 infection.

    Seriously, he wouldn’t have that hard of a time proving his claim if he came to the U.S. His story has been picked up by the Washington Post!

  • Not too long ago, an automatic response might be “Offer him political asylum in the US — it’s what we do.” But now, while we are making strides*, any glance at the headlines would bear out the fact that gays face a lot of personal danger here on our shores — and that many of the countries (Uganda being the prime example) with the most over-the-top anti-gay legislation have robust backing from the American religious right! Inviting him here might be tantamount to a transfer from the frying pan into the fire. What a sad state of affairs.
    *The “strides” are more like “two steps up and one step back.”

  • Sean

    Inviting him here might be tantamount to a transfer from the frying pan into the fire.

    This seems like a fantastic exaggeration. I’d be the first to say that gays don’t have it just fine and peachy in the US. We have the worst hate crime stats of any group. But the level of danger for openly gay people here is nowhere near comparable to that in the countries from which these refugees are fleeing.

  • Samiimas

    the level of danger for openly gay people here is nowhere near comparable to that in the countries from which these refugees are fleeing.

    Much to the dismay of the Mormon Church and the other prop 8 supporters…

  • Daniel

    Wow. It really hurts me to know that there are so many decent, intelligent people who have to lie and pretend out of fear for being hurt for who they are and what they think. Especially in the shitty parts of the world.

    It is actually quite ironic. There are people who have figured out how to peacefully and respectfully coexist with their fellow humans. And there are people who claim to be the only good, loving and moral beings, especially chosen by big daddy in the sky because they joined some club. The latter also claim that people not in their club are evil and immoral. And yet, it is always the “chosen” people who are on the persecutors side.

  • Benjamin

    Tourism is an important Part of Malaysias economy, with International attention Malaysia will be careful handling this. It might be a little step improving things there.

  • Claudia

    Inviting him here might be tantamount to a transfer from the frying pan into the fire.

    No, it would be tantamount to inviting him from the fire into the sauna, at worst. At best (say, San Francisco) it would be tantamount to inviting him from the fire into a warm afternoon on the terrace. A little proportionality, please.

    It’s amazing how brave some people are. People like him are yet another indication that homosexuality is not a choice, as some idiots still insist on believing. Who in their right mind would choose to be persecuted and threatened, even to the point of having high ranking members of your own government denouncing your very existence.

    I love that they think he could bring a “bad reputation” to Islam. No worries boys, you’re doing a bang up job of that all by yourselves.

  • Anonymous

    I am half Malay, from Malaysia, and I am seething at this.

    Screw the religious, conservative, uptight, everthing-phobic, useless, incompetent government shitheads.

    Can I just take this opportunity that there’s a fuckhead among them who wants to ban facebook because there are anti-islamic groups on it?

    I honestly don’t know how an entire government can have its head up its ass about everything. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s called religion.

  • Anonymous

    …my last comment made no sense.

    “Can I just take this opportunity [TO POINT OUT] that there’s…”

    There we go.

  • Fucking A!!! Yeah, my first thought was bad image to Islam? No, all the freaking murdering and beheading you’re doing of people is what’s giving you a bad image.

    Woman gets raped and woman gets stoned for adultery. Gays get hung and beheaded. Journalists get beheaded for telling the truth or just to make a dramatic video. “Honor” killings (the oxymorons don’t get any worst than that) of young girls for daring to act like they weren’t born 2,000 years ago. Jihads, flying planes into buildings and killing infidels (defined as anyone not Muslim) — these are the things that make you look bad, morons.

    Pull your heads out of your asses, grow up and enter the 21st century and stop all the archaic killing that makes you look real shitty if you really want to look good. While you’re at it, stop being afraid to let woman be people too. It doesn’t make you look manly to bully them; just makes you look afraid of them. I kill spiders because I’m scared of them. You — you apply this to other human beings.

    Volly, while there are bigots here that gays have to worry about and you certainly have a valid point about the Religious Right, surely you jest when comparing the relative safety of gays in America to gays in Malaysia (or Uganda, for that matter). I might point out that the assholes are in Uganda because they can’t get that death penality for gays they’re so itching for here.

    Best of luck to Mr. Ismail! This kind of bravery is admirable and should serve a person well. So few possess it.

  • Claudia

    @Donna, what you say is all well and good, but understand that to these geniuses your opinion, or mine, isn’t worth anything because we have girl bits between our legs.

    No civilization that dismisses the contributions of fully 50% of its population out of hand will ever get ahead of one that uses all its human potential.

  • carnal intercourse against the order of nature

    the liberal theologians and hadith readers had this one right, what it means is “according to science” because in the High Classical period this was tres chic. it really paid, to the courtiers and politicians, to be able to show an ability with mixing Islam, with *real* science. there were economic and cultural reasons for that, but anyway. this is what homosexuals in islam should be working with. using science to prove within the religious definition of it, in Islam, to show that as natural members of the natural order (we just happen, nobody “converts” us and thus it is not idolatry against Allah and anti-Islamic, but in fact His Will) we deserve the rights of all Muslims or potential muslim human beings. there should be a whole mess of tradition/”news”/reported scripture on this issue that a strong, pro-Islamic case for equality can be built. it’s worked in other highly religious countries which have moved towards equality recently.

  • May I just mention his coming out video has more “dislikes” than “likes” due to the target audience (Malaysians of the Malay ethnic group).

    And most of the comments are rather hateful.

  • Absolutely right, Claudia. I’m staying away because I’m certain I’d be stoned in short order upon entering any of their countries.

  • Silent Service

    Crap, and I thought is was bad growing up in Iowa in the ’70s and ’80s.

  • Helene

    I agree with all of you. But may I point out that the comment (and reprint of it) characterizing the opposition as “cunts” is misogynistic in the extreme. Especially considering that the opposition in question is almost certainly male-dominated, using “cunts” (instead of, perhaps, “dicks”) is specifically meant to demean them by association with female qualities. I find it horrifying, actually, that someone supposedly acting in favor of human rights and expression would do it in such a way.

  • Claudia


    Being only half American, I’m often perplexed by this difference. Somehow “cunt” is seen as a terrible mysoginist word while “dick” is a relatively tame insult. While “cunt” does sound a little more harsh than “dick” (probably because it’s used less) I’ve never found it to be gender specific and am mystified that it’s considered inherently mysoginist. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the blogger you criticize is similarly unaware of the issue with that word, which so far as I can tell is unique to the US.

  • Hemant: Thanks for highlighting this story. As pointed out by another commenter, a large part of Malaysia’s economy is reliant on tourism and foreign investments – and our government does try very hard to project an image of civilised or moderate Islam to the rest of the world. The more attention this gets, the less likely it is that something untoward will happen to Azwan.

    Donna: Our country is actually very permissive towards homosexuals so long as the parties involved aren’t (a) out of their closets, and (b) a Muslim. It’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell on a national level.

    Helene: I assure you that I did not use the word cunt misogynistically or as you put it, to “specifically… demean them by association with female qualities.” While I see that it’s categorically no different from calling someone a dick, a prick or a cockhead, I’ll admit that I do unconsciously assign a harsher connotation to it. Perhaps it’s simply a word which we encounter far less frequently (as suggested by Claudia) but it is not my intention to liken contemptible behaviour to vaginas – at least, not anymore than I liken dickish behaviour to my own reproductive organ. I’m sorry if my use of the word offended you, but I’m an equal opportunity expletive user.

  • Helene

    James: I will totally accept your assertion that you didn’t use the word cunt with misogynistic intent, and thanks for offering it. The thing is, even when the word “dick” is used, although it certainly implies that someone is being an idiot, it also implies that that idiocy results from an excess of testosterone, an excess of masculinity, if you will. Using “cunt” has no such connotation, it just implies that female parts are nasty and one doesn’t want to be saddled with a reference to them. This is the case with many gender-specific epithets and I’d argue that one can’t really be equal-opportunity when using them because they don’t carry the same implication. Oh, I know I’m not putting this well, but I’ve tried. I’m sorry to have cast my own aspersions on your intentions. 🙂

  • Tylar

    If not in America, he could certainly take refuge in Canada.

  • soo keong chean

    I have been tortured, humiliated, abused, bodily harmed, abused, poisons, simply because I am a Malaysian Chinese against the will of red and black Indians wishes to fools Chinese community. Nice going Malaysia Malaysian, if ever Malaysia can grow so rapid rate I might be a billionaire just from international law suit to Malaysia governed but its not true. We are 3rd world water ways. Pretending to ever growing at snail pace. Maybe because too much influence from watching overseas justice of peace and unity. Language and career and education r just 2nd,3rd and 4th nature of our daily route embarking road towards green mile, just like birds soaring up the sky.

    Anybody belief in : E=mc2

    Here’s another : To prevent evil, society can’t be silent. When evil is observed it must be confronted and opposed. Albert Einstein said “The world is too dangerous to live in – not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”

    Asylum Seeker.

  • Unrecognised Asylum Seeker

    Malaysia is a developing country and if you are Malays or Indians I am sure your birth and mortality rate dwindled then it must be your own wrong doing not someone else problem. After 45 years born as a Malaysian ethnic Chinese the reason of these explosion of birth to these two funny baboons is the early marriage and tidak apa attitude given personality of idiots, morons, and imbecile and problem escalated to ancient kingdoms of heaven. If you fellers can`t take the heat then you better get out of the kitchen. We are 3rd world water ways and do not get too touchy observing overseas TV and justice of your pier. Anybody belief in : E=mc2

    Here’s another : To prevent evil, society can’t be silent. When evil is observed it must be confronted and opposed. Albert Einstein said “The world is too dangerous to live in – not because of the people who do evil, but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”

    If you want to find the Guilty all you have to do is to look into the mirror.


  • If not in America, he could certainly take refuge in Canada.

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