Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Receiving Death Threats for Giving Hope

From my friend Pang - Via Facebook
Dearest Seksualiti Merdeka friends

As you may have been aware, Seksualiti Merdeka, which champions the human rights of sexually marginalised communities in Malaysia, particularly the rights of LGBTs, has come under fire recently for our video project "It Gets Better in Malaysia". Right now we are being overwhelmed by the majority view that we are destroying Malaysian society. The videos have been mistakenly interpreted as a series of coming out videos set to insult the country's religion. Nothing can be further from the truth. In our statement released last week, we said:

"It Gets Better in Malaysia is a video project about giving hope to young LGBT Malaysians: even though things can be rough during the teenage years, it can get better. This message is targeted at the minority of young Malaysians who are growing up as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT).

"This project is in response to accounts of suicides and attempted suicides by LGBT teenagers and adults. Statistics of such suicides are anywhere between three to six times higher than by heterosexuals. This is due to the overwhelming feelings of loneliness, fear or hopelessness that result from the stigma and discrimination against them. Most people have their families to turn to. For LGBT youths, even their own families can be a source of rejection. They have no one to turn to. We decided it is up to us who have survived similar situations to reach out to young LGBTs. This is why the project was born. It’s not about making coming out videos. It is about giving hope to youths at risk." (Read the full statement here:http://www.seksualitimerdeka.org/)

If anything, the widespread fear and ignorance towards LGBTs here, coupled with the state-sanctioned misunderstanding towards the community, prove that such messages of hope are necessary and vital. So far we have released 5 of the videos and intend to release more. But the one video that seemed to have attracted attention is the one by Azwan Ismail. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SJLSteQIcms). And among the comments it attracted, some on blogs, are threats of violence, stoning and death towards him.

We have some support in blogs and commentaries, mainly in English-medium news portals. The mainstream news mainly carry articles quoting officials asking for action to be taken upon us. 

The individuals who have been quoted include Minister in Prime Minister's Department Datuk Seri Jamil Khir Baharom and Perak Mufti Datuk Sri Harussani Zakaria, in Berita Harian and The Star respectively, asking JAKIM to take appropriate action. 

None of these people mentioned anything about the violent threats and death threats, almost as if legitimizing them. Harian Metro also ironically claimed Seksualiti Merdeka is threatening Muslims. (you can find the links to the articles at http://www.seksualitimerdeka.org/)

Only The Sun Daily and The Star mentioned the death threats against Azwan, but neither carried statements by Malaysian officials condemning the threats. (The Star carried the inteview by Associated Press.)

But for now we would like to request for the support from Malaysian NGOs, personalities and our supporters to speak up for us. Below are some ways you may help:

1. To oppose all threats of violence, stoning and death. One comment we saw asked for "sula" to be meted out. Another blog, after listing three ways of killing homosexuals, suggested that if the authorities don't take action, Muslims should not be blamed if they took actions into their own hands. Please oppose the legitimising of hate speech and violence.

2. To oppose insults, disparaging remarks and jokes made at the expense of LGBTs in Malaysia. To oppose discrimination of LGBTs who have committed no crime just being who they are.

3. To oppose criminalising and punishing LGBTs for being who they are. To oppose criminalising and punishing members of Seksualiti Merdeka for empowering marginalised communities and doing social work.

4. To support that we have done NOTHING to insult Islam. In fact, we are simply making it possible so that young people don't take their own lives. (But seeing all these hate going on, it might just prompt them instead.) In fact, we too believe that sexuality is a responsibility, no matter whether you are straight or LGBT. We want to be given a chance to show people how to be responsible with their own sexuality. This include being self-aware, self-accepting, as well as being aware and accepting of others. And respecting each other's rights.

5. To support allowing LGBTs in Malaysia to have avenues to express ourselves in order to create more understanding. This is included in the 4 recommendations at the end of our statement, which we hope you will support.

6. To support the human rights of all LGBTs in Malaysia regardless of their race, religion, age, gender identity or sexual orientation.

7. To support Seksualiti Merdeka's initiatives and the "It Gets Better in Malaysia" project.

We also hope you may offer your support, if possible, not only in English but also Bahasa Melayu, to be directed at the Malay-language media. We encourage you to write to the editors of the above publications, post blogs or facebook status or twitters to vocally support us.

Please check our website for our complete statement: http://www.seksualitimerdeka.org/2010/12/giving-hope-receiving-death-threats.html

Thank you.

Pang Khee Teik
Seksualiti Merdeka

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am checking this blog using the phone and this appears to be kind of odd. Thought you'd wish to know. This is a great write-up nevertheless, did not mess that up.

- David