How will Anwar’s statements on LGBT+ community be construed by rivals?
IN A recent interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was grilled over Malaysia’s laws on homosexuality as well as the democratic reforms he is looking to bring about as the Prime Minister of a “modern, Muslim nation”.
Anwar was in New York to attend the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA).
PMX’s remarks on the non-harassment of the Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, Queer and others (LBGTQ+) community has been widely highlighted by local media.
He said while there was consensus among Malaysians of all faiths that there can be no open public displays of LGBTQ+ lifestyles, there should be no harassment directed at this community.
“Muslims and non-Muslims alike, (be they) Christians, Hindus or Buddhists, have a consensus in the country. They do not accept the open public display of this (LGBTQ),” affirmed Anwar.
“But do we then go and harass them? That is a different subject. I do not approve of any attempt to harass.”
Anwar reiterated that while there is a need to exercise some degree of tolerance, harassment has to be avoided.
He also said there was a need for the review of the laws to prevent politically-motivated abuse, citing his own case where he was jailed for sodomy-related charges.
“I have made it quite clear that we have to review and look at the law; it should not be abused. In the case that I went through, it was used for political persecution but finally we have to respect the general sentiments of Malaysians,” replied Anwar.
Political rivals to misconstrue responses
This is the fine balancing act that no other previous Prime Minister of the country has had to deal with. For decades, the mud-slinging has continued unabated. Even till this day, thinly-disguised innuendo can be heard at rival parties’ ceramah during election campaigning.
There is the oft-repeated accusation that Anwar will legalise same-sex marriages. The word “liberal” has been weaponised by his political opponents to mean “pro-LGBTQ+” with thinly-veiled messages that he is hell bent on turning the nation into a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah (a 1962 epic film directed by Robert Aldrich on sex, torture and betrayal).
The narrative by his political foes has been calculated to create fear, doubt and suspicion among the more conservative factions of Malaysian society. His latest utterances in the CNN interview will surely be used by rivals to further fuel this the suspicion that Anwar is sympathetic towards the LGBTQ+ community.
The deeply conservative segments of Malaysian society will have no interest in “tolerance” or “non-harassment” of LGBTQ+ lifestyles, public displays notwithstanding. Anwar’s opponents know this and will seize upon this sentiment to create even more hostility towards the unity government.
Anwar had no choice in the interview but to attempt to appear as a modern and moderate leader to woo western businesses and investors.
But it can be assured that his words will be misconstrued, misunderstood and misquoted by political rivals keen to paint him as some sort of demagogue for alternative lifestyles that go against deeply-ingrained values of many Malaysians.
It is almost a certainty that his responses will be highlighted in the upcoming Pelangai state by-elections. After all, as the accusations of sodomy have been used against him for decades, why stop now? – Sept 26, 2023