Islamic Hardliners Target Concerts, Festivals, LGBT Events In Malaysia

Islamic Hardliners Target Concerts, Festivals, LGBT Events In Malaysia. Image Source: New Strait Times
Islamic Hardliners Target Concerts, Festivals, LGBT Events In Malaysia. Image Source: New Strait Times

Malaysia is seeing an increasing crackdown on certain cultural events due to political pressure from ultraconservative Islamic groups.

In late September, a group representing 25 NGOs assembled in the majority Sunni nation to protest festivals involving alcohol, as well as events that promote lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities.

The Islamic hardliners demanded the government’s Selangor Islamic Religious Department and the Islamic Development Department ban both gay and liquor-themed festivals immediately.

The group’s spokesperson Nazilah Idris said the NGOs were strongly opposed to any such activities being held in the country:

“We urge the government not to approve permits or requests to organize any festivals that insult the sanctity of Islam and we call on the government to enact a law that will only permit alcohol consumption in closed areas.

People should be prohibited from drinking alcohol outside or in public areas including festivals and concerts. Malaysia is a Muslim-majority country and such events are insensitive and tarnishing the religion of Islam.”

Recently, concerns have been brewing over the growing political influence of fundamentalist Islamic organizations in certain parts of Southeast Asia. A September UN report stated that there is increasing pressure on the Malaysian government to follow a less-moderate” interpretation of Islam, one which ignores the country’s multi-ethnic history and marginalizes non-Muslim minorities.

President of the Islamist Martabat Jalinan Muhibbah Malaysia (MJMM) party Abdul Rani Kulup Abdullah said, “This should not be our culture and practice. Alcohol consumption is the mother of all immoral acts that could lead to other bad habits.

Islamic group leader Abdul Rani Kulup Abdullah. Image Source: The Malay Mail

Islamic group leader Abdul Rani Kulup Abdullah. Image Source: The Malay Mail

“When you drink alcohol, you will get involved in gambling, sexual activities, become gay … all things that are bad will happen, he added.

Local extremists have already attacked people for engaging in such activities. Last June, two ISIS terrorists threw a grenade into a bar near downtown Kuala Lumpur where people were watching the UEFA Euro 2016 soccer match between Italy and Spain. Bars and nightclubs have also been targeted by Islamists in other parts of Southeast Asia, particularly in southern Thailand.

In spite of just 100 people turning up for the September protest after Friday prayers, the government yielded and banned a “White Party” gay festival scheduled for the end of the month. Earlier this year, the country was ridiculed for canceling theater screenings of Disney’s 2017 Beauty and the Beast remake, because of an apparent “gay moment” in one particular scene.

This month, the government rejected a permit for the famous annual “Better Beer Festival 2017” scheduled for October 6-7, which was based on the Oktoberfest celebration in Munich, Germany. The Islamic party claimed the craft show event would transform the city into “the biggest center of vice in Asia”.

Although the beer festival’s organizers claimed it had been canceled due to “political sensitivity surrounding the event”, Malaysian Police Inspector-General Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi Harun said it was due to security reasons.

Police later revealed that their intelligence indicated Islamist militants were planning an attack on the event if it went ahead. These threats have also put security services in Munich on higher alert this year.

International pop concert organizers are increasingly avoiding tours to Malaysia over fears of violence or terror attacks from Islamist groups. In May, a Muslim fanatic detonated a shrapnel-laden explosive at an Ariana Grande concert in England, killing 23 people and injuring 250.

Experts see a growing intolerance toward activities regarded as insulting to Islam by powerful Muslim NGOs. Previously, artists including Beyoncé have cancelled their performances in Malaysia due to tighter regulations on women’s clothing and dancing styles.

The latest bans are likely to harm the prevailing perception of Malaysia as being a moderate and tolerant Islamic country. Activist groups have expressed deep concern at the increasing involvement of religious authorities in government policy decisions. About 40% of Malaysia’s population is non-Muslim, including Buddhists, Christians and Hindus.

According to Islamic principles, the state should only exist for the purpose of implementing Sharia law.


About the Author

Tucker J.
Tucker J.
Tucker is a foreign correspondent and media analyst for Not Liberal.

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