A prominent Malaysian newspaper has published an article educating readers on how to allegedly spot a homosexual, causing widespread anger among LGBT activists.
The article, published in the Sinar Harian, features several bullet points describing characteristics that homosexual men allegedly share, including a tendency to have beards, regularly going to the gym in order to check out other men, and wearing branded clothing.
Standard lesbian characteristics apparently include women who hug each other and hold hands, and take enjoyment in belittling men.
The advice immediately drew criticism from activists and human rights groups, who argued that homosexuals do not represent a threat to society.
“There are much more important issues in this country which need to be addressed,” said the Malaysian social media star Arwind Kumar. “If you really want to educate society then explain to them the traits of a pedophile, a molester, a murderer, a kidnapper, people who actually endanger the lives of others. How the hell does a gay person endanger your life?”
Grace Poore, the Asia-Pacific program coordinator for LGBTQ advocacy group OutRight Action International, also told of the government’s increasingly authoritarian implementation of Islamic Sharia Law.
“The Malaysian government is not only complicit with religious conservative groups in portraying LGBT Malaysians as deviant, diseased, and dangerous to religion and culture, but since 2011, the government has sponsored and funded public education programs that single out LGBT people,” Poore told NBC News.
“The Malaysian government has received numerous recommendations from international governments and LGBT activists to remove discriminatory policies against LGBT people but it has refused and instead continues to fuel dangerous conditions that have led to bullying, death threats, verbal denigration, physical violence,” he continued.
Tensions between moderates and Islamic fundamentalists have grown in recent years, as the country’s theocratic government seeks to impose the Sharia, or Islamic law, on many aspects of life. Around 60 percent of Malaysia’s population is Muslim, while 23 percent are from Chinese and Indian communities and further 7 percent from Christian, Hindu, and Buddhist backgrounds. The majority Muslim population makes Sinar Harian’s advice on spotting gay men particularly problematic, as many Muslims grow beards as a sign of their faith.
Over the past year, authorities have banned books promoting a more moderate form of Islam, censored “inappropriate” popular film and music, and imposed blasphemy laws on the members of the country’s non-Muslim population.
In the neighboring country of Indonesia, which has the world’s largest Muslim population, authorities are also cracking down on fundamental liberties. The government is on the verge of passing a law that will criminalize same-sex relations as well as people having consensual sex outside marriage.