Last edited: November 06, 2004

Malaysian Group Launches Antigay Movement

Kyodo News Service, October 21, 1998

By Vivian Ho

KUALA LUMPUR -- An antihomosexual movement gave itself an official launch Wednesday in this predominantly Muslim country, which is still embroiled in the case of sodomy charges leveled against former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim.

But top officials of the People's Anti-Homosexual Voluntary Movement, who are also members of the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), denied the movement is targeting any particular personality.

''Our aim is sincere. This is not politically motivated,'' said the movement's chairman, Ibrahim Ali, an UMNO Supreme Council member and staunch supporter of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

Deputy Chairman Tamrin Ghafar said, ''This has nothing to do with recent developments. It is just that homosexual activities have been around for a long time but never been so widespread and open.''

Anwar has pleaded not guilty to the five sodomy charges and five corruption charges he is facing, saying they are part of a conspiracy to topple him.

Sodomy is a criminal offense in Malaysia punishable with a jail term of up to 20 years, as well as by lashing.

Mahathir sacked Anwar on Sept. 2, claiming he was ''morally unfit'' for office. A day later, Anwar was also kicked out of the UMNO where he was deputy president.

Trying to steer clear of any link between his antigay body and the charges against Anwar, Ibrahim Ali stressed that Islam does not condone homosexuality and the movement will campaign to warn the public about the ''health and moral danger'' of practicing homosexuality, referring specifically to the AIDS epidemic.

The movement has proposed that all pubs and recreational centers frequented by gays, lesbians and bisexuals be closed and that stiffer laws be introduced to punish them. It estimates there are about 24,000 gays and lesbians in Kuala Lumpur alone.

A meeting with several non-governmental organizations will be held Saturday to discuss the issue.

Last month Mahathir's open remarks against the alleged sodomy acts of Anwar and against gays in general provoked the ire of a Philippine gay rights group, which accused Mahathir of ''fanning antigay hatred.''

The Progressive Organization of Gays, in a statement headlined ''We are here, we're queer, we will dump Mahathir,'' demanded that Mahathir issue a formal apology to all sexual minorities and renounce his ''antigay machinations.''

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