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│Azril Mohd Amin's personal views

LGBT rights: The Challenge for Malaysia

The present-day difficulties experienced by the Malaysian public is that the sexual deviants are coming “out of the closet”. The primary manifestation is in the demand for public parades, the call to abolish “archaic” anti-sodomy laws in the Penal Code, demonstrations, legalizing same-sex marriage and other activities to make sexual deviance seem to be a perfectly natural aspect of human rights and behaviour.

As argued by many scholars, western history has never acknowledged “Divine Law“, nor has it replaced traditional religious prohibitions with any mechanism of punishment for those who deviate too much in public (in front of the children, after all), or who preach tolerance for these forms of behaviour.

During the war against Hitler and the Japanese it was assumed that the Americans were in the right and had the “moral high ground”. During those days, such as, a famous news commentator on the radio always ended his commentaries with, “Good bye and good luck”, or “Take it easy, but take it”. There was faith in a purely secular sense of right and wrong without recourse to religion.

The successful winning of the war, the development of the atomic bomb, and America’s generous rebuilding of the war’s losers (Japan and Germany), reassured the American public that “God was on their side”. However, this secular ethical sense included a clear distaste for sexual deviance, until the invention of the birth control pill, the policy of “Playboy” magazine to display full female genital nudity, and the Vietnam War.

The American tolerance for deviance became very strong after the end of the Vietnam War, when so many war veterans and other dissidents lost all faith in government decree and promise, along with their sense of secular ethics which then came to be known as “situational ethics”. “Situational ethics” meant that every ethical dilemma had an ethical response suited only to that dilemma and none other. There were no more moral standards or objective rights and wrongs.

For Americans, after Vietnam at least, tolerance for deviation of all sorts, including drug use and abuse, spread out of a sense of guilt that the government itself seemed to have perpetrated a war that could not be won, whose main achievement was a near genocidal crippling of the counter-culture teens and early twenties. Many who were sent away to fight about lost their psychological stability as a result, and certainly no one came back with any increase in religious faith. The American government had been caught in its first deliberate lies with Vietnam “body counts”, and so the American public lost its virginity – government could no longer be trusted, starting with the assassination of President Kennedy and its apparent cover-up.

But whatever the specific causes, bad governance was surely complicit in the spread of immorality. The Muslims have suffered no less from bad governance over the centuries. There were a few examples of enlightened leadership that was able, such as, to virtually end poverty by the meticulous implementation of the Zakat (charity) system, which is not a simple matter, either in principle or in application.

The Abbasid Caliphate kept the Muslims in a humane state of living for nearly 500 years. The first public street lights in history were set up in Muslim Cordoba. Jewish intellectuals flocked to the liberal environment of the Andalusian leaders. Nevertheless, all this ended in 1492 when the Catholics conquered Granada in the Muslims’ “last stand” for control of Andalusia.

The question of how the Muslims lost their favoured place among human cultures goes right back to the last days of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.). Saiyidina Abu Bakr As-Siddiq (r.a), and not the Prophet’s own son-in-law Saiyidina Ali (r.a), was chosen by consensus to assume the Caliphate. By all accounts, he was a superb ruler. Had the Prophet recommended a dynastic culture, he could easily have indicated his own son-in-law Ali (r.a.) to take his place, and then either of Ali’s sons Hussain or Hassan to follow him.

From this event, we may logically conclude that the Prophet (s.a.w.) wanted neither a dynastic rule from his own family, or even one from his tribe. In fact, what he indicated was governance based on Musyawarah, which has been followed in the West as what they claim to be the democratic vote. This is not the same, although the principle is the same — government must substantiate the people’s participation. It is this simple principle of Musyawarah that has been absent far too long in many Muslim states, especially today in Northern Africa and other Arab-speaking countries.

Soon after the Prophet (s.a.w.) passed away, his two grandsons, Hussain and Hassan, were nevertheless murdered by certain factions. In fact, the center of Islam then moved from Medinah to Damascus, under the Caliphate of the Omayyad dynasty. To this day, Muslim rulers, whether enlightened or not, have continued to claim what the Europeans used to call “the divine right of kings”. The governing hierarchies have always been vertical, with one-man-one-rule at the top. Even President Obama was captured on videotape giving a half bow to the Saudi King when they recently met.

After the fall of Muslim Spain, this model was claimed by the Caliph of the Ottomans in Istanbul. The Ottomans kept it another 500 years until 1923, when the British destroyed the Caliphate in line with their plans for secularizing all Muslim countries. What the status of homosexuals and other deviants was during these thousand or so years, nobody knows, since any research that may have reflected badly on the monarchies would have been forbidden or severely punished.

Today, de facto monarchies or inherited oligarchies (Egypt, Syria, Libya), or even excessive terms of rule (such as in Indonesia or Yemen) are being disbanded by revolutionary action.  Malaysia has cleverly retained its monarchical history (from the Sultanate of Melaka) by rotating the national kingship every five years among the kings of the various Malay states, thereby avoiding the fascist danger of “absolute power corrupting absolutely”. These Malay -Muslim kings perform the function which the Prophet (s.a.w.) held in Medina, by safeguarding the religion of Islam and the moral rectitude of the Muslim majority rule. This same function is said to be in the hands of the British royalty, yet sexual deviation, since the songs of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, has flowered there. A British Muslim has said that it is hard to say where deviance has become more public and out-of-hand, in the UK or the USA.

This brief history of styles of governance among men is meant to pose the question, can sexual deviation be legislated or not? To this day, even in Malaysia, there are those who insist that this must not be a matter of government policy and should be left to resolve itself. Indeed, to be exact, non-binary sexual behavior must be said to be multi-determined. No one, including Freud himself, has found what causes it, although arguments rage from genetics to parental misguidance. We do know that if male homosexuality is the dominant lifestyle of adolescence, it, like smoking, is most likely to continue for a lifetime.

However, with the increasing monitoring of what the United Nations calls “Universal Human Rights”, every UN member has become beholden to the UN definition itself, of what is right and wrong in public policy towards LGBT’s. It is becoming very difficult to oppose the UN Declaration, which does not go so far as to mandate legal and social support for sexual deviants, however, as such deviance spreads for whatever reasons, there is nothing in the UN Declaration or the previous American Founding documents, to stop it.

Among Muslims, even Indonesia’s “Pancasila”, a government ideology designed to hide Muslim values in a form that would not frighten the richer countries whose money and sympathy President Sukarno desperately needed to rebuild his war-torn country after its Declaration of Independence in 1945, has no mechanism for dealing with deviant sexual behaviour, which is rampant in Jakarta’s streets (although perhaps lessening somewhat after the fall of Suharto).

Saudi Arabia, which has a very high rate of homosexuality, gets around its insistence that the Qur’an is its constitution by calling premarital sodomy or male group sex as “social masturbation”. Most Muslim countries opt for the greatest view which seems to be that the less said, the better. Let the LGBTs solve their own problems.

The problem we face now, is that they refuse to do so. Public billboards advertising homosexual businesses began springing up in San Francisco back in the 1990’s. Saudi hotel elevators in the 1980’s were rife with a gentle bumping into each other by which the men invite others to some social sex in their rooms. The first ever same-sex marriage in the biggest Muslim country took place in Indonesia in 1981. We later had the Jogjakarta Principles proclaimed in 2006 to strengthen the “human rights” support for these people. And in Malaysia as recent as 2012, a gay pastor, Ngeo Boon Lin, who has authored a number of books on gay and other issues under the name of Ouyang Wen Feng, held a wedding banquet at a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur to celebrate his marriage to American gay partner Phineas Newborn III. 

Malaysia has a special challenge in satisfying the United Nations purview in that its Federal Constitution has language that specifically designates Islam as the religion of the Federation by virtue of Article 3(1), and even goes so far as to designate every child born to Malay parents as Muslim by definition. For Malaysia, therefore, there is no way out. The LGBT question must be raised and brought into the political limelight.

Without a Caliph ruling the entire Muslim community (or “Ummah”), it will be exceedingly difficult to legislate country-by-country the morality of the public’s behavior, if it can even be done. Certainly, without a strong sense of the dangers of “sin”, it is unlikely that any form of consensual sex can be controlled by any government. Malaysia perforce must lead the way, since Islam as her religion is already enshrined in the country’s Federal Constitution. And this means that she cannot avoid the question that the United Nations is set to pose to her at her Human Rights Review in 2013 – “What is your policy toward the LGBTs?”

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One comment on “LGBT rights: The Challenge for Malaysia

  1. Pingback: Reinstating Normal Human Sexuality « Azril Mohd Amin

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This entry was posted on April 15, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

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