Malaysia’s human rights commission crucified over conservative view on apostasy, LGBTQ

Pride flag. Photo: Brielle French
Pride flag. Photo: Brielle French

Malaysia’s Human Rights Commission, or SUHAKAM, has drawn criticism over its recent statement targeting apostate individuals and those in the LGBTQ community. 

Two days after the commission gave its unsolicited point of view that emphasized the need to uphold societal and religious norms over equal rights to live, including leading a gay life, local activists slammed the organization for taking on a position that runs contrary to what it was supposed to stand for: advocating for equal rights in Malaysia. 

“Despite Malaysia being part of [​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​United Nations Human Rights Council], SUHAKAM would rather risk their [National Human Rights Institutions] rank to appease bigots,” LGBTQ activist Numan Afifi said today, referring to the conservative Malay-Muslim majority. 

“The commissioners have failed to show leadership and courage when human rights in Malaysia [are] on decline. They must resign from the mandate immediately. How utterly shameful!” he added. 

SUHAKAM did not explain why it was issuing the statement, which came two months after celebrity transwoman Nur Sajat left for Australia while escaping persecution from local Islamic authorities, attracting global attention. She once voiced thoughts about leaving Islam. 

In the statement titled “Our stance about the freedom of religion and human rights of the LGBT community,” SUHAKAM said that Muslims are allowed to leave the religion in Malaysia but only with permission from the Islamic Sharia Court, which has so far been granting approvals to those who were mistakenly listed as a “Muslim” when they were born. 

SUHAKAM also mentioned that LGBTQ individuals in Malaysia enjoy fundamental rights to religion, education, jobs, and medical treatment – but that’s it.

“It should be understood that human rights, according to the law, are not equal rights to live against societal and religious norms in this country,” SUHAKAM said. 

“Besides fundamental human rights, the rights of the majority should also be preserved so diverse Malaysians may live in harmony,” it added. 

SUHAKAM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Others who criticized SUHAKAM was Twitter user Teoh Yan Hui, who called it a “fucking horrible statement.”

“Not only do you throw ex-Muslims under the bus, you’re also affirming the ‘societal rights’ (whatever that even means) to oppress LGBTQ+ people,” he added.

Yu Ren Chung from the Women’s Aid Organization said it was “not acceptable” for the defender of human rights to release such a statement.

Human rights lawyer Michelle Yesudas also weighed in, saying the “poorly-drafted” text by SUHAKAM was “high-key hateful” towards local queers.

Other stories:

Any increase in COVID-19 penalties ‘harmful to Malaysian citizens’: protesters

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