Photos of LGBTQ+ activists Nisha Ayub, and Pang Khee Teik have been taken down from a George Town, Penang photography exhibition on “instruction,” according to reports.
The Stripes and Strokes exhibition, part of the George Town Festival 2018, was shot by photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad, and sponsored by Dato’ Vinod Sekhar.
Dato’ Vinod has said that he would not have expected this kind of treatment from the previous Barisan Nasional government, much less from the current government that likes to tout itself as Malaysia Baru (New Malaysia).
“Since when did we discriminate against ordinary Malaysians reflecting on their patriotism?” Vinod told Malay Mail yesterday.
Shocked that this would happen in Penang, the bastion of progressive policy that has traditionally walked to the beat of its own drum, Vinod has said that it is time Malaysians took a stand, and show that they will not give in to “insular, ignorant hate-mongers.”
Nisha’s work as a transgender rights activist has seen her awarded the International Women of Courage Award in 2016 by the United States State Department. Below the now removed photo was a caption describing her as strong, tenacious and soft-spoken.
Posting to her Facebook page on the matter, she clarifies the photo is mere a picture that illustrates her love and support for Malaysia. It is not politically motivated, and the photo was taken one year ago, to show a spectrum of Malaysian faces to commemorate “last year’s Independence Day.” It is not linked to any political party, nor to any politicians.
While she has been inundated with cruel insults, she says they don’t bother her – the only real concern that she sees is the fact that so many are fueled by hate, prejudice and discrimination, while simultaneously exalting the virtues of religion.
Writing Sunday, Pang also issued a statement to his Facebook account, and has been also hit with a barrage of insults from social media users, ranging from homophobic slurs to murder threats.
Ever irreverent, Pang only says: “What concerns me most is that I wish it was a better photo of me and not my resting bitch face. At least my rainbow is erect.”
His caption describes him as “the gay icon for Malaysia,” putting the LGBTQ+ agenda on the map, and calling for recognition of his “courageous voice” on matters often not tackled.
Siti Kassim, a lawyer, LGBTQ+, and Orang Asli (native people) activist, was surprised that her portrait survived the brouhaha. She believes that the real issue comes from government, both at state and federal levels, have succumbed to pressure from Islamists.
George Town Festival organizer Joe Sidek would only confirm that the portraits were removed by request, but would make no further comments.
Vinod does not blame the organizer, saying that his hard work has made it the internationally recognized event that it is today. Instead, he puts blame on the narrow-minded demagogues putting Sidek in a “wrong and unfair” position.
Local media outlet Sinar Online reported yesterday that local Penang Umno Youth chief Mohd Norhiesam Ismail called the portraits of Nisha, Pang, and Siti at the exhibition showed that the Penang state government is insensitive towards Muslims.
Note: Nisha’s father was Malay, and Siti herself is Muslim.
“The three of them have been made icons in the exhibition and … [it] states that they are LGBT activists, unacceptable people who go against the culture and religion of this country,” he told the news outlet.
Is this the kind of divisive garbage that Malaysians voted for? We sincerely hope not. Reinstate the photos of people who have put Malaysia on the map internationally through their work, and do not give air-time to these provincial rabble-rousers who are unknown to anyway outside their petty political circles.