PUTRAJAYA, July 6 — Malaysia’s religious affairs minister has pledged to hear out the grouses of the country’s sexual and Muslim minorities, amid longstanding claims of persecution by religious authorities.
However, Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa said that this should not be construed as an overt form of support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT), Shiah and Ahmadiyya communities, or their beliefs and ways of life.
“All people are free to come here to discuss with me, dialogue opens the door for understanding but this does not mean I submit to their theories or support their ideas,” the minister in the Prime Minister’s Department told Malay Mail in an exclusive interview yesterday.
The minister argued that while the Federal Constitution protects the rights of these communities, there are aspects of their beliefs and practices that may not be acceptable to Muslims and, by extension, Malaysians.
“There is a perception that there are groups among Muslims who see the LGBT as a menace to society, who have encroached into the normal lives of Muslims and the sensitivities of other faiths.
“[Their] rights have been protected. But whatever they believe in, when it translates or encroaches into the public sphere then it becomes an issue,” Mujahid said.
The LGBT community in Malaysia, especially transgender Muslims, often alleges persecution by religious authorities over Shariah offences such as cross-dressing.
Earlier this year, Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) that now falls under Mujahid’s purview, subjected celebrity entrepreneur Nur Sajat Kamaruzzaman to a lengthy process in order for authorities to officially verify her gender.
Separately, the Shiahs and Ahmadis are barred from practising their faiths here and are also pursued for Shariah offences, even though the latter are not recognised as Muslims.
States such as Selangor and Sabah have lumped Shiahs and Ahmadis together with “liberalism” and “pluralism” as deviant teachings and extremists.
Mujahid explained that Malaysians were free to practise whatever they believed in private, but added that these practices become a “problem” when propagated publicly.
“A sin is still a sin, when you encroach your ideas into the public sphere.
“Drinking alcohol [among Muslims] is prohibited, but we can’t control what people do privately.
“But when you drink in public and you challenge this and you challenge the system. If it is against my religion, then there is an issue,” Mujahid added.