Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa has confirmed that the portraits of LGBT activists Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik were taken down from the George Town Festival exhibition on his orders
According to a report in Malay Mail, Mujahid claimed that he issued such an order because Nisha and Pang "were clearly promoting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) activities" which are against the PH Government's policy.
"I was informed that there is an exhibition that showcases pictures labelled LGBT activists and they were portrayed with the rainbow pride logo. It's done in a public gallery. I contacted the state government to check if the claim is true. It is not in line with what I consistently repeated in Parliament as the policy of this new government.
"I guess that answers your question as to why the pictures were taken down," the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department was reported as saying by Malay Mail.
Two photographs of LGBT activists Nisha and Pang by photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad were removed from the 'Stroke and Stripes' exhibition at the month-long GTF in Penang
The two portraits are part of a 28-piece art exhibition at Dewan Sri Pinang in conjunction with Malaysia's 61st Merdeka celebrations from 4 August to 2 September.
Among the other portraits of Malaysians featured with the Malaysian flag are that of DAP's Lim Kit Siang, PKR's Nurul Izzah Anwar, and lawyer Siti Kasim.
Following the removal of the two portraits, one of the sponsors for the Stripes and Strokes exhibition, Datuk Vinod Sekhar said he would not have expected this to happen even during the previous Barisan Nasional (BN) administration, much less in the "New Malaysia" under Pakatan Harapan (PH), reported Malay Mail.
"Since when did we discriminate against ordinary Malaysians reflecting on their patriotism? For it to happen in Penang is even more ridiculous.
"This is something that all Malaysians should fight. The moment we give in to narrow-minded insular ignorant hate mongers, then where do we draw the line?" Malay Mail quoted Vinod as saying yesterday, 7 August.
Nisha and Pang's portraits that have been removed
The photographs were first shot and exhibited in 2017 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Malaysia's independence. This year's GTF exhibited 28 portraits from the collection, before Nisha's and Pang's pictures were removed.
The decision to remove the two portraits also drew criticism from the state members of the Pakatan Harapan coalition
Penang exco Chong Eng, who in charge of the state committee for women, family development, gender inclusiveness and religions other than Islam, said that there was no need to remove the portraits of LGBT activists Nisha and Pang from the exhibition.
According to her, there is no harm for anyone to express their love for the country.
"We have to respect the differences, whether transgender or whatever your sexual orientation. This should be kept as private and be respected," she said.
Heng Lee Lee (PH-Berapit) also said that such incidents should not happen in Penang.
"Penang has always placed importance on the freedom of the arts and yet this happened here," Heng said in her motion of thanks to the Penang governor's speech.
Meanwhile, Mujahid has defended his order saying that "LGBTs are still unacceptable and cannot be promoted" in Malaysia
"I fear a backlash on them since the society still rejects their promotion.
"The organiser (of the festival) should be more sensitive to respect and conserve the majority views," Malaysiakini reported Mujahid as saying.
Nisha has taken to her Facebook profile to express her feelings on the issue. She says that while she expected this to happen, it made her "emotional thinking about the future of our new Malaysia"