PM Anwar Affirms That Harassment Against LGBTQ In Malaysia Will Not Be Tolerated

However, Anwar said he still has to respect the consensus of Malaysians, whereby public displays of the community will not be openly accepted.

Cover image via CNN

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Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim has announced that he does not condone harassment of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and others (LGBTQ+) community in Malaysia, but does not support their public displays

He said, that as the leader of the government, he has to respect the consensus of all Malaysians regarding the LGBTQ+ community.

Speaking to CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour during his recent visit to New York to attend the 78th Session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), he was questioned by Amanpour about how he is looking for democratic reform as the leader of a “modern, Muslim nation”.

She brought up Anwar’s previous statement that “Malaysia would never recognise LGBTQ rights”, and pointed out the recent ban on Swatch's pride collection in the country, questioning the threat of a three-year prison sentence for a person found guilty of owning such a watch.

Anwar quickly responded that he could not defend the action of his government’s enforcement of the law, but agreed that the community should not be harassed

"Muslims and non-Muslims alike, [be they] Christians, Hindus, or Buddhists, have a consensus in the country. They do not accept the open public display of this (LGBTQ)," he said.

"But do we then go and harass them? That is a different subject. I do not approve of any attempt to harass," affirmed Anwar, adding that no charges were made during the Swatch watches controversy.

He reiterated that while there is a need to exercise some degree of tolerance, harassment has to be avoided.

"The consensus of the people I have to respect. However, this should not be seen as harassment."

Image via CNN

The journalist also questioned Anwar’s sensitivity toward the punishable offence of sodomy in Malaysia, pointing out that he had also been falsely imprisoned for it

"I have made it quite clear that we have to review, and look at the law; it should not be abused. In the case that I went through, it was used for political persecution, but finally we have to respect the general sentiments of Malaysians," replied Anwar.

When he was questioned again if Malaysians should follow a "don't ask, don't tell policy", he concluded, "Not necessarily. But we should exercise some tolerance. The issue against the LGBTQ community is the harassment and that, I think, we have to avoid."

The interview also covered Anwar’s journey of becoming the tenth prime minister of the country from the challenges he faced when he was jailed 25 years ago, and his opinion on other issues such as his commitment to fighting graft, as well as his focus on centrality with ASEAN while maintaining a good relationship with China and the United States.

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