German news agency Deutsche Welle is reporting that our Tourism minister, Mohammaddin bin Ketapi told a room full of journalists (so, essentially, planet Earth) that Malaysia does not have “anything like” LGBTQ+ individuals in our fair country.
His comment came after one of the press ventured to ask at the ITB Berlin tourism expo whether or not Malaysia was safe for gay and Jewish travelers.
Having feebly attempted to avoid the question, when pressed further over attitudes towards the LGBTQ+ community the minister replied:”I don’t think we have anything like that in our country.”
Not only did his comment leave room for every individual with a modicum of common sense wondering where his head was at, it did not sit well in the eyes of the rest of the more progressive international audience, who had just listened to the Minister wax lyrical about Malaysia’s welcoming culture.
Unfortunately, our government’s antics over the last year have made global headlines, from statements from the leader of the opposition claiming that homosexuals cause earthquakes, to a shocking public caning of two women who were found guilty of attempted lesbian sex. Our 93-year-old Prime Minister went on record to say that our country would not accept LGBTQ+ culture, calling it a Western notion.
Such negative press doesn’t bode well with the Tourism Board’s goal of attracting 30 million visitors to the country in 2019.
Meanwhile, our government’s continued refusal to allow for Israeli delegates to enter the country for international sporting events has also not been lost of international watchdogs, with a Paralympic swimming qualifier being the latest to make headlines after a ban of three athletes. One German politician has even said that our country has “a policy against Jews.”
Oh, Germany — it’s a whole lot more complicated than that — but thanks for weighing in.
While there really aren’t any Malaysians of Jewish descent to have a policy against, and no actual way of telling if anyone is of a specific religion — Prime Minister Mahathir did referred to Jews as “hook-nosed” in an interview with a flabbergasted BBC reporter in October of last year — so there’s that.
Malaysia has said they will continue their policy of refusing to engage with Israel diplomatically, as a response to the state’s “continuous … oppression of the Palestinian people.”
When asked for comment, an aide to the minister clarified that he was merely echoing the official policy of the government to not recognize individuals from the LGBTQ+ community.
National news agency Bernama writes that Malaysia is hoping that its participation in the ITB in Berlin from March 6 till March 10 will help it reach its 30 million tourist target by next year. Good luck with that, fumbling ministers.
This article, LGBT-Who? Tourism Minister reportedly tells German press there’s no gays in Malaysia, originally appeared on Coconuts, Asia's leading alternative media company. Want more Coconuts? Sign up for our newsletters!