We thought the days of art censorship were over what with #GE14 and all this new Malaysia talk, but here we are again. According to Malay Mail, two portraits of LGBT activists–Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik–posing with the Malaysian flag have been instructed to be taken down from a photography exhibition at the George Town Festival (GTF) 2018.
Photographs of the activists were part of a set of portraits of citizens posing with the Malaysian flag by Mooreyameen Mohamad called ‘Stripes and Strokes’. The exhibition also included veteran DAP leader Lim Kit Siang and other civil rights leaders like Siti Kasim.
Mooreyameen’s photography exhibition is running throughout GTF 2018, a month-long arts and culture festival in Penang. The 28 portraits (well, now 26) from the collection were first shot and exhibited last year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Malaysia’s independence.
Malaysia Today reported that Minister in charge of Islamic affairs Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa confirmed that he was responsible for the removal order. According to the news site, he said the two activists were clearly promoting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) activities, which he had previously said was not in line with the Pakatan Harapan (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,” he said as to how he was informed.
Datuk Vinod Sekhar, who is a sponsor for the collection stated that 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).
“Since when did we discriminate against ordinary Malaysians reflecting on their patriotism? For it to happen in Penang is even more ridiculous,” he said, as he described Nisha and Pang as inspirational “people of courage” who should be celebrated.
“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?” he questioned.
The caption for Nisha’s portrait at the exhibition noted that she was the first transgender woman to receive the International Women of Courage Award in 2016 and described her as a soft-spoken, strong and tenacious person.
Pang’s caption described him as “the gay icon for Malaysia” who put LGBTQ on the agenda and deserved more recognition for his “courageous voice”.
As expected, after portraits of Pang and Nisha were shared online, the duo received a ridiculous amount of hate comments and death threats from the Malay Muslim community.
On Facebook, Nisha wrote, “Most of the comments are from people who call themselves Muslim but the way they comment does not portray the kindness and loving image of the religion.” No sheet huh?
In a report by FMT, author Faisal Tehrani questioned the removal of the pictures, saying symbolic expressionisms of LGBT was not under a ban, such as that impose on the Islamic State symbol.
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