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Monday, August 29, 2011

Are you ready yet for a liberal society?

Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia. But then so is oral sex. And if we also arrest and jail all those who indulge in oral sex, then 15 million Malaysians would probably be in jail. Probably all the 222 Members of Parliament will be in jail as well.

NO HOLDS BARRED

Raja Petra Kamarudin

When the Malaysian Civil Liberties Society (MCLS) was first mooted seven years ago, it was not about contesting the general elections. It was not about fielding candidates in the elections. In fact, it was not at all about politics. It was about promoting and propagating a civil society -- which can also mean a liberal society.

However, the MCLS did not take off. So, last year, we reactivated it in the form of MCLM. ‘Society’ became ‘Movement’, that is all.

But how prepared and how serious are Malaysians about living in a liberal society? Are we really liberal or do we talk only but still cringe at what we consider the ‘immoral’ lifestyle of the west?

Today (and yesterday), three events are being held in the UK -- in London, Liverpool and Manchester (see the links below).

I suppose the Notting Hill Carnival in London and the Matthew Street Festival in Liverpool would not raise many eyebrows in Malaysia. But what about the Manchester Pride, a celebration of lesbian, bay, bisexual and transgender life? Are Malaysians liberalised enough to tolerate something like that?

We can choose to be liberal or we can remain conservative. And if we wish to remain conservative then it is maybe still too early for civil society movements like the MCLM.

See below the statements by the British Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and Opposition Leader. They are not asking the police to arrest and charge these people for sodomy. They openly support the Manchester Gay Pride festival.

Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Ed Miliband are not gay (at least we have not heard any rumours of them being so). But they respect your right to be gay or bisexual. They don’t judge you. They don’t moralise. They don’t ask the police to arrest you and charge you for any ‘crime against the order of nature’.

Today, we are seeing Anwar Ibrahim facing trial for what the government says is his immoral act of sodomy. Is Anwar gay or bisexual? There are some who believe he is. There are many who believe he is not.

But does it matter? We have Prime Ministers of other countries who are openly gay (you know which country I am talking about, right?). Do we find the performance of these Prime Ministers lacking just because they are gay?

Sodomy is a crime in Malaysia. But then so is oral sex. And if we also arrest and jail all those who indulge in oral sex, then 15 million Malaysians would probably be in jail. Probably all the 222 Members of Parliament will be in jail as well.

Someone, somewhere, many, many years ago, decided what is natural sex and what is unnatural sex. And, today, we have to live our lives by these ‘norms’ set by someone, somewhere, many, many years ago, who thought he or she knows best what we should and should not do.

The world has changed. Standards have changed. What may have been unnatural 100 years ago is very natural today.

You don’t have to be gay or bisexual. You don’t have to drink. You don’t have to do anything at all that you may consider as immoral or a violation of your religious beliefs. But who are you to tell me what I can and cannot do?

As long as what I do does not hurt you, then what I do is my problem and not of your concern. And the days of people getting arrested for drinking beer or for having a gay relationship must end. This is what a civil society is all about. And this is what we should be fighting for.

So, is Anwar gay? Who the hell cares! What I do care is: is he a good Opposition Leader? What I do care is: will he make a good Prime Minister?

That is what we should worry about because the future of Malaysia depends on this and not on Anwar’s sexual preference.

Even if Anwar is not gay but he is a poor Opposition Leader and will make a bad Prime Minister, then we must reject him for those reasons and not because he does not meet our ‘sexual guidelines’.

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The Notting Hill Carnival http://www.thenottinghillcarnival.com/

Matthew Street Festival: http://www.mathewstreetfestival.org/

Manchester Pride: http://www.manchesterpride.com/

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Pride and Politics

Manchester Pride backed by the leaders of the Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat parties:

Message of Support from Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg

It is with great pleasure that I congratulate Manchester Pride on its 21st anniversary.

Over more than two decades, by celebrating lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender life, Manchester Pride has supported LGBT individuals and organisations, and promoted equality and diversity. Manchester Pride is to be applauded for its work in raising awareness of the discrimination and difficulties affecting the lives of LGBT people and I would like to sincerely commend all those involved with Manchester Pride on reaching this very special milestone.

Message of Support from Prime Minister, David Cameron:

I would like to wish Manchester Pride a happy 21st birthday, I am sure that this years celebration with its ‘Best of British’ theme and mix of sports, arts, films and parties will be a great success. I also wanted to congratulate everyone who has been involved in growing Manchester Pride over the years; these events don't organise themselves and require a lot of hard work, but they play an important part in the cultural life of our country and you should be proud of what you've achieved.

Events such as Pride are not just about a fun day-out celebrating, they also send an important message and raise awareness of issues, they are a very visible reminder of the need to fight discrimination and support each other, which is why the vigil at the end of the Big Weekend in Sackville Gardens is such a moving tribute*.

The Pride celebrations here in Manchester have been particularly successful in raising money for LGBT and HIV charities across the region, since 2003 nearly £900,000 has been raised which is a terrific achievement.

So I hope you all have a great and safe time at Manchester Pride and it goes from strength to strength in the years ahead.

Message of Support from Labour Party Leader, Ed Miliband:

I want to convey my best wishes to everyone taking part in Manchester Pride. I enjoyed taking part in the parade last year and showing my support for equality. The popularity of event shows just how far we have come in recent years in the campaign for equality from tackling hate crimes through to civil partnerships.

I am proud of the progress we made towards LGBT equality over the last decade, but there is still more to do. The introduction of civil partnerships was one of the most significant changes that Labour brought in, but now it is right to look at extending marriage equality for those who want it. From the treatment of LGBT asylum seekers through to homophobic bullying, there is still a march of progress ahead and we are with you on it.

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