Malaysia’s Islamic religious authorities raided a Halloween party attended by members of the LGBT community on October 29, where around 20 people were arrested for alleged violations under Sharia law.
Malaysian authorities detained 20 Muslim attendees at a Halloween event in Kuala Lumpur. The country's strict religious rules only apply to Muslim Malays.https://t.co/SwwpSw0AzL
— DW News (@dwnews) October 30, 2022
The country’s Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department or JAWI officers disrupted a huge Halloween gathering at a Kuala Lumpur venue named REXKL, where around 40 religious officers raided the event along with the police.
Of those 53 individuals, 20 were taken and questioned by the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department. The police then checked 53 male and nine female attendees into two groups - Muslims and individuals from other religions. Although they were released after a few hours, the country’s Islamic authorities asked them to return for further inquiries.
Numan Afifi, a Malaysian LGBT activist who also attended the gathering, was among those arrested by the Islamic police for “cross-dressing” and “encouraging vice.” He described the raid as "traumatizing and harrowing.”
"About 40 religious officers backed by the police came into the venue with some 1,000 participants, and they stopped the music and dance," Numan told AFP.
“They [authorities] isolated the Muslim participants and identified anyone that did not dress according to the gender that they thought them to be,” He added. “But of course, it’s Halloween; people were dressing in costumes.”
"It's outrageous state oppression," Numan also said.
This happened during the raid in REXKL where some officers who took video of us and treated visibly queer persons like criminals. Look at them.
There was also account of sexual harassment towards female attendees by the officers. Disgusting display of power. #shagrilla #rexkl pic.twitter.com/nUCeNcvn78
— Carmen/Sam (@sameffrn) November 6, 2022
Human rights groups and defenders have expressed concern over Malaysia’s growing intolerance towards the LGBT community. In a report published in August, Human Rights Watch said that government officials had used criminal penalties for hunting down LGBT individuals and programs aimed at “curing” them. Malaysian human rights lawyer Siti Kassim told AFP that members of the LGBT community “are not criminals” and that “the oppression and discrimination against LGBT people must end immediately."
In his Tweets, former opposition MP for Klang Charles Santiago condemned the arrests, calling the incident a “harassment against a marginalized community” and asking the police to stop hunting down LGBT individuals “as if they are criminals.”
“We have people who are still reeling from job losses, the ringgit is weak, the economy needs resuscitation, but you use resources to go after people who were at a Halloween party?” Santiago also said in a thread.
These targeted persecution against the LGBTQ+ community has the potential to trigger hate crimes, which we have seen happen in Msia. So, I urge authorities to cease hunting them down as if they are criminals. @dhzhamzah (4/4)
— Charles Santiago (@mpklang) October 30, 2022
Malaysia uses a dual-track justice system, where Sharia laws run alongside civil laws. Homosexuality is illegal in this South East Asian country, where openly LGBT community members are imprisoned.
Nevertheless, while same-sex acts can result in fines and penalties, they are rarely enforced. Support for gay rights is also low in Malaysia, with about 65% of Malaysians opposing any kind of recognition for same-sex couples and only 16% supporting same-sex marriage.