Malaysian Islamic Affairs Officer Says LGBT Persons Cannot Be Discriminated Against At Work

Bullit MarquezAP Images

Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa, Islamic Affairs Minister of Malaysia, spoke out on behalf of the nation’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) population over discrimination against them in the workplace. This all comes in the wake of the resignation of Numan Afifi, who was an interim aide to Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman. Afifi stated he had no choice but to resign his post after he was attacked for being the organizer of Malaysia’s first Pride Day breaking of fast event last year by numerous Islamic groups. His critics further stated that it was inappropriate to have a “champion of LGBT causes” holding a government staff position, according to Malaysia’s news outlet The Star.

Afifi has been an open advocate of the LGBT community in Malaysia and has drawn harsh criticisms for his calls of inclusion and the right for people to be openly gay, according to SAYS. The stance of Islamic Affairs has been mostly characterized as something akin to the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy that the U.S. armed forces once adopted. So long as people don’t discuss being homosexual and don’t do anything to challenge the system, they should be okay. While some have considered this a progressive stance for an Islamic group, Afifi was vocal in saying it wasn’t right. For this, he has also suffered a public backlash as well.

“The threats from opposition propagandists have made it impossible for me to exercise my duties, therefore I have decided not to work at the Ministry in any official capacity.”

Datuk Mujahid Yusof Rawa has, for the most part, presented a stance that somewhat mirrors DADT, in that sexual orientation in and of itself is not reason enough to relieve a person of their duties. However, it is fully on the individual to prove that as a basis for their firing if they feel it to be true. However, if one chooses to live openly, there are consequences to that. In a statement from Rawa reported at The Star, this comparison to DADT can be seen.

“Any citizen cannot be discriminated in terms of their workplace. Justice cannot be deprived. If there was any pressure, he has to prove that he was being pressured. As far as sexual orientation is concerned, if the individual keeps quiet about it without challenging the system then it’s not an issue. But if he declares it openly and feels proud about it then that is an issue with our values in our society.”

Rawa has stated that he does not see evidence of Afifi being pressured out of his job due to his sexuality, but that if it is so, then the burden of proof is on him to demonstrate that. Syed Saddiq, the Youth and Sports Minister whom Afifi was aiding, has spoken out in support of him, as has Klang MP Charles Santiago who said “regressive treatment towards the LGBT community has no place in our ‘Malaysia Baru,” according to SAYS.