'Spot a gay' list in Malaysian newspaper sparks outrage

LGBT protest Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur - A stereotype-laden checklist for spotting gay men and lesbian women published by a popular Malaysian newspaper has sparked outrage in the Muslim-majority nation, with activists warning it could endanger lives.

The Sinar Harian article was not welcomed by everyone, however.

The country retains its colonial-era criminal ban on sodomy, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison, caning or a fine.

The newspaper claimed gay men like beards and going to the gym, not to exercise but to look at other men.

The same article said lesbians can be spotted because they often hug each other or hold hands and like to belittle men.

The list featured in an article on how LGBT people can be invited to seek religious counsel on the Malay-language Sinar Harian daily on February 9, the BBC report said.

One victim, an 18-year-old student called T Nhaveen, was beaten and burned to death last year by classmates who said he was gay.

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Arwind Kumar, a Malaysian activist and social media influencer, criticized the list as "stupid" and warned it will "take away lives" in a video with almost 30,000 views. A few months later, a 27-year-old transgender woman was stabbed and shot inside her florist shop.

While activists like Kumar have no trouble speaking out, he said that many others are "filled with so much of fear in them".

In a YouTube video Kumar said he knew "a lot of ustads", or Islamic scholars, "a lot of really, really religious people who love keeping beards". "Are you trying to say they're all gay?"

The derogatory attitude towards LGBT people in the media is also symptomatic of the increasing influence of conservative Islam in mainstream politics and culture in Malaysia.

"Do not tell them about gays - how the hell does a gay person endanger your life?".

The article was printed in alongside interview with Hanafiah Malik, a preacher who says there is an urgent need to curb the rise of homosexuality in Malaysia.

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