Islamic department powerless to act against gay Malay man: Malaysian official

Published: December 31, 2010

Following recent reports that the Islamic Development may take stern action against Azwan Ismail who came out in a YouTube video, a spokesperson now says the organisation has "no power to take legal action."

The Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) says it will not take any legal action against a Malay-Muslim man who came out as gay in an online video two weeks ago. The video, which is part of Seksualiti Merdeka’s It Gets Better 15-video campaign, had attracted over 150,000 views on YouTube and a flurry of news reports, blogs and comments by various political leaders and even death threats before it was removed on Dec 29.

Organisers of the campaign Seksualiti Merdeka said it has decided to remove Azwan Ismail’s "Saya gay, saya okay" video for "his safety as his life has been threatened by various comments and blogs, while the religious authorities have also been reported as saying they plan to charge him." Organisers also "regret that so far nobody in authority has denounced the threats of violence," the statement read.

In the 3-minute clip, Azwan Ismail spoke in Malay about coming out as gay as being particularly difficult because of "religious and cultural factors (that) have defined our lives, telling us who we can be and who we can’t."

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