The Malaysian government ordered the removal of two LGBT activists’ portraits from a photography exhibition because they promote LGBT, which “is against the society norms”, reported BBC on 9 August 2018.
Portraits of transgender activist Nisha Ayub and LGBT activist Pang Khee Teik were part of photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad’s Stripes and Strokes series that shows Malaysians posing with the country’s flag. Pang holds a rainbow pride flag in his portrait, with the Malaysian flag draped over his shoulders.
The exhibition opened at the George Town Festival on 4 August and within days the festival director was asked to take down the two portraits, in line with the country’s policy of not promoting LGBT culture.
“The society cannot accept LGBT being promoted because that is against the society norms and culture, even religion,” Islamic affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa told reporters, as seen in this video by The Star Online.
“I think that is not in line with what we have consistently repeated in the parliament and accepted as a policy of this new government. If I don’t do anything about it then it is seen as something that challenges the policy that we ourselves have mentioned many, many times,” he said.
Photographer Mooreyameen Mohamad said other people featured in the exhibition have asked to have their portraits removed, in protest, and he has had offers from private galleries to host the exhibition in its entirety. He has decided to keep his exhibition at the George Town Festival.
“Lest it be misunderstood, the directive to remove the portraits of Pang and Nisha breaches our rights as Malaysians to artistic expression,” he said in a statement to Freemuse. “I will continue to assert our rights.”
“This incident has sparked some important conversations about our nationhood and who we are as the people of Malaysia. Clearly, there is a lot to discuss still, because there is a lot of disagreement. But I believe in engaging with one another, in conversations, and even with those who do not share our views on human rights,” he said.