No right to live? Malaysia’s Islam and implications for its sexual minority storytellers
Kuga Thas, Angela M. (2013) No right to live? Malaysia’s Islam and implications for its sexual minority storytellers. In Fairbairn, G.J. & Fisher, R. (Eds.) Proceedings of the 4th Global Conference: Storytelling, Inter-Disciplinary.Net, Prague, Czech Republic, pp. 1-21.
This paper discusses the fast emerging challenges for Malay and Muslim sexual minority storytellers in the face of an aggressive state-sponsored Islamisation of a constitutionally secular Malaysia. I examine the case of Azwan Ismail, a gay Malay and Muslim Malaysian who took part in the local ‘It Gets Better’ Project, initiated in December 2010 by Seksualiti Merdeka (an annual sexuality rights festival) and who suffered an onslaught of hostile comments from fellow Malay Muslims.
In this paper, I ask how a message aimed at discouraging suicidal tendencies among sexual minority teenagers can go so wrong. In discussing the contradictions between Azwan’s constructions of self and the expectations others have of him, I highlight the challenges for Azwan’s existential self. For storytellers who are vulnerable if visible, the inevitable sharing of a personal story with unintended and hostile audiences when placed online, can have significant repercussions.
The purist Sunni Islam agenda in Malaysia not only rejects the human rights of the sexual minority in Malaysia but has influenced and is often a leading hostile voice in both regional and international blocs. This self-righteous and supremacist political Islam fosters a more disabling environment for vulnerable, minority communities and their human rights. It creates a harsher reality for the sexual minority that manifests in State-endorsed discrimination, compulsory counselling, forced rehabilitation and their criminalisation. It places the right of the sexual minority to live within such a community in doubt.
I draw on existing literature on how personal stories have historically been used to advance human rights. Included too, is the signifance and implications of the work by social psychologists in explaining this loss of credibility of personal stories. I then advance an analytical framework that will allow storytelling as a very individual form of witnessing to reclaim and regain its ‘truth to power’.
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