MALAYSIA’S former Deputy Prime Minister Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi has earned brickbats for suggesting that the earthquake and tsunami that struck Indonesia’s Sulawesi island, killing scores late last month, occurred due to the forbidden actions of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community.
During a parliamentary session on Tuesday, Zahid said Malaysia could similarly face God’s wrath if the LGBT culture in the Muslim-majority country were allowed to thrive.
“If we look at the situation in Malaysia, we are concerned over the incident of earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, recently, where it is believed more than 1,000 of them were involved in such activities,” he said, as quoted by The Star.
“But the whole area was destroyed as part of God’s punishment.”
The remark was part of his question to the current minister of religious affairs, Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, about the country Islamic Development’s (Jakim) role in combating the LGBT community “to avoid similar punishment from God”.
In response, Mujahid said the government remained clear on its stance against LGBT culture, although the government would take different approaches to address the matter.
“As Muslims, we believe that any calamity that took place happened naturally with the approval from God, Mujahid said.
While the government recognised LGBT culture as a “problem”, Mujahid said the issue was “still under control.”
“I don’t think that it is as simple as that if we do something, we will earn God’s wrath. What we need to do right now is to find ways to address the problem,” Mujahid said, adding the community is often sidelined from mainstream culture.
Of the estimated 20,000 transgenders in the country, Mujahid said more than 80 percent were involved in the sex industry, and the department was implementing outreach programmes to help rehabilitate them.
Last week, Ahmad Zahid — who turned into the opposition leader after his Barisan National coalition lost in a shock election defeat in May — claimed trial to 45 charges related to graft and money laundering.
In wake of the charges, Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh said corruption was the “biggest social ill and immoral activity” in Malaysia, instead of LGBT issues, The Star reported.
“Of all the pressing issues the Opposition leader @Zahid_Hamidi could have raised, he chose this,” she said.
Of all the pressing issues the Opposition Leader @Zahid_Hamidi could have raised, he chose this. Corruption is the biggest social ill and immoral activity in Malaysia. State UMNO's stance on this instead. pic.twitter.com/tjFtg4JE4s
— Hannah Yeoh (@hannahyeoh) October 23, 2018
Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman asked Zahid about the fate of leaders who stole money from the people.
“How about those who are corrupt and in cahoots with those who steal the people’s money? Will misfortune fall?” he asked.
Kalau makan rasuah dan bersekongkol dengan mereka yang mencuri duit rakyat macam mana pula? Bala turun ke tak ?
Di KBS dah 12orang ditahan oleh SPRM. Dalam UMNO ja dah terlalu banyak sampai dah hilang kiraan.
Tak pula saya dengan bala akan turun kerana pencuri. https://t.co/qTMbRsw6G7
— Syed Saddiq (@SyedSaddiq) October 23, 2018
Meanwhile, Zahid’s suggestion was brought to the attention of Ahmad Syafii Maarif, the former head of the Muhammadiyah movement, Indonesia’s second largest Islamic organisation of 30 million members.
Syafii expressed shock that such a remark could come from an “important” person like Zahid, according to Free Malaysia Today.
“There are people in Indonesia too who argue that way, but these are insignificant individuals. Yet here we have an important person in Malaysia saying this,” Syafii was quoted as saying.
“There are geographical factors involved. If we have sinned, we seek forgiveness from God. But never link it to the tsunami,” Syafii said.