Malaysian minister who censored LGBT portraits from exhibition meets with trans activist

A Malaysian Minister who ordered an arts festival to remove portraits of LGBT+ people has met with one of the activists who had her image censored to discuss discrimination the community faces.

Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, who is religious affairs minister in Malaysia, sparked a heated debate in the country this week after it was revealed that he ordered the festival to remove portraits of activists Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik.

Speaking about the removal, he said: “Society cannot accept LGBT being promoted, because that is against norms, culture and religion.”

Mujahid Yusof Rawa

He met with Malaysian activist Nisha Ayub yesterday in the wake of the controversy, however he insisted in a statement that they did not discuss same-sex marriage “at all.”

“The meeting was more about addressing the discrimination faced by the […] community and problems faced by them including matters pertaining to religion, specifically worship,” he said.

He also said that his meeting with Nisha did not mean he agreed with what LGBT+ activists were fighting for in Malaysia. He said Nisha contacted him herself, and he accepted the invitation.

He also claimed that Nisha was unaware that her image was being used in the exhibition, and suggested that “she did not care about the removal of the photograph.”

Speaking about the decision to remove the images from the exhibition earlier this week, Mujahid Yusof Rawa said their inclusion was “not in line with what we have consistently repeated in Parliament and the policy of this government.

“When you you put the picture with the symbol, and you have written that they are LGBT activists, that is the definition of promotion.

“I was in contact with the state government, and told them the exhibition doesn’t go well with our stand on the LGBT group.”

Nisha Ayub (Manan Vatsyayana/AFP/Getty)

He later claimed to the Malay Mail that censoring their images would “protect” the activists, and said that many are “enraged by their openness.”

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia, and the country has seen further shifts against the LGBT+ community in recent years.

Transgender people in Malaysia can face arbitrary arrest, physical and sexual assault, imprisonment, denial of healthcare and employment and other abuses.

A challenge to a legal ban on cross-dressing was defeated in 2015 by Malaysia’s highest court.