You’re all probably now thinking that maybe Neil Patrick Harris will attend an #IdolaDemokrasi gameshop; you mean we finally succeeded in world domination?! Now that would be great for me (and maybe a little great for Pusat Rakyat LB, too) because I shall be the first in line to prepare, facilitate, train – do anything for that Neil Patrick Harris Gameshop! No, that’s not true… yet (although we’re still persistently working on world domination).
So what’s the connection between Neil Patrick Harris and #IdolaDemokrasi? Well, there are several commonalities – firstly, I love them both; secondly, they are both awesome; and thirdly, I love them both. My love aside, this made me think about Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transgenders (LGBTs) and my religion.
You see, Barney Stinson is one my favourite characters in “How I Met Your Mother”. Neil Patrick Harris is an absolute genius! He played the womaniser character so well; he embodies the character. In my head, Barney Stinson equals Neil Patrick Harris, Neil Patrick Harris equals Barney Stinson. That was why when I found out that Neil Patrick Harris is actually gay, I was a little disappointed… because I just can’t imagine Barney Stinson being gay.
Having said that, Neil Patrick Harris played a big part in why I was okay with LGBTs. I love the character and so I accepted the actor for who he is. Also, Neil Patrick Harris and his husband, David Burtka, seem so happy together that I cannot think of anything wrong with two people who find so much joy in each other’s company although they are both men.
However, one rainy afternoon during an #IdolaDemokrasi gameshop, my friend Kelly asked me whether I’m Christian.
And then Kelly asked me, “If you’re Christian, how come you support LGBTs?”
Until then I have never really thought about how my religious beliefs sit with my support for LGBT rights. Some Christian denominations view being gay as a sin. But can that be used as a reason to discriminate or dislike LGBTs? #IdolaDemokrasi made me think about this (and well – thinking - that’s the point of the gameshop, ain’t it?) To make people think. At the same time, I volunteered to write an article about Abdul Qawi, one of the strategic litigation cases of the Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR). So I have to think about this even more.
Abdul Qawi bin Jamil is a “mak nyah”. According to Wikipedia, a “mak nyah” is a Malay term for a male-to-female transsexual. One fine afternoon on October 2010 while outside her shop, she was stopped, detained and arrested by policemen in Melaka for cross-dressing. They brought her to the police station where she was locked in a cell with others like her.
Some hours later, she was called to give her statement and subsequently ordered to strip off her clothing. Surrounded by mostly male officers from the Islamic Religious Department of Melaka (JAIM), she handed over every piece of clothing she had on – including her bra and heels but refused to remove her panties.
Then, she was given a letter, ordering her to attend a compulsory course known as, “Kursus Kesedaran dan Penghayatan Islam Siri 08/2010”.
Religion or not, sin or not, mak nyah or not, that is not the right way to treat another human being. It is a breach of a fundamental human right; the right to privacy and the right to live with dignity. Being Christian, my religion says I cannot support LGBT. But regardless of what religion a person chooses to practice or not, I do not think there is a religion which does not emphasise positive teachings and decency. I do not think there is a religion which teaches its followers to humiliate others and glorify someone else’s shame.
Officers who exercise power in an abusive manner should not be qualified to hold power at all. In my eyes, they should be placed lower than the rats in the longkang. No LGBT can help being who they are, but those who find pleasure in humiliating others – these acts by choice – portray behaviour worthy of monkeys (no offence to His Supreme Eminenceness Lord Bobo who is a super intelligent one-of-a-kind monkey). One thing the Editor (so happy to bring in my elusive Editor character again) took care to ensure I understand when writing this article is that everybody – regardless of their preference of ethnic, religion, gender, sexuality – is entitled to human rights.
I remember my constitutional law lecturer telling us: “You are entitled to human rights because you are human, nothing else”. Just because a person is LGBT does not mean they deserve less than a person who is not LGBT. Strip two persons of their ethnicity, colour, religion, sexual preference and you will find that their common denominator is the fact that they are human. Regardless of what religion you practice and regardless of how much you are in favour of or against LGBT, this is a fact that is unchangeable and unwavering.
“Seksualiti Merdeka” is an annual sexuality rights festival which comprises of various non-governmental organizations. The fight they are putting forth is for independence of sexuality. On their website:
We believe that everyone in Malaysia deserves to be free from discrimination, harassment and violence for their sexual orientations and their gender identities. We believe it is our right to be responsible for our own body. We believe everyone is entitled to the freedom to love and the freedom to be, whether gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersexed, straight, asexual, pansexual, or simply fabulous.
In the fight for LGBT rights, I cannot stand on their side. But I don’t discriminate them. In fact, I respect them for being strong and so able to take on the world although they do not fall within what today’s society deems as the norm. Sure, the idea of being gay in this era is more accepted as compared to a couple of decades ago, but I do not think it is easy for anyone to come out of the closet and say “I am gay”. I am for their human rights. I am for non-discrimination, non-harassment, non-violence and – not forgetting fabulousness.
Abdul Qawi was born a man but feels she is a woman, which is why she cross-dresses. Regardless of how she dresses, she did not deserve to be humiliated and treated the way she was because she is human just like you and me. Just like you and me, she is entitled to her basic human right of freedom of expression, her right to privacy, and her right to live with dignity. She is entitled to her right of fabulousness. Just like how fabulous and awesome Barney Stinson is.
The lawyers of the MCCHR filed a judicial review in relation to this case. When speaking to lawyer Nizam Bashir (who is leading this) he said, “It is so easy for me and you to wear the clothes on our back. It is effortless for us to choose what to wear. But for them, they fight for this “easy and effortless thing” everyday”. The judicial review was rejected by the High Court with the reason that they do not have a valid case. This matter is now on appeal to the Court of Appeal.
P.S. For those who feel inspired after reading this article, I strongly encourage you to do a follow-up during the hearing of the case and write a blawg post on what you think. This is especially for those who attended the media workshops on strategic litigation :)