Written by Pei Yun Su, Intern at MCCHR

Nowadays, hate speech is incensed with the advent of technologies and easy access to social media. The speedy development of the language online shows the influence it has leading to the rise in hate crimes and human dignity decline rate. With time, hate speech has taken different forms, all of which had consequences for society. This article studies the relationship between hate speech and hate crimes, giving attention to the cases and incidents of history and Malaysia.

Hate Speech in World War II

German wartime crimes are used to illustrate the connection between hate speech and drastic war crimes. Hitler’s government played a crucial role in the development of hatred for the Jews among the German people. The Jews were dehumanized in the public through the propaganda and through discriminatory regulations that resulted in their public humiliation and eventually led to the mass murder of nearly six million of them in the Holocaust. [1]The subsequent events remain a somber reminder of what can be done when hate speech instances are ignored as the possible outcomes can be disastrous.

Linkage to Rwandan ethnic extermination – Rwanda Genocide, 1994

The genocide of Rwanda also shows how speech based on hate can accelerate widespread violence and ethnic cleansing. Before the genocide, radical people used radio and newspapers to bombard the masses with dangerous propaganda about the Tutsi. The pre-genocide destructive speeches against the Tutsi ethnic community were not only dehumanizing but also set the pace for a series of actions that eventually led to the catastrophic massacre where thousands of innocent Tutsi civilians lost their lives.[2] The darkest page of hate speech was written during the Rwandan genocide of 1994, which unveils how it deeply affects societal cohesiveness and stability.

[1] Heinze, E. (2006). Viewpoint absolutism and hate speech. The Modern Law Review , 69 (4), 543-582.

[2] Timmermann, W. (2008). Counteracting hate speech as a way of preventing genocidal violence. Genocide studies and prevention, 3(3), 353-374.

Cases in Malaysia

Rohingya Refugees

One of the recent issues that Malaysia will be facing or overcoming is the Rohingya refugee crisis which has increased the tensions and introduced the growth of hate speech amongst the society. This governmental policy of pushing away the Rohingya boats back to sea comes with a corresponding steep rise in, xenophobic speech and violence that is aimed at the Rohingya. [1]

Moreover, the Malaysian government intends to fuel the malicious narratives against the Rohingya refugees, which have reenergized unease, especially in the result of the escape of 528 detainees from the immigration detention center. The spreading of false news accusing Rohingyas of being irregular migrants[2] shaping the views of bureaucrats and media to be anti-Rohingya refugees has created an environment where general citizens behave as haters.[3]

Recalling the experiences as the article previously mentioned, we can see the destructive and irreversible nature of hate speech when combined with state power. It is indeed concerning to note the similarity of the connection between state policies and

[3] Bugher, M. (2020, May). Re: Violent Threats and Hate Speech ‘against Rohingya Community in Malaysia We urge you to act immediately to address the recent proliferation of ‘hate speech ‘and. FORUM-Asia: Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development.

[4] According to the European Union, an irregular migrant is defined as follows:

In the global context, an irregular migrant is a person who lacks legal status in a transit or host country due to reasons such as irregular entry, breach of entry conditions, or expiration of their legal basis for entering and residing. In the context of the European Union, an irregular migrant refers to a third-country national present on the territory of a Schengen State who does not meet the conditions of entry specified in Regulation (EU) 2016/399 (Schengen Borders Code) or other entry requirements.


[5] Malaysia: End hateful rhetoric against Rohingya refugees – Malaysia. (2022, April 29). ReliefWeb. https://reliefweb.int/report/malaysia/malaysia-end-hateful-rhetoric-against-rohingya-refugees

the plight of Rohingya refugees,especially when these policies are used as tools to target and harm the vulnerable groups.

The recent episode where Hamzah Zainudin, the former Minister of Home Affairs, made offensive and discriminatory comments such as ‘refugees who prefer to leave Malaysia must do so if they want to have freedom’ would have intensified the existing hate speech against Rohingya refugees propagated on social media platforms. [1]

As a result, the strict policies and continuous categorization of refugees in Malaysia as illegal aliens will aggravate the issue while wrong words from authority figures spread in the public, constructing a cycle of hate speech which is harmful towards not only the targeted groups but also the perpetrators themselves. It deepened the hatred and escalated the conflict with each other and the society among them.

LGBT+ community

The situation that the LGBT+ group is facing in Malaysia is mentioned as the worst. In early January 2019, a transgender woman was murdered brutally in Klang, which had already preceded in less than two months another two killings of this kind in Malaysia. Such brutality, the range of which includes being thrown from moving cars to fatal beatings, is an illustrative of the unsafe reality to which people from the LGBT+ community are exposed.[2] The seriousness of these offenses has been undermined by the authorities who have chosen not to classify the crimes as hate crimes, which again has exposed the systematic

[6] Nalini Elumalai.(2023).Malaysia: An inclusive policy measure is needed to end hate speech and discrimination,Article19,

[7] Neela Ghoshal (2019). The Deceased Can’t Speak for Herself:” Violence Against LGBT People in Malaysia. Human Right Watch.https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/06/25/deceased-cant-speak-herself-violence-against-lgbt-people-malaysia

oppression that the LGBT+ community face in Malaysia.

Multiple instances of violence and animosity directed at the LGBT+ community illustrate how hate speech perpetuates ongoing discrimination, creating a cycle of hostility and prejudice. Some politicians contribute to a culture of intolerance and discrimination by using public platforms to spread misunderstandings about transgender people.

One instance involves a proposed amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction Act , Act 355) by Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, deputy minister for religious affairs in the Prime Minister’s Department. This amendment seeks to grant state Sharia courts the authority to impose stricter penalties for same-sex conduct, surpassing the current maximum punishment allowed under federal law. Additionally, Marzuk suggested criminalizing actions such as gender transition and sharing social media content deemed indecent, including non-normative gender expression images.[1]

In another incident, members of the queer community noted the absence of response from Malaysia’s political parties after a Halloween party was raided by religious authorities. This silence underscores the marginalized position of the LGBT+ community within Malaysian society. [2]

As the cases mentioned above,the government behaves toward LGBT+ groups more than just the propagation of prejudices and stereotypes, these public figures that engage in such misconduct also put the minds of others to do the same thing and are encouraged to do so. The result is people normalizing what is being said or the violence that the LGBT+ community is facing every day.[3]

[8] Malaysia: Government steps up attacks on LGBT people. (2021, January 25). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/01/25/malaysia-government-steps-attacks-lgbt-people

[9] Azmi, H., & Azmi, H. (2022, November 1). Malaysian LGBTQ groups dismayed as politicians stay silent on Halloween party raid in lead-up to election. South China Morning Post. https://www.scmp.com/week-asia/people/article/3197911/malaysian-lgbtq-groups-dismayed-politicians-stay-silent-halloween-party-raid-lead-election

[10] Malaysia: Government Steps Up Attacks on LGBT (2021). Human Rights Watch. https://www.hrw.org/news/2021/01/25/malaysia-government-steps-attacks-lgbt-people


The common thing between hate speech and hate crimes such as genocide is undeniable, as history has always confirmed that. To prevent the recurrence of this event we must take measures simultaneously that make our society reject hate speeches and also build an environment where our society has tolerance, understanding and inclusion among people.

Malaysian Centre for Constitutionalism and Human Rights (MCCHR) is a non-profit based in Kuala Lumpur with the mission of promoting active democratic participation and human rights awareness.