20 arrested by Muslim officers at Malaysian LGBTQ+ party

PHOTO: Muslim officers raided an LGBTQ Halloween party in Malaysia. (via Twitter Numan Afifi)

If you are in Malaysia, choose your Halloween costume wisely. Muslim officers arrested 20 people and broke up a 1,000-person LGBTQ+ Halloween party, citing cross-dressing and encouraging vice. Activists reported that Islamic religious authorities raided the popular party at REXKL in Kuala Lumpur late Saturday night.

The party was attended by many members of the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia’s largely-Muslim capital city. When the officers stormed the event, they demanded the music be stopped and began separating the people in attendance according to whether they were Muslim or non-Muslim.

According to the Bangkok Post, 20 guests of the LGBTQ+ who were identified as Muslim were arrested and taken to the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department for processing. They were released within a few hours, though some reports say police requested to hold them for four days but were denied. Their identity details were recorded and they will be summoned next week for further questioning. One activist that was taken into custody described the ordeal as harrowing and traumatising.

“About 40 religious officers backed by the police came into the venue with some 1,000 participants, and they stopped the music and dance. Some [party-goers] were alleged to have committed offences under cross-dressing while others, including me, for encouraging vice.”

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In Malaysia, homosexuality and sodomy are illegal though rarely enforced. The country has a Muslim majority of about 60% but has generally been fairly tolerant and moderate. But some conservative pushes have led to LGBTQ+ “cure” programs, discrimination and what an opposition politician described as “harassment against a marginalised community.”

Human Rights Watch has decried Muslim persecution of the LGBTQ+ community in Malaysia, particularly cure programmes.

“These programmes jeopardise the equality, dignity, and rights of those who attend them, but also send a dangerous message to the wider public that LGBT people can and should change their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”

Law enforcement in Malaysia is uniquely split with some cases involving Muslims being handled by a separate Sharia court. This is what leads to LGBTQ+ Halloween party-goers being arrested under Muslim law for cross-dressing and being labelled as encouraging vice. Homosexuality and similar charges can result in fines, corporal punishment, and jail sentences.

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Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.

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