Muslim groups demand more action to tackle LGBT influence

Alfian Z.M. Tahir

Islamic scholars and political analysts have different opinions about the recent seizure of the Swatch “Pride Collection” timepieces that bore the rainbow flag, a symbol of the LGBT movement. – Swatch Malaysia pic, May 26, 2023.

ISLAMIC scholars and political analysts have different opinions about the recent seizure of the Swatch “Pride Collection” timepieces that bore the rainbow flag, a symbol of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) movement. 

While some agree that Putrajaya have come down hard on issues deemed un-Islamic to win Malay support in the state elections, others said more must be done to prevent “bigger sins”. 

A scholar said the raids on Swatch stores must be followed by a ban on British rock band Coldplay’s November concerts in Kuala Lumpur. 

Ummah chairman Ismail Mina Ahmad lauded the raid but questioned why Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim had welcomed Coldplay on Twitter.

He said the Home Ministry could revoke the permit for the concert. 

“Raiding the stores and confiscating the timepieces are good but what is more dangerous is the event (concert). It is the mother of evil. 

“How can Anwar welcome the band which clearly supports the LGBT? For me, it is far more important to ban the concert. 

“It is good that the government is doing something about the timepieces but it needs to also prevent bigger sins,” said Ismail. 

For Islamic scholar Ahmad El-Muhammady, Putrajaya’s move could be a reaction to grassroots’ concerns over LGBT issues that often dominate public discussions. 

The assistant professor at the International Institute of Islamic Thought and Civilisation added that such raids were nothing new and a continuation of the previous government’s stance. 

“The majority of people are quite conservative about LGBT issues. So, I think the government was responding to that sentiment. 

“The action was also an act of affirmation that the government is serious in handling LGBT issues and committed to protect mainstream values against “foreign elements” incompatible with local culture and values. 

“And most importantly, this is not a new thing, it is a continuation of the previous government’s stance or policy,” he said. 

Ahmad suggested that international brand Swatch was indifferent to local sensibilities. 

“It seems that Swatch’s attempt to sell the watch in Malaysia reflects their lack of understanding of local sensibilities. This move may affect the reputation of the company in the eyes of users. 

“There are millions of Swatch users that may not share their enthusiasm to promote LGBT elements,” he said. 

Political analyst James Chin says the raid on Swatch shops to confiscate LGBT-themed watches was an attempt to boost the government’s image. – The Malaysian Insight file pic, May 26, 2023.

Political move 

Political analyst James Chin said the raid was an attempt to boost the government’s image. 

But he did not believe the move would influence voters in the state elections. 

He said the raid had impacted Anwar’s government as news of the incident had been widely reported. 

“Attacking an international brand will give Malaysia a negative image. The raid has been reported widely. 

“I am not sure if this will boost the ruling parties’ credentials because Perikatan Nasional (PN) is saying that this is just a show. The bigger issue is the ‘Allah’ issue. 

“But it is clear that Pakatan Harapan and Barisan Nasional are trying to improve their image because if you look at Kelantan, Kedah, Terengganu, the voting pattern there shows overwhelming support for PN. Anwar is trying to show he is just as Islamic as PN. 

“The irony is that no one knows Swatch is selling LGBT watches and not many Malaysians know about pride month. You give them free publicity (with the raid) and I believe the LGBT community here is happy,” he said. 

For Ilham Centre executive director Hisomuddin Bakar, the raid is be an ineffective election campaign tool for Putrajaya in the state elections. 

“They want to show that they are taking this matter seriously. But will this be fully used to convince the people? I don’t think so. I am not sure if the government can take advantage by claiming credit on this issue or if the voters will be convinced by the action,” he said. 

University Science Malaysia academic Prof Ahmad Fauzi Abdul Hamid said it was hard to tell if the Home Ministry had conducted the raid based on instructions from “above”. 

“A raid requires surveillance and intelligence; it cannot be done in a day or two. They must have received information. 

“Was the government pressured? I think they are more pressured by the Allah issue. 

“We will need to see the results of the state elections. As for now, we have to wait and see how far this issue impacts people,” he added. 

Following the nationwide raid on Swatch stores, Swatch group chief executive officer Nick Hayek Jr said the brand had consistently produced colourful timepieces to represent diversity and to celebrate people from all walks of life. 

The brand said it would continue to sell its Pride collection. 

Home Minister Saifuddin Nasution Ismail has yet to respond to media queries on the raid. – May 26, 2023.

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