Gay movie screening insults Islam, Penang Muslim group says

Looi Sue-Chern

A MUSLIM non-governmental organisation accused the Penang Performing Arts Centre (penangpac) of insulting Islam by thinking it could screen a movie with homosexual elements.

Penangpac yesterday cancelled the free screening of “Lost in Paradise”, an award-winning Vietnamese movie, under its World Best Movie programme, tonight.

Undeterred by the cancellation, Jaringan Muslimin Pulau Pinang members showed up at penangpac at Straits Quay, Tanjung Tokong after 8pm to express their unhappiness. 

Group leader Mohamed Hafiz Mohamed Nordin slammed penangpac for wanting to screen a movie that highlighted homosexuality. 

He said the screening of such a movie would also be an insult to the Yang Dipertua Agong, who is the head of religion defending the sanctity of Islam in the country. 

“What is their intention, in promoting the movie and wanting to show it?

“It is as if there is an agenda to make homosexuality something acceptable,” he said, pointing out that there was also a committee looking after the welfare of  transgender persons in Penang. 

The committee was set up a few years ago by Tanjung Bungah assemblyman Teh Yee Cheu from DAP.

Hafiz warned penangpac against ever screening gay movies and to show respect for the Constitution.

He said of late, there were many who lacked that respect, who said things they shouldn’t in public, and who even challenged Islam.

“We urge everyone to respect Islam as the religion of state. No Malaysian should think of bringing in such a movie.” 

Federation of Penang Malay Representatives president Mohd Rizuad Mohd Azudin said while it was good that the screening was cancelled, penangpac should not have even thought about screening such a movie.

“We should not have such an issue in the first place. We should not be showing such films in the country. 

“It may give the impression that having gay-related programmes is fine, and that homosexuality can be accepted. No religion allows homosexuality,” he said. 

Home Ministry officers arrived at penangpac shortly before 8.30pm to check whether the movie screening had truly been cancelled.

Home Ministry Penang branch enforcement assistant officer Muhd Khairuddin Yusof confirmed that the screening had been cancelled upon the advice of the ministry.

“They initially chose to screen Lost in Paradise because it was an award-winning film. Then they were going to screen a musical as a replacement but because they hadn’t cleared it with the ministry, we advised them not to proceed. 

“They said they did not know of any procedure involved in screening movies publicly,” he said. 

Khairuddin said no action would be taken against penangpac since it had not screened the movie.

Several members of Muslim groups interjected with questions, such as whether it was legal to own a copy of the gay movie and whether the Home Ministry would closely monitor penangpac n future. 

“If they said they do not seek Home Ministry clearance before they screen the movies, it means tht this is a ‘panggung haram’ (illegal theatre), right?” Rizuad said. 

He said penangpac appeared from its Facebook posts to be very active, perhaps due to having “hidden hands” behind it.

He then asked if the Pakatan Harapan government had anything to do with penangpac. 

Khairuddin said penangpac was not owned by the state but received sponsorship from the state government. 

“We will monitor its film screenings,” he said, adding that private ownership of movies for personal viewing was not illegal. 

Earlier, penangpac publicity manager Alexander Ooi and theatre supervisor Arnold Hooi told The Malaysian Insight they did not expect such a reaction to the movie.

Ooi said they had screened movies before with gay characters but it was never their intention to cause any unhappiness. 

“Our focus is to bring people quality films or art films that are not commonly viewed. We pick films that are good, creative and can bring progress to society,” he said. 

He said Vietnamese movie screening was scrapped due to a technical problem. 

“That was why we changed the movie to West Side Story. It was not changed because of the negative reaction,” Ooi said. 

He said even the screening of the 1961 American musical love story had to be cancelled because the Home Ministry had advised them not to go ahead. 

“Officers came to talk to us earlier today. We were told we needed a permit for public screenings.”

Hooi said penangpac’s World’s Best Movie programme took place on a Tuesday every month,.

The screenings attracted only small crowds, he said. 

“We can sometimes get about 20 people. That is a good crowd even though the hall can fill 120 people. Sometimes we get only two people. We have some regulars. 

“So it is not like we aim to screen a movie and spark some movement,” Hooi said. – July 11, 2017.

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