MALAYSIA: One day after the lead singer of the British pop rock band The 1975 kissed a male bandmate onstage and openly challenged the country’s anti-LGBT policies, the Malaysian authorities shut down a music event in Kuala Lumpur.
“There will be no compromise against any party that challenges, disparages, and violates Malaysian laws,” wrote Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil in a Twitter post after a meeting with the organisers of the Good Vibes Festival, which will take place over the course of three days until Sunday.
The 1975 is prohibited from performing in Malaysia, as declared by a government committee responsible for monitoring foreign performances and filming activities.
In Malaysia, which has a Muslim-majority population, homosexuality is considered a criminal offence. Various rights organisations have expressed concerns over the escalating intolerance towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in the country.
Videos circulated on social media on Friday night showed Matty Healy, The 1975’s lead singer, engaging in a passionate kiss with bassist Ross MacDonald on stage. This act occurred after Healy had strongly criticised the Malaysian government’s position on homosexuality in a speech filled with profanity, addressing the festival audience.
“I made a mistake. When we were booking shows, I wasn’t looking into it. I don’t see the f##king point … of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with,” he added.
Later, Healy abruptly ended the performance, informing the audience. He stated that the band had to leave since they had been banned from Kuala Lumpur.
In 2019, Healy of The 1975 faced criticism for sharing a kiss with a male fan during a concert in the United Arab Emirates, a country that also enforces laws against homosexual acts, according to media reports.
Healy’s “controversial conduct and remarks” led to the show’s cancellation, which festival promoter Future Sound Asia apologised for. The 1975’s management was alleged to have made a commitment to upholding performance regulations.
It released a statement saying, “Unfortunately, Healy did not honour these assurances.”
The event could “erode the confidence of music promoters and various stakeholders” and undermine the viability of our developing live arts industry; the FSA expressed worry.
Malaysia is committed to fostering the growth of the creative industries and freedom of speech, according to Communications Minister Fahmi.
“However, never touch on the sensitivities of the community, especially those that are against the traditions and values of the local culture,” he stated.
According to reports in the media, the government in March imposed harsher regulations, including ones on behaviour and dress code, for international performers visiting Malaysia, claiming the need to protect sensitive people.
Friday’s incident triggered a wave of controversy on Malaysian social media, drawing strong reactions from some members of the LGBT community. They criticised Matt Healy for engaging in what they perceived as “performative activism” and feared that his actions might exacerbate the existing stigma and discrimination faced by the community in Malaysia.
On Sunday, The 1975 are scheduled to perform at a festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country. It’s worth noting that a recent LGBT event in Jakarta was cancelled due to security threats.
The Jakarta festival organisers have not yet provided any response to inquiries about the band’s potential performance.
This controversy arises during a politically delicate period in multi-ethnic Malaysia, where Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government is about to face a significant challenge in August as six states hold elections.
An opposition alliance primarily representing the majority ethnic Malay community has alleged that the government is not adequately safeguarding the rights of Muslims.
The Prime Minister has stated that his administration is committed to upholding Islamic principles and does not acknowledge LGBT rights.