Malaysian minister Syed Saddiq faces online outcry over press officer's resignation linked to LGBT activism

PETALING JAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman faced an online outcry after his interim press officer said he was quitting after coming under pressure over his activism on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues.

Numan Afifi Saadan announced his resignation on Sunday (July 8), saying backlash from "opposition propagandists" had made it impossible for him to exercise his duties.

"Therefore, I have decided not to work with the ministry in any official capacity," he said, adding that he would be handing over his duties to a press secretary who would be officially appointed soon.

Syed Saddiq posted a short farewell message on Twitter. "Your service has been invaluable bro since our campaigning days," he wrote. "Stay strong and I'll always respect your decision. You'll always be a bro," he added.

But the the Muar Member of Parliament's comments did not go down well among some LGBT activists and Twitter users, who felt that he did not do enough to defend Numan amid the backlash. The #dontbrome, or don't call me bro, hashtag soon started trending on Twitter.

Some took to Twitter to tell the 26-year-old not to misuse the word "bro". In popular culture, "bro" is lingo for friends who look out for each other.

LGBT activists said they voted for the new Pakatan Harapan (PH) government in the hopes of building a more inclusive and tolerant society, but Syed Saddiq's silence on the cyber-bullying and discrimination faced by Numan over his sexual orientation had been disappointing. The PH manifesto's fifth pillar promises to "create a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally".  Read more via Straits Times

Numan Afifi, more than just gay

Numan Afifi has clearly shown his ability to lead and has even been acknowledged by the US as leadership material. 

By Hafidz Baharom

I will openly admit that I have been gay since 2008 when I came out right in front of a crowd of people. Thus, when I was outed again during the #UndiRosak campaign, it didn’t create quite the same fireworks as it did the first time.

I have been blessed with accepting parents as well as colleagues and clients who couldn’t be bothered to take such personal issues as a barrier in my work, even when I was working as the communications manager for a Malay NGO.

Thus, when people throw a fit over how a gay man cannot be hired in the civil service of this so-called new Malaysia, I will bash that closet yet again.

Numan Afifi was appointed as a media officer to Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, the newly selected youth and sports minister. He hosted a gay buka puasa event last year which irked conservatives. In return, he had to resign from his political party. He also received death threats and even got outed to his parents.

And yet, Numan also led the Sekolah Demokrasi in Malaysia, and was even selected to join the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative by the US. I had the pleasure of meeting him personally last year in London while he was waiting to head to the US for his fellowship. As such, I know him personally and I empathise with what he went through.

Nobody deserves to be faced with such discrimination, especially with a government pushing for change and promising to uphold human rights for everyone, even if it’s the former prime minister who allegedly stole billions.

To now discredit him for his sexuality rather than look at his merits, I would say, is an act of cowardice in this day and age. A gay man can serve his country regardless of his sexual orientation, and others can do so regardless of their gender, their politics and even their beliefs.

This is the Malaysia everyone should be working towards. Read more via Free Malaysia Today