A Malaysian government official recently said something that many news outlets are interpreting as a denial of LGBTQ+ Malaysians’ existence. It’s not clear that he actually said this, though the recent crackdown on queer and trans Malaysians should not be ignored. At an event leading up to the opening of the Internationale Tourismus-Börse Berlin, the world’s leading tourism trade fair, a reporter asked Malaysian Tourism Minister Mohammadin Ketapi whether gay tourists would be welcome in the Southeast Asian country. It’s unclear what Mohammadin’s exact response was.
CNN, Pink News, and a number of English-language media outlets have paraphrased Mohammadin as saying “there are no gays in Malaysia,” but that’s not exactly accurate — though it does push an Islamophobic narrative that majority-Muslim countries, like Malaysia, are uniquely homophobic, while ignoring how majority-Christian countries like the United States are also becoming increasingly unsafe for LGBTQ+ visitors. Speaking of harmful, Islamophobic narratives, it should be noted that the same reporter who asked Mohammadin whether gay tourists would be safe in Malaysia also asked him if Jews would be safe in Malaysia. This might have been in reference to Malaysia’s recent ban on Israeli athletes competing in Malaysian sporting events, which was enforced earlier this year in response to Israel’s ongoing occupation and oppression of Palestinians. It should also be said that Deutsche Welle is a German government-funded international broadcaster à la Russia Today and Voice of America, so anything it produces should be treated like propaganda first and foremost. It’s also worth noting that Berliner Morgenpost is said to have a conservative political bent, considering the subject matter at hand.