Environment

Malaysia's Ex Deputy Prime Minister Blames LGBTQ Community For Palu Tsunami

Nothing like using someone else's tragedy to push your own political agenda, right?
October 23, 2018, 11:45am
A scene from Palu after the earthquake and tsunami
Photo by Jorge Silva/Reuters

The cause of last month's deadly tsunami in Palu, South Sulawesi, is still a mystery. Sure, there was an earthquake, but early investigations show that the quake wasn't the kind that typically causes a tsunami. Scientists say it may take months to figure out the truth.

But one politician in Malaysia thinks he has the answer: Indonesia's LGBTQ population is to blame.

Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, the ousted deputy prime minister of Malaysia, was recently named in one of the host of corruption scandal currently circling disgraced prime minister Najib Razak—this one concerning the theft of 800,000 ringgit ($190,000 USD) in public funds to pay down his credit card debt.

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Now, you would think the looming threat of jail time would be at the top of Zahid's mind, but instead he seems real focused on figuring out what could've possibly caused a tsunami in a totally different country.

"If we look at the situation in Malaysia, we are concerned over the incident of earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Indonesia, recently, where it is believed more than 1,000 of them were involved in such activities,” Zahid said before the parliament, according to The Star. "But the whole area was destroyed as part of God's punishment."


Watch: A Look Inside the Search and Rescue for Indonesia's Tsunami Survivors (HBO)


He didn't really tell anyone where these numbers came from, and how could he, it's not like the Malaysian government was conducting surveys of people's sexual orientations in Palu, right? But Zahid was quick to shift the conversation to what he really wanted to talk about—introducing more anti-LGBTQ legislation in Malaysia.

"I would like to ask, as part of Malaysian Islamic Development Department's task, [for them] to implement the Mukhayyam outreach program to help the LGBT community, and other steps taken by government agencies and other states, and to state the effectiveness of such program so we can avoid similar punishment from God, including those who clearly reject the LGBT,” Zahid continued.

The Malaysian government has long been obsessed with preaching about the alleged dangers of being gay. It's paid for an anti-LGBTQ musical to tour college campuses, and just released an "e-book" titled Panduan Hijrah Diri, or the "Guide to Self Migration," which aims to convince queer Malaysians to self-convert back to what it calls "the right path." The book describes itself as spiritual guidance for "those who struggled with lust for a long time," using theories derived from Islam because "the Western psychology seems inadequate to explain these taboos."

LGBTQ rights have eroded in recent months in Malaysia, with Sharia authorities in the deeply conservative Terengganu State caning two women alleged caught having sex in a parked car last September—the first such instance to occur in Malaysia.

But Zahid's statements about Palu were still met with backlash in Malaysia. Hannah Yeoh, the deputy minister of women, family, and community development, tweeted about the inherent ridiculousness of a politician accused of corruption, in a country still working through a massive graft scandal that totals billions of USD in loses, would argue that two men loving each other is the biggest issue facing the country today.

Zahid is currently facing 45 charges of money laundering as Malaysia's new government continues its crackdown of corruption involving its top politicians. His case is ongoing.