Two Malaysian states are set to change their Islamic laws to punish Muslims who engage in homosexuality, raising the prospect of gay Muslims being punished twice and stoking concerns about rising intolerance toward same-gender relationships. Homosexuality is punishable by law in Malaysia by caning and up to 20 years in jail, but the legal amendments planned by Pahang and Malacca religious authorities would give the state governments additional ammunition.
If the proposed changes came into force, a Muslim homosexual could be punished under both federal and state religious charges, meaning that jail terms could run consecutively and result in longer time. Analysts said the proposed amendments hinted at an increasing intolerance toward homosexuality and could erode support for the government among the majority ethnic Malays, who are Muslims by birth.
“The irony of the situation is that the overwhelming majority of gay people in this country are Malays,” said James Chin, a political analyst at Monash University in Malaysia. “When they have these laws to target non-mainstream sexual minorities, they are actually targeting their own people.”
Malacca’s chief minister, Mohd Ali Rustam, said the state would review its Islamic law provisions to allow Muslim gays and lesbians to be tried in court and punished by a jail term or a fine to deter homosexuality.