The “Stripes and Strokes” photography exhibition, which is currently being held as part of Penang’s annual George Town Festival, has stirred a lot of uproar today (8th August) after the portraits of two prominent LGBT activists were taken down.
The photos of Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik, were reportedly taken down from the exhibition upon the orders of Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa. He was quoted by The Star as saying,
“I was informed of the exhibition that showcased their pictures, along with the rainbow pride flag, in a public gallery.”
“I contacted the state government to check if the claim is true, and I have consistently repeated in Parliament that we do not support the promotion of LGBT culture in Malaysia.”
Nisha Ayub made international headlines a couple of years ago after becoming the first transgender woman to receive the International Women of Courage Award in 2016 and was invited to the White House to receive the award from the country’s then Secretary of State, John Kerry. Phang Khee Teik co-founded Seksualiti Merdeka, founded Art For Grabs to promote local artists, and is a prominent LGBT activist in Malaysia.
In light of the controversial reactions surrounding their portraits being taken down, activist Marina Mahathir has now reportedly asked the exhibition’s organisers to take her portrait down, too. She told Free Malaysia Today,
“I am asking for my photos to be taken down in solidarity with Pang and Nisha.”
“I am personally very sad about this. When people say they are not treating LGBT Malaysians as second-class citizens, this is exact proof that discrimination exists.”
Other Malaysian politicians like Deputy Minister of Women, Family, and Community Development, Hannah Yeoh have also voiced out their opinions about the taking down of these activists’ portraits.
I fought for a new Malaysia that is free from racism, corruption and discrimination. This administration does not promote homosexuality, BUT we also cannot discriminate. We accept all Malaysians, even though we don't agree with everyone 🇲🇾
— Hannah Yeoh (@hannahyeoh) August 8, 2018
Klang Member of Parliament Charles Santiago also expressed his outrage, telling FMT,
“These are human rights activists whom I feel privileged to call friends.”
“Everyone featured by Mooreyameen Mohamad (the photographer behind ‘Stripes and Strokes’) represent the values we hold dear in Malaysia: courage, hope, justice, determination, and strength.”
What are your thoughts on this issue? Let us know in the comments below!
Also read: Islamic Affairs Minister: “Don’t Discriminate Against LGBT People at Work”