KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 13 — The federal Islamic authorities have suggested that sexual orientation can be changed with extensive training, in a recent video explaining how Muslims can approach the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.
The 3:08-minute video in Malay language has since received mixed reception from some Malaysians, with several praising it as a softer strategy that does not promote hate against the maligned minority, while others felt it still fails to acknowledge the community.
“Fact is, there are those among Muslims that has non-heterosexual orientation but remains steadfast on the path of Islam.
“For them, this is a test of Allah, and they choose to face the test appropriate with what Islam demands,” said the video shared by social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi in a public post on his Facebook profile yesterday.
Dr Mohd Izwan Yusof, an assistant senior director of the Islamic Development Department Malaysia’s (Jakim) family, social and community department, corroborated in a separate post that his group was responsible for the video.
In the video, Jakim had likened sexual orientation with horse-riding, claiming that when someone realises that he has “different” orientation from others and wishes to change that orientation, he should receive extensive training and guidance.
Jakim said to change one’s sexual orientation, one must intend to do so for God’s sake instead of being forced and repent one's homosexuality, in addition to leaving activities that would lead to same-sex relations.
It also urged a repentant homosexual to fulfill his sexual desires through marriage, or subdue such desires by among others resorting to fasting.
The video also advised Muslims to be patient, and to help their friends change and return to the straight path, if they discover them to be LGBT.
Conversion therapy which consists of psychological treatment or spiritual counseling to change a person's sexual orientation from homosexual or bisexual to heterosexual is widely seen by medical and scientific community as potentially harmful and a form of pseudoscience.
The practice is opposed and has been legally challenged, or even banned, in countries such as Australia, Brazil, Chile, China, Ecuador, Israel, Lebanon, Malta, South Africa, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and the United States.
In 2014, several medical and gender experts questioned the “success” of Jakim’s spiritual rehabilitation camp for transgenders, insisting they need medical care to transition them into their affirmed gender identities rather than rehabilitation to return them to what some may consider “normal”.
At the time of writing, the video has been watched over 9,000 times, and received positive response from Facebook users on Syed Azmi’s profile.
“Congratulations Jakim for producing a video with no elements of hatred towards the LGBT. I hope Jakim’s missionary department can remind each state to not act rough towards the LGBT,” said a top comment by user Azira Aziz.
“The video's soft approach on advising, respect for privacy and emphasis on free will is definitely commendable. This is far better than saying they're sinners, they're going to hell,” said another top comment by user Luq Harith.
The video however received criticisms for suggesting that homosexuality can be changed, such as by user Sheelabanu Sri Jaya who said, “This video is going to make people believe that there is a way to 'change' homosexuals into heterosexuals. No way you can do that.”
“I was not impressed by the video. And it's very dangerous for them to encourage heterosexual marriage as a way to ‘fix’ the LGBT person, for the person, the spouse AND the children they may bear,” commented user Huda Mutalib.
“Calling for reparative therapy is not exactly good intentions, let alone genuine respect that LGBT people should live their lives the way they want it to be,” added user Zulaikha Mohammad.