Malaysian threatened over 'same sex union'

KUALA LUMPUR, December 22, 2011 (AFP) - A hardline conservative Malaysian Muslim on Thursday threatened to assault a gay fellow countryman who has apparently entered into a civil partnership in Ireland.

Traditionalists in Muslim-majority Malaysia have been outraged by images in a local newspaper purportedly showing the civil partnership ceremony in Dublin between Ariff Alfian Rosli and an Irish man.

They have condemned Ariff's actions as immoral and burned the pictures, which show him in traditional Malay attire with headgear embroidered with gold thread, while his apparent partner wears a formal Western suit.

Islam is the official religion of Malaysia, where sex between consenting adult men is a criminal offence punishable by whipping and imprisonment for up to 20 years.

Norizan Ali, chairman of the Kepong Islamic Youth Organisation, told AFP that he had lodged a complaint against Ariff with police because his action had tainted the image of Islam, the Malay race and the country.

"He is a traitor to the religion, race and nation," he said, adding that his group had burned the pictures of the ceremony.

"We oppose this gay behaviour. Ariff has committed a sin. He should return to Malaysia and seek forgiveness from his parents and Allah.

"If I meet him in Malaysia I will punch him."

Ariff, 28, told the Irish Times that he had moved to Dublin eight years ago to study medicine. He declined to confirm whether he had entered a civil partnership, but said he feared for his safety if he returned to Malaysia.

"Returning home under the current situation is untenable," the paper quoted him as saying Thursday.

Homosexuality is a taboo subject in Malaysia, where opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim accuses the authorities of trying to destroy him politically by prosecuting him on sodomy charges.

Norizan said homosexual and lesbian activities were becoming widespread in Malaysia and urged the authorities to crack down on them.

"We must eradicate this strange behaviour. If not it will destroy family ties and our country," he said.

Malaysia's acting law minister Nazri Aziz said Malaysia would not legalise same-sex marriages. "The similar gender marriage will not happen in our country. Full stop!" he was quoted as saying by The Star newspaper.

Last November two Malaysian states said they were considering passing laws that could condemn gay Muslims and gay rights supporters to prison.

As well as criminal law, Muslims, who make up 60 percent of Malaysia's 28 million people, are subject Islamic shariah law for civil matters.