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Friday, October 23, 1998 Published at 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK

World: Asia-Pacific

PM's daughter slams Malaysian anti-gay group

The new group is led by supporters of PM Mahathir

The daughter of Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has strongly criticised an anti-gay group just a day after its establishment.

In a statement Marina Mahathir, who heads the Malaysian Aids Council, condemned "the hatred and intolerance" of a campaign initiated by the People's Voluntary Anti-Homosexual Movement or Pasrah.

She said such "hate campaigns" would further inflame harassment and prejudice against citizens who have been ostracised due to their sexual orientation.

[ image: There is a growing political opposition in Malaysia]
There is a growing political opposition in Malaysia
Pasrah's chairman, Datuk Ibrahim Ali, sits on the ruling party UMNO's Supreme Council and is a staunch supporter of Prime Minister Mahathir.

He has been a vocal critic of the former deputy prime minister, Anwar Ibrahim, who currently faces charges of corruption and illegal homosexual acts - charges which he says are part of a high level political smear campaign.

But organisers have denied the campaign has any connection with the case of Mr Anwar.

Correspondents say that in the run-up to Mr Anwar's trial next month, Pasrah may be part of efforts to deflect public attention away from his calls for reform and focus instead on the sexual aspect of the charges against him.

'Threat to society'

[ image: Anwar denies charges of committing illegal homosexual acts]
Anwar denies charges of committing illegal homosexual acts
Sodomy is a criminal offence in Malaysia, punishable with a jail term of up to 20 years as well as a possible beating.

At its formation Pasrah described homosexuality as a "new threat" to society.

"Sodomy is absolutely despicable," said the deputy chairman, Tamrin Tun Ghafar. "The people of Malaysia must be shielded from such a disgusting practice."

Violent actions

[ image: Anwar's arrest prompted rioting in the Malaysian capital]
Anwar's arrest prompted rioting in the Malaysian capital
Ms Mahathir's statement "noted with alarm" that Pasrah's stated intention to wipe out homosexuals appeared "to condone violent actions against fellow Malaysians who allegedly are of a different sexual orientation."

We hope that Pasrah is not seeking to emulate the violent homophobia that led to the recent killing of a young gay man in Wyoming, USA," the statement said, referring to the murder of Matthew Shepard earlier this month.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang said that the "sudden" formation of Pasrah raised many questions and was "obviously politically-motivated."

Elizabeth Wong, spokeswoman for human rights group Suaram, said the group's efforts were "a misguided form of political support for the prime minister in the midst of his current political crisis."

"When a country is facing a crisis, there is often a tendency to scapegoat groups of people to deflect society from the real issues" she said.

Ms Wong said the group would "incite hatred, discrimination and condemnation of a minority group in Malaysia in order to garner political support for the prime minister."

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Internet Links

Malaysian AIDS Council

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Suaram - Vice of the Malaysian People

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