By Hafidz Baharom
I will openly admit that I have been gay since 2008 when I came out right in front of a crowd of people. Thus, when I was outed again during the #UndiRosak campaign, it didn’t create quite the same fireworks as it did the first time.
I have been blessed with accepting parents as well as colleagues and clients who couldn’t be bothered to take such personal issues as a barrier in my work, even when I was working as the communications manager for a Malay NGO.
Thus, when people throw a fit over how a gay man cannot be hired in the civil service of this so-called new Malaysia, I will bash that closet yet again.
Numan Afifi was appointed as a media officer to Syed Saddiq Abdul Rahman, the newly selected youth and sports minister. He hosted a gay buka puasa event last year which irked conservatives. In return, he had to resign from his political party. He also received death threats and even got outed to his parents.
And yet, Numan also led the Sekolah Demokrasi in Malaysia, and was even selected to join the Young Southeast Asian Leadership Initiative by the US. I had the pleasure of meeting him personally last year in London while he was waiting to head to the US for his fellowship. As such, I know him personally and I empathise with what he went through.
Nobody deserves to be faced with such discrimination, especially with a government pushing for change and promising to uphold human rights for everyone, even if it’s the former prime minister who allegedly stole billions.
To now discredit him for his sexuality rather than look at his merits, I would say, is an act of cowardice in this day and age. A gay man can serve his country regardless of his sexual orientation, and others can do so regardless of their gender, their politics and even their beliefs.
This is the Malaysia everyone should be working towards.
My thanks to MP Charles Santiago for being the first lawmaker on the side of the government to voice this. But the silence from his colleagues just goes to show that their cautious stance regarding this issue is only as good as the votes they wish to keep.
I would like to ask the rest of our lawmakers a simple question: Do you believe in the right of a person to be who they are? Do you believe in their right to privacy? And more importantly, do we believe in merit being the benchmark in appointing a civil servant?
While Numan is gay, he is more than his sexuality. He has clearly shown his ability to lead and has even been acknowledged by the US as leadership material.
To those unable to see beyond his sexuality, it is a shame that you believe a person’s private life is basis enough to judge someone in their sense of duty to serve towards the country’s progress.
In an age where the youth of Malaysia face issues of debt, lagging jobs, gangsterism and even the need to dump babies as well as teenage pregnancy and underage marriages, it is the deepest hypocrisy to begrudge someone for being who they are and for advocating solutions to such issues.
To Numan personally, you know that the two of us will always back you while the Malaysians abroad here in London will always give you the support you need. And the millions of Malaysians who voted for change, with so many minorities among them, will always lend their support.
If this is to be the new Malaysia, let it be an inclusive one regardless of race, gender, politics or even beliefs. The majority has made it clear that change is in the air for the country, and it is time to show this in actions rather than just words and empty promises.
Hafidz Baharom is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.