As of June 2021, 1,733 Malaysians from the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have been sent to a rehabilitation camp run by Malaysia's Islamic Development Department (JAKIM), Malaysia's Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said in a parliamentary written reply, the Malaysian Insight reported.
Ismail Sabri: LGBT community must be addressed as Malaysia is an Islamic country
The camp, which is known as the Mukhayyam programme, is an initiative by Malaysia's government aimed at changing the "lifestyle" and "sexual orientation" of LGBT people.
Ismail Sabri was responding to a question posed by a Malaysian MP, Abdullah Sani Abdul Hamid, about the steps that the government was taking to address the LGBT community in Malaysia.
The prime minister added, "The government is serious about the issue of LGBT people in the country as Malaysia is a country that adheres to the religion of Islam."
People sent to the camp are taught about religion, health, HIV and AIDS
Ismail Sabri elaborated that people who are sent to the camp are taught about religion, health, HIV and AIDS by JAKIM, and that the programme is a "collaboration" between multiple state Islamic departments, the Health Ministry, state religious councils and the zakat (almsgiving) authorities.
"Any individual who violates the law must face action. Nevertheless, at the same time, they need to be guided and be made aware so that they can return to the right path."
Malaysia's government has been consistently anti-LGBT
Thus far, taking an anti-LGBT stance has been one of the few issues that Malaysia's government has been consistent about.
Earlier this year in January, Malaysia's Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister's Department (Religious Affairs), Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, said that the government was considering amending the law to to impose greater penalties for LGBT-related "offences".
He noted that the current penalties under the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act, also known as Act 355, did not appear to have much of an effect on the community.
These penalties are an imprisonment term of up to three years, a fine of RM5,000 (S$1,640) and six strokes of the cane.
A Malaysian government task force was then formed in June, in response to the celebration of the LGBT community as part of Pride Month.
The goal of the task force is to propose amendments to Syariah law that would allow authorities to take action against Muslims who insult Islam and "commit other syariah criminal offences using online applications", The Edge Markets reported.
Ahmad Marzuk was quoted as saying:
"As we all know, June has been declared as the LGBT Pride Month in which LGBT movements around the world including in Malaysia, use it to promote their lifestyle openly either through marches or on social media.
We found that there are certain quarters who have actively shared and uploaded postings as well as graphics that insult Islam on certain social media platform in their efforts to promote the LGBT lifestyle."
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Top collage left photo from JAKIM Facebook, right photo from AFP/Getty Images