KUALA LUMPUR, July 22 (Portal) – Malaysia’s government halted a music festival in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, a day after the frontman of British pop-rock band The 1975 kissed a male bandmate on stage and criticized the country’s anti-LGBT laws.
“There will be no compromise against any party that challenges, denigrates and violates Malaysian laws,” Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said in a Twitter post after meeting with organizers of the Good Vibes Festival, a three-day event set to last through Sunday.
The 1975 were also banned from performing in Malaysia, said a government committee overseeing filming and performances by foreigners.
Homosexuality is a crime in Muslim-majority Malaysia. Human rights groups warn of a growing intolerance towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Videos posted to social media late Friday saw Healy kiss bassist Ross MacDonald after he delivered a profanity-laden speech to festival audiences criticizing Malaysia’s stance on homosexuality.
“I have made a mistake. When we booked shows, I didn’t pay attention to that,” he said. “I see no point in inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.”
Healy later interrupted the performance and told the crowd, “Okay, we have to go. We just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later.”
The band could not immediately be reached for comment. In an Instagram Story, Healy appeared to joke about the incident, posting the festival’s cancellation along with the caption, “Okay why don’t you try not making out with Ross for 20 years? Not as easy as it looks.”
Healy was criticized for kissing a male fan at a 2019 concert in the United Arab Emirates, which also has laws against homosexual acts, media reported.
Festival promoter Future Sound Asia (FSA) apologized for canceling the show due to Healy’s “controversial behavior and remarks”. It said the management of The 1975 had promised the band they would stick to the performance guidelines.
“Regrettably, Healy has not lived up to these assurances,” it said in a statement.
The festival was to feature 43 performances by local and international artists over the three-day weekend. The 1975 headlined Friday, while Saturday and Sunday featured Australian singer The Kid Laroi and US band The Strokes. The performances on both days were cancelled.
The FSA expressed concern that the incident “could undermine the confidence of music promoters and various stakeholders and threaten the stability of our burgeoning live arts scene”.
Communications Minister Fahmi said Malaysia is committed to supporting the development of creative industries and freedom of expression.
“However, never touch the sensibilities of the community, especially those that run counter to the traditions and values of the local culture,” he said.
Media reported that in March the government introduced stricter guidelines, including dress codes and conduct, for foreign artists coming to Malaysia, citing the need to protect sensitivities.
Friday’s incident sparked an uproar on Malaysian social media, including from some members of the LGBT community, who accused Healy of “performative activism” and said his actions could expose the community to even more stigma and discrimination.
“Matt Healy has undoubtedly only made it worse for the queer Malaysians who actually live here and we must face the consequences because we all know our politicians will use this to further their agenda,” said Carmen Rose, a Malaysian drag queen and performer, on Twitter.
The 1975 are scheduled to play at a festival on Sunday in Jakarta, capital of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, where an LGBT event was recently canceled due to security threats.
The Jakarta Festival organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the band would play.
The uproar comes at a politically sensitive time in multi-ethnic Malaysia, where Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government will face its first major test of public support in August when elections are held in six states.
A coalition of opposition parties, mostly representing Malaysia’s ethnic majority community, has accused the government of not doing enough to protect Muslims’ rights.
The prime minister said his government will uphold the principles of Islam and will not recognize LGBT rights.
Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Additional reporting by Bernadette Christina in Jakarta; Adaptation by William Mallard, Robert Birsel and Nick Macfie
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