NOV 12 — Malaysia’s favourite phrase, “seks bebas” (which means “free sex” if you don’t happen to speak Malay), is back with a vengeance judging by the past two weeks. Usually this phrase is used when describing the exploits of young people (preferably teenagers — because we Malaysians both love and loathe the idea of teenage sex, hence our morbid fascination with it) who are fans of whatever music genre the mainstream press is seeking to demonise at that particular time.
So whether you’re a black metal fan, a skinhead or punk rocker, and most definitely for hip-hoppers, to name but a few genres that have been demonised recently, having “seks bebas” never fails to get your fellow Malaysians riled up and angry with you.
Whether it’s true or even logical that normal sex, let alone “seks bebas”, can even occur at gigs or concerts and between fans of these genres is a fact that was never even considered by the folks throwing about the “seks bebas” charges at them.
I rarely watch television, and when I do it’s usually for football matches and not much else, but this is mainly because I’ve so much catching up to do when it comes to my DVD collection.
Since last weekend was Aidiladha, I was back in my hometown and only there did I get to watch so much local terrestrial television and it’s just astounding the amount of times I heard the phrase “seks bebas” uttered on screen.
This time around though, there was thankfully no new music genre demonised, but disturbingly it’s being used to describe the Seksualiti Merdeka series of events.
Now I’m no expert about what Seksualiti Merdeka is trying to do because for that you’d have to go ask the organizers themselves. I can’t even recall if I’ve even attended any of their events in the previous years. But I think even from a distant outsider’s point of view, it is fairly clear that what Seksualiti Merdeka has been trying to do is to speak out about every Malaysian’s right to his or her freedom of sexuality, which is a long, long way from promoting free sex, despite both terms having the words “free” and “sex” in them.
It’s not like the organizers are planning an orgy of queer sex, in which case the usage of “seks bebas” will be actually appropriate, but that is plainly not the case here.
I do understand that using the term “seks bebas” to describe the whole thing is a cynically easy way to demonise them and rally support from our very pious and moral country, but I just find it disgusting how easily the tactic worked.
I don’t want to get into the debate of the rightness or wrongness of being queer, especially in the eyes of religion. Being a Muslim myself, the way things stand so far in terms of interpretation of our scripture and traditions, I think there’s no way that anyone can deny that having queer sex is a sin. But it’s a sin that has to be put in the proper context.
Stealing, murder, white collar crimes, police brutality, skimming profits in Ali Baba contract deals, taking and giving bribes, dishonest mismanagement of public funds and so much more are also sins, and arguably bigger ones too, but do you see much uproar on these like what we are witnessing now with Seksualiti Merdeka?
I think it’s fairly clear that a distinction can be made between private sins and public sins. Private sins are matters that are personal and should be considered strictly between the sinner and God and therefore should be punishable by God only, and public sins are those that involve the rights and property of someone else which therefore must be settled or punished in this life, in addition to whatever punishment that will come in the afterlife.
Despite however “unnatural” or “wrong” we might feel queer sex is, I think we must never forget that sins of a sexual nature (with the obvious exception of rape and other non-consensual offences, as it involves the violation of the rights of the victims) are still merely personal sins.
I remember a story about an adulterer going to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) to confess about committing adultery and asked to be punished for it, only to be told by the prophet to go back home and repent before God, as he’ll only be punished if he can bring two valid witnesses who saw them in the act of adultery to testify as required under Sharia’ law, which should clearly set an example on how we should treat personal sins like these, that is to not go out of our way to persecute them and only punish when it is totally necessary and unavoidable.
Of course there are lots of people out there who find all this an affront to their moral fibre, but is it our job play judge, jury and God in matters like these? If you ask me then I’d say it’s a matter for God to decide, and all we can do is be civil and civilized about it.
* The views expressed here are the personal opinion of the columnist.