SINNERS OR ALTERNATIVE IDENTITIES? A DISCOURSE ANALYSIS OF THE COMPETING DISCOURSES ON LGBT COMMUNITIES IN TWO MALAYSIAN DAILIES

TitleSINNERS OR ALTERNATIVE IDENTITIES? A DISCOURSE ANALYSIS OF THE COMPETING DISCOURSES ON LGBT COMMUNITIES IN TWO MALAYSIAN DAILIES
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Abdul Karim, H.
Affiliation (1st Author)Universiti Malaysia Sabah
Section or WGMedia, Religion and Culture Working Group
DateThurs 27 June
Slot CodeMRCT4a
Slot Code (Keyword)MRCT4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
RoomC165
Session TitleThe Media and Religious Identity
Submission ID4653
Abstract

Are they sinners or just another being with alternative sexual identities? Is it really a transgression or inborn? Such opposing views regarding the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community have sparked a heated debate among Malaysians two years ago when a group of individuals who are fighting for the cause for these communities launched their fourth sexual rights festival called The Seksualiti Merdeka 2011 Festival in Kuala Lumpur. The word ‘Merdeka’ in Malay means ‘independence’ or ‘freedom’ whereby the LGBT community felt that despite being independent for 51 years, Malaysia’s sexual minorities have yet to be sexually-independent. The debate between religion and secularism between religious leaders with human rights activist marks how Malaysians feel about this issue, which has always been a taboo to be discussed. Two Malaysian dailies - Utusan Malaysia (UM) and The Star, had been actively reporting the festival and each represent opposing views concerning the festival and the LGBT community. Utusan Malaysia, an ethnic Malay/Muslim-based media strongly opposed the organizing of the festival, saying that the festival is an avenue to promote deviant and immoral culture. Drawing on religious views that ‘homosexuality’ is a transgression and is prohibited to mankind, Utusan Malaysia have consistently used the voices of religious groups and leaders to condemn and opposed the festival. On the other hand, The Star, an English language daily owned by a non-Malay and non-Muslim political party, empathize with the community, on the basis that it is their right as human beings to exist as whatever sexual identity, they were born with. Using Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) as a method and theory to analyze this issue, this study found that the two competing discourses found in UM and The Star, both served to reproduce and resist social inequalities, as in this case sexual minorities in Malaysia. Past studies on CDA often looked at how discourse played a role in reproducing social inequalities. This study would like to demonstrate how discourse can also resist social inequalities, and that it operates alongside with the oppressors. The discursive practice adopted in both dailies is significant in two ways. First, it reveals the challenge that a Muslim country like Malaysia, have to face with regards to modernity. How can it ensure ‘religion’ continue to be the source of sexual identity for Malaysians when LGBT communities are increasingly coming out along with the growing support for them, among liberal Muslims. Secondly, the competing discourse on the festival between“ Legitimising Deviant Culture” against “A Celebration of Diverse Sexual Identity,” further leads to a more fluid sexual identity among Malaysians.

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