I WAS recently requested by a Singapore publication to comment on the issue arising from the ‘tirades’ of an international performer, who does not deserve to be named, on stage at a recent concert in Malaysia.
I felt that he should have been immediately ‘booted out’ and was pleased to know that he had been banned from performing in Malaysia.
The publication’s inquiries centred on the perception of Malaysia as a nation with ‘conservative values,’ potentially influencing tourism and foreign direct investment (FDI). The discussion also highlighted the need for Malaysia to assess its brand positioning in light of such considerations.
I felt the questions were shallow and very much alluding towards the conclusion that the move by the Malaysian government was wrong, which would have unwanted repercussions on our economy.
Instead of replying to the questions posed, I chose to share my opinion on the matter, which I believe would not be carried by the Singapore publication.
In the spirit of wanting the public to realise how ‘skewed’ certain media can be and how they can influence perception by amplifying the ‘loud minorities views’, I wish to share my response to the publication concerned.
First, we should address a pertinent point about the tendency of certain quarters to undermine ‘conservative values’.
Usage and labelling people as either conservative or liberal are very subjective. For example, an ultra-liberal group of people may label moderately liberal personalities as ‘conservative’ and the ‘ultra-conservative’ group may label moderate conservatives as ‘liberals’.
Hence, whichever set of values the majority of a society adopts should not be judged by people external to the society without a full understanding of what ‘makes’ the society.
In the context of conservative values, there are many positive traits associated with them, including being dutiful, traditional values and social institutions, such as traditional family structures, gender roles, national patriotism, and religious traditions.
Although certain parties may label conservatives as being averse to innovation and creativity, these remain mere unsubstantiated claims.
What is more important is the practise of moderation in all facets of life, which ensures equity, accountability, reliability, fairness, consistency and community building.
Consequently, a society that practises conservative values should not be labelled as bad or backward, especially when the majority of the population, regardless of race or religion has no qualms about it and continues to develop and prosper.
The crux of the matter lies in the values and principles that a society holds, which should not be shaken by external ‘others’ who may have an entirely different set of values and principles.
Malaysia has strong Eastern values, which include ‘adab’ (manners) and decorum in public, respect for elders, the importance of family, community, and communal harmony, a strong sense of culture, hard work, and respect for authority, among others. Certainly, these traits should not be seen as ‘flaws’ and have never been proven to be a hindrance to development.
Moreover, Malaysia maintains a moderate stance and despite being labeled with ‘conservative values,’ particularly by proponents of the ‘woke culture,’ the nation continues to successfully draw numerous visitors and investors.
In this scenario, the individual in question is recognised for displaying tyrannical tendencies, disregarding values, and endeavouring to enforce their distorted moral standards in nations that uphold distinct legal frameworks and principles.
This situation can be likened to an invitation into someone else’s home as a guest and behaving in a disrespectful manner, attempting to compel the host to adopt their values instead of acknowledging and adhering to the host’s established norms and rules.
Fortunately, his tirades had done Malaysia a favour, bringing the country together, across the political divide in anger against his disrespectful and offensive behaviour. Even foreigners and expatriates that I know of living in Malaysia do not condone such ‘animalistic’ behaviour.
As far as investments and FDI transactions into the country are concerned, business decisions should be based on many factors including business sense, stability, transparency, and sound decisions, far from being based on a single, unworthy performer.
Since the incident, bigger international artists have performed in Malaysia, contrary to beliefs that the whole world of entertainment had forsaken Malaysia.
Our unique hospitality and culture remain untarnished by this individual who is struggling with his sexuality and feels compelled to display it on stage (regardless of his orientation), rather than focusing on sharing his artistic expression.
Furthermore, Malaysia has its own set of values that we should stand by and we cannot afford to be ‘wishy-washy’ about our stance on such matters.
We have a responsibility to preserve our values and principles in accordance with the views of Malaysians. We do not owe it to anyone to bend over backwards to accept their tyranny, bullying tactics and cheap publicity stunts.
In this regard, I strongly support the government’s stand on this issue and really hope that the government will stand firm and not succumb to any form of pressure on the matter.
Let’s not put a lot of emphasis on the few people who are destructive to our values but rather support the silent majority who construct, build and strive to find their way. Every country is unique and should be able to project its own values, brand of art, culture and hospitality.
Our visitors come to Malaysia to find warmth and genuine friendship – this is the Malaysia brand.
This whole episode does not deserve more headlines, and surely not more airtime or coverage. That will just give this personality what he craved in the beginning—undeserving credence. – Aug 11, 2023
Mohd Said Bani CM Din
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.