It seemed like a harmless appearance on one of the world’s most popular TV talk shows, but a comment made by George Clooney has left many in Malaysia outraged.
In the episode of The Ellen Show which was uploaded onto YouTube on May 9, the actor had been talking about the Brunei sultan’s decision to backtrack on controversial laws which would allow people who engaged in gay sex to be stoned to death.
“It’s not fixed yet, but it’s a huge step forward after this giant leap backwards,” Clooney said, referring to a widespread boycott of businesses owned by the Brunei sultan in the months leading up to the new laws.
He then added: “It sends a warning shot over to countries like Indonesia and Malaysia – who are also considering these laws – that the business people, the big banks, those guys are going to say ‘don’t even get into that business’.”
Needless to say, the Ocean’s Eleven star’s singling out of Malaysia did not sit well with Malaysians.
Clooney, who is married to human rights lawyer Amal Clooney, was criticised by netizens, regional LGBT+ activists and even Malaysia’s deputy foreign minister, for his claim that the country was considering implementing anti-gay laws similar to Brunei’s.
Enraged Malaysians made their voices heard in the comments section of the video clip posted by The Ellen Show’s official YouTube account.
“Malaysia is not Brunei, Indonesia is not Brunei,” one commenter wrote.
Another netizen said that Clooney should not have dragged Malaysia into the matter.
And social media users aren’t the only ones who think that Clooney had crossed a line.
In an article published on Tuesday (May 14), Numan Afifi, president of the LGBT+ advocacy PELANGI Campaign in Malaysia told the Thomson Reuters Foundation: “I call on George Clooney and Hollywood to listen and work together with local activists and human rights defenders on the ground.”
“Local activists have been putting their lives at risk on the ground working, for years. His statement, while well-meaning, might also be counterproductive for our case,” Afifi was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Malaysia’s deputy foreign minister Datuk Marzuki Yahya also responded to Clooney’s comments on Tuesday (May 14), saying that Malaysia does not kill, and will not resort to killing sexual minorities, Malay Mail reported.
According to Malay Mail, Marzuki said that while LGBT+ lifestyles deviate from Islam, the government will not impose such a punishment on the group.
Speaking at a Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia buka puasa event, Marzuki added that Clooney should “be more aware of what he is saying,” The Star reported.
According to The Star, Malaysia currently does not have laws against homosexuality, but the country criminalises unnatural sex under the Penal Code.
- People in Brunei who engage in gay sex and adultery can be stoned to death under a new law
- 5-star hotels owned by the sultan of Brunei deleted their social media after an intense backlash over Brunei’s new law punishing homosexuality with death by stoning
- Here’s a list of everyone who is boycotting or cutting ties with Brunei after it introduced new laws to punish homosexuality with death by stoning