During their set on Friday, frontman Matty Healy criticized Malaysia’s laws which ban same-sex marriage, have no protections against discrimination, and make homosexuality illegal.
He said on the mic, “I made a mistake. When we were booking shows, I wasn’t looking into it. I don’t see the fucking point, right, I do not see the point of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.”
The set was cut short after his statements with Healy eventually kissing another male band member before telling the crowd they “just got banned from Kuala Lumpur.” The festival confirmed the band did not comply with performance guidelines.
Ultimately, the rest of Good Vibes Festival was canceled after Malaysia’s Communications and Digital Minister and festival organizer Future Sound Asia came together to shut down the event.
The controversy has sparked an international debate on free speech, rights, and safety of marginalized people, but the situation is much more complicated.
These past few years have been riddled with political tension between the Malaysian government, the religious Muslim majority, and the more liberal Chinese and Indian minorities.
For the past few years, the country has been in a political crisis after the conservative party that reigned from 1957 to 2018 lost the general election.
The prime minister (PM) at the time agreed to hand over power to the winner of the election in 2020, but the agreement fell apart, and the new PM formed a political alliance with the old conservative party.
A new election was held in 2022, where a new, more progressive PM was finally sworn in after instability, corruption, and coups raged, but it was tight where neither he nor his opponent received a voting majority and instead, the constitutional monarch chose him as prime minister.
The current position holder, Anwar Ibrahim, said in an interview before the election that he would seek “to emphasize governance and anti-corruption, and rid this country of racism and religious bigotry,” making him seemingly more progressive than the previous government.
With the country just barely entering a period of progress and political opponents already on edge, the religious conservatives could use Healy’s comments to stir up support as a case of Islamophobic, insensitivity, and offensive Westernized influence in Malaysia before another election on August 12.
Featured image credit The 1975