On Saturday, the government of Malaysia suspended a music festival in the capital Kuala Lumpur, a day after the frontman of British pop rock band The 1975 kissed a male band mate onstage and blasted the country’s anti-LGBT policies.
“There will be no compromise against any party that challenges, disparages, and violates Malaysian laws,” Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said in a Twitter post after meeting with the organisers of the Good Vibes Festival, which runs till Sunday.
A government authority that controls shooting and performances by foreigners has also barred the 1975 from performing in Malaysia.
In Muslim-majority Malaysia, homosexuality is a crime. Human rights organisations have warned of increased prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.
Healy was seen kissing bassist Ross MacDonald in videos released on social media late Friday after condemning Malaysia’s anti-homosexuality stance in a profanity-laced speech to the festival audience.
“I made a blunder. “I wasn’t looking into it when we were booking shows,” he admitted. “I don’t see what the fucking point is… of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.”
Healy later cut the act short, informing the audience, “All right, we’ve got to go.” We’ve just been barred from entering Kuala Lumpur; I’ll see you later.”
The band was not immediately available for comment. Healy attempted to make light of the incident in an Instagram story, sharing the festival’s cancellation letter with the caption: “Ok well, why don’t you try and not make out with Ross for 20 years.” It’s not as simple as it appears.”
Healy was chastised for kissing a male fan at a 2019 concert in the United Arab Emirates, which has regulations prohibiting gay activities, according to media reports.
Future Sound Asia (FSA) apologized for cancelling the performance as a result of Healy’s “controversial conduct and remarks.” According to the report, The 1975’s management guaranteed the band would follow performance requirements.
“Regrettably, Healy did not honour these assurances,” the company said in a statement.
Over the three-day weekend, the festival planned to feature 43 performances by local and international musicians. The 1975 headlined on Friday, with Australian singer The Kid Laroi and American band The Strokes headlining on Saturday and Sunday. Both days’ performances were cancelled.
The FSA expressed concern that the incident would “undermine the trust of music promoters and other stakeholders… and jeopardise the stability of our burgeoning live arts scene.”
Malaysia, according to Communications Minister Fahmi, is committed to supporting the development of creative industries and freedom of expression.
“However, never touch on the community’s sensitivities, especially those that are contrary to the traditions and values of the local culture,” he cautioned.
According to media reports, the government set stiffer criteria, including dress code and conduct, for foreign performers visiting Malaysia in March, claiming the need to protect sensitivities.
The incident on Friday generated outrage on Malaysian social media, notably among members of the LGBT community, who accused Healy of “performative activism” and warned that his actions could subject the LGBT community to further stigma and persecution.
“Matt Healy undoubtedly just made it worse for queer Malaysians who actually live here and have to face the consequences because we all know our politicians are going to use this to further their agenda,” Carmen Rose, a Malaysian drag queen and performer, tweeted.
The 1975 are scheduled to perform at a festival in Jakarta, Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, on Sunday, where a recent LGBT event was cancelled owing to security concerns.
The organisers of the Jakarta festival did not immediately reply to queries for comment on whether the band will perform.
The controversy comes at a politically sensitive time in multi-ethnic Malaysia, where Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government will face its first big test of public support when six states hold elections in August.
An coalition of opposition parties, primarily representing the majority ethnic Malay population, has accused the government of failing to protect Muslims’ rights.
The premier has stated that his government will defend Islamic beliefs and will not accept LGBT rights.