MUAH MUAH 0 184

On April 29th 2022, Dato Seri Vida released the music video for her song Muah Muah Raya. The video featured local dancers and drag queens including Kumela Kumslut, Giselle Fendi and Just Acne Scar. Since the release of the video, reactions from the public have been polarising with the urban liberal bubble supporting the open-mindedness and representation in the video whilst the majority of individuals find it offensive, especially considering it was a Raya ad. 

We’ve also seen the media scene in Malaysia reinforcing homophobic rhetoric around this music video with headlines such as Glorifying LGBT, DVS song Muah Muah was hit hard by Netizens and This is saddening – M-sians slam DVS Raya Song Muah Muah. They go on to accuse her of trying to tarnish the sanctity of Islam through the music video. 

Since the release, MCMC has opened an investigation and called in Dato Seri Vida for questioning regarding the video. On her social media, she explained that she was fully cooperating and that the intention behind the video was pure entertainment with no hidden agenda. 

While the music video can be perceived as controversial in Malaysia, the art of drag isn’t necessarily something that goes hand in hand with being LGBTQ+. Drag was pioneered by individuals within the LGBTQIA+ community and thus rooted in it, but technically, you don’t have to be gay at all to do drag. We spoke to one of the Carmen Rose, who was featured in the video on their take of all the commotion:

1 – Initially when you were asked to do the music video, how did you think it would be received?

When I was first asked to be part of the music video, I already knew that a large portion of her audience wasn’t going to have any kind words towards the video. If you factor in how people criticized Aliff Syukri’s Raya video, although it wasn’t presented in an artistic way, the hate that video was getting was very much queer-coded let’s be honest. It’s no surprise when it’s coming from their audiences, mainly Malay Muslims.

So I was prepared for whatever criticism that was gonna be coming our way. At this point, queer people in Malaysia have been through a lot and this is something we’re used to it, unfortunately.

2- What was the ideation behind the video and where was inspiration drawn from?

The inspiration was drawn from her previous song/music video called “I Am Me.” And the focus was also on the exaggeration of our lips, just like hers, because “Muah muah.” The dance was choreographed by Malaysian Voguers from Kiki House of Neverland, Teddy and Kimmy. It’s also about the celebration of colours (different communities) and not just the ones that are socially acceptable by the general public.

If I have to be honest, it’s also about “virality” and marketing. Putting drag queens in a Raya video would sure get some kind of attention. I say this because DSV never stood up for us when she was questioned about her intentions. She knew what she was doing when accepting us in her video, but we also knew this would happen. So I’m not surprised. To me, she is someone who has a big platform, I saw this as an opportunity to also speak up on things pertaining to our community. Someone has to start something to give us our visibility, and she was the only one who took the risk. Where are the other “liberal” artists? Why haven’t they included Drag Queens in their music video when other countries have been doing it already?

3- Are you surprised by the reaction from the public?

Coming from her audience, not at all. Disappointed but not surprised.

4- What is the biggest misconception that you feel is being perpetuated in regards to the art of drag?

I’ve mentioned this many times, the biggest misconception from a lot of Malaysians is that we are transgender women. Drag is a form of art, it used to be about the impersonation of a woman, basically for the male gaze. But today, it’s more of an exaggeration of one’s persona. The difference between a drag queen and a trans person is that one is an art form, a stage persona, and the other is a gender identity, something the person has to live through every day as they are. Drag comes in all forms and a trans person can do drag, a cis-gendered woman can do drag, and a straight man can do drag (as long as both of the last two mentioned understand and respect the history and culture of drag queens, and how it is very sacred to the queer community).

5- In what ways can allies work to help change the narrative in situations like this one?

Allies shouldn’t only speak up when it matters, they should speak up all the time. Not only for the sake of getting views and profiting off our struggles. They should commit 100% to fight for us, not only when it’s convenient for them. It’s also important for allies to listen, and not speak over queer people when they are sharing their struggles.

6- Despite the investigation by MCMC and the opinions of the public, art often pushes culture to move forward and causes a reaction, to a certain degree it means you’ve done something right. How do you hope that this piece of art will impact the drag scene in Malaysia?

I am pretty sure that there are young queer kids watching this video and their community being represented in the media, despite of the backlash, would feel like there is some sort of hope there. That’s why I speak up every time I can, within my mental capacity, to speak on things that are hurtful to us. Like recently with MalaysiaKini’s misleading headline on their article. The kids are watching what I’m doing, I wanted someone like me from here but I couldn’t find that person because they weren’t visible enough, hence why most queens and I fight for our place in the media and being visible for the younger generation is important to me.

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So It’s Sabri, Now What? 0 371

Our bed’s been made, I guess we gotta find a way to lay in it 

Looks like our democracy has been disregarded for the time being and no amount of unrest from the citizens is going to make a difference. For most of us, this is our only home so it’s time to make the best of a bad situation and be clear about what we want from the people in power:

Parliament back in full session

If SOPs are in place and MPs are vaccinated, there is no reason for parliament not to reconvene. The voices of the people need to be heard and this is the only way we’ll be able to see that. 

Proper financial aid to the B40 community

Not just one-off handouts, but monthly financial aid to help those who have been struggling to put food on the table for the past year and a half. 

Restructuring of the Pandemic Recovery Plan 

Insanity is defined by doing the same thing and expecting different results – it’s time to rethink, relook and restructure our plan to get us out of this pandemic. It’s not about relying on the vaccines alone but holistically approaching the situation. 

#Undi18

Automatic registration of voters for those ages 18 and above for upcoming elections. 

Vaccinations for those in remote areas

Even though the vaccination rates have been tremendously high, it is clear that those living in the outskirts and the Orang Asli community have yet to receive their doses. 

Better support for our healthcare workers

Without our incredible healthcare workers, we would have seen many more fatalities in the country. They should be given full-time positions with the benefits that they deserve. 

Fair treatment of foreign workers

Foreign workers deserve to have safe working and living conditions that should be mandated under the law. 

Stopping the intimidation of activists 

Under a true democracy, activism, protests and the voices of the people must be heard. Activists should be allowed to speak on their views without fear of being investigated.

These are just some of the ways we want to see a positive change with the “new government”. Let’s hope that there will be some brighter days for us as Malaysians.

What are some changed you’d like to see?

What’s Happening In Afghanistan? 0 451

After 20 years of presence in Afghanistan, President Joe Biden withdrew all troops from the nation, closing Americas longest war.

The American army came to Afghanistan after the 9/11 terrorist attack to dismantle al-Qaeda and locate Osama bin Laden. This was led by George Bush to “win the war against terrorism”, even though none of the assailants in the attack were actually from Afghanistan. 

Over the past twenty years, the relationship between Afghanistan and the US continued to be turbulent with initial airstrikes, a call for the reconstruction of Afghanistan, an alliance between the leaders of both nations, a crackdown on the Taliban which was recommitted by President Barack Obama, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, the Taliban causing tensions between the nations, the US dropping its most powerful non-nuclear bomb, a resurgence in attacks by the Taliban as a response to the Trump administrations Afghanistan plan, peace-talks resulting in a deal on a path to peace and finally in 2021, Biden withdrawing all troops.

This is a very condensed summation of the intricacies of the relationship that the US has had with Afghanistan. However, it’s important to understand that the complex relationship plays a direct role in the reality that many Afghani nationals are facing at this time.

Before the extremists groups took control over the nation, in the 1960s, Afghanistan was a place filled with art, poetry, education and equality. Looking back on pictures, Afghanistan was comparable to a modern-day nation with forward-thinking ideologies with freedom and safety amongst the people.

This all changed when the Soviets came into Afghanistan in 1979. The entrance of the Russians set the trajectory of the rest of the history of the nation, with the American involvement, the civil war creating fractures in society allowing the Taliban to take over, to the reality that it is today. 

Just two days ago, on Sunday, August 16th, as the American troops left the country, the Taliban entered the capital of Kabul after a steady seize of the other cities and took over. The President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, fled the country leaving his people vulnerable to the inevitable takeover. He claimed that his abrupt exit was to “stop further bloodshed”, however, many perceive this as a cowardice move abandoning the people who had fought so hard for democracy in the nation.

All over the country, people are racing to airports to seek safety elsewhere. Under the rule of the Taliban, the country as they knew it for the past 20 years would be completely radicalised. Women and young girls top the list of greatest at risk to the regime, with most being told to stop attending schools or universities so that they are able to marry off – even girls as young as 12 years old. The reinstatement of the repressive and fundamentalist rule will set Afghanistan back almost 200 years and the twenty years of wars, trillions of dollars spent and the hundreds of thousands of lives lost have all be undone in the matter of just one day.

The new Taliban rulers have stated that they have changed their ways and hope to have peaceful international relations and maintain the rights of women. Onground, in Kabul, there hasn’t been violence in the city, rather at the airports where people are desperate to flee. However, despite the fact that things have been somewhat quiet in the city of Kabul, many of the older generations remember the harsh regime under which they lived and struggle to believe that this leadership has changed. Under the strict Shariah Law, education for women and girls were forbidden, they were not allowed to work, let alone leave the house without a male guardian. Most forms of entertainment were banned and women were forced to cover themselves from head to toe. 

The population of Afghanistan is a young population with 3 out of 4 individuals under the age of 25. This means that many don’t remember the trauma that was faced prior to US involvement and even attempting to adapt to the fundamentalist rule will be near impossible. It cannot be determined what the Taliban’s rule over the country will look like, however, if it is anything like it was historically, the world will be waiting to see what happens to the people who are not aligned with the Taliban’s governance.

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