The head of Malaysia’s censorship board has confirmed that the country has cut gay scenes from Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
The head of the Malaysian Film Censorship Board, Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz, confirmed to the Malay Mail on Tuesday (November 13) that the biopic based on the life of Queen singer Freddie Mercury has been censored to omit references to his same-sex relationships.
Key scenes referencing Mercury’s partner Jim Hutton were cut from the Malaysian release of Bohemian Rhapsody, which movie-goers reported to be several minutes shorter than the version shown in the UK and internationally.
“Anything related to LGBT or promoting it will not be approved.”
— Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz
Speaking to the Malay Mail, Aziz confirmed that the Malaysia release of Bohemian Rhapsody had cut “four gay scenes.”
Gay content cut from Bohemian Rhapsody
The censorship chief claimed the cuts “involved moments such as men kissing each other, men rubbing each other, and a group of men in dresses partying in a mansion.”
He told the newspaper: “Another scene removed was the post credit scene which stated Freddie Mercury and Jim Hutton lived a happy life because it showed that they were in a gay relationship… anything related to LGBT or promoting it will not be approved.”
Aziz claimed the cuts amount to no more than three minutes in total, rather than the more-than 20 minutes that fans reported had been excised from the original 133 minute release.
However, Aziz declined to detail the specific cuts that had been made, claiming: “It will raise more arguments due to our different views.”
“One might not see a problem in cutting a particular scene, while another will have a different say.”
The film was rated PG in the UK as it omitted explicit depictions of Mercury’s personal life, but was handed an ‘adults only’ 18 rating in Malaysia.
Aziz cited the country’s film censorship regulations that ban LGBT+ content in movies and TV shows.
Malaysia bans LGBT+ content in media
The live-action film Beauty and the Beast was briefly banned in Malaysia in 2017 after the director hinted that a minor character in the film was gay.
The film was only permitted to be released after assurances from Disney that there was no visible gay content.
An art exhibit featuring portraits of LGBT+ people also faced government censorship in August 2018.
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Senior government officials ordered the removal of portraits and a rainbow flag from an exhibit at the George Town Festival in Penang.
Religious affairs minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa defended the removal of portraits of two LGBT activists, Nisha Ayub and Pang Khee Teik, insisting: “Society cannot accept LGBT being promoted, because that is against norms, culture and religion.”
LGBT+ rights in Malaysia
As in many Commonwealth countries, gay sex is banned in Malaysia under a British Colonial-era penal code.
A state-level form of Sharia law also operates in part of the country banning homosexuality and cross-dressing, which is used to persecute LGBT+ people.
Attitudes in the country have recently swung dramatically against equal rights, with the Prime Minister of Malaysia describing LGBT+ rights as “Western values.”
Mohd Izwan Md Yusof, an official in the government’s Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim), recently claimed that 1,450 people have been ‘cured’ of homosexuality under a government rehabilitation programme.
The official told a conference on October 29: “We have helped 1,450 people under the programme where some have went on to get married, some have changed their dressing and some are practising control from going back to that lifestyle.”
In August, Malaysia’s Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail ordered gay people to keep their sexuality secret, while the same month Deputy Health Minister Dr Lee Boon Chye claimed that LGBT+ people suffer from an “organic disorder.”
Mahfuz Omar, Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, claimed LGBT+ people need to be helped to return to their “original identities” and that allowing people to be transgender would cause chaos in society.