KUALA LUMPUR: The rainbow-coloured Swatch watches that were seized by Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry earlier in May were reportedly confiscated as they had the letters “LGBTQ” - referring to the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer community - inscribed on the faces.
“We seized hundreds of watches and all of them had the ‘LGBTQ’ letters on the face of the watch,” a government source was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today (FMT) in a report on Monday (May 29).
“We did not seize the watches just because they had the rainbow colour. If that’s the case, we would need to seize Paddle Pop ice-creams.”
The watches seized were part of Swatch’s Pride collection. Instead of the seven colours found in a rainbow, the watches featured six colours. One of the most well-known symbols of the LGBT community is the six-color pride flag.
According to local media, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim last Thursday said: "The only fact I know is that the confiscation was because the watches had LGBT symbols, not because of the colours."
In response, Swatch Group chief executive officer Nick Hayek said in a statement that the watches seized contained no reference to the LGBT community.
He was quoted as saying by the Malay Mail in a report last Friday: “Mr Anwar Ibrahim stated in a recent interview that Swatch’s latest collection of colourful watches includes the letters LGBT on their dials. Apparently, he was misinformed.
“Swatch has not included any reference to the LGBT community on the dials of this year’s Pride collection.
“These colourful watches include the meaning of each pride colour (life, healing, sunlight, nature, harmony, spirit) on their minute hands and two loops that form a rainbow.”
The Home Affairs Ministry reportedly seized 172 Swatch watches from outlets in 11 shopping malls over three days this month, with the watches mostly including the six-stripe Pride Flag in their designs.
According to the Malay Mail, the outlets include those in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Johor, Penang and Kota Kinabalu. Meanwhile, five outlets in Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, Johor and Sarawak were given a warning.
FMT reported that the seizure came after netizens connected the watch collection to British rock band Coldplay’s support for the LGBT community.
The announcement of Coldplay’s first concert in Malaysia, to be held this November, had earlier drawn the criticism of a leader from the Islamist party Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), who had called for the cancellation of the event in a Facebook post on May 10.
The Facebook post was accompanied by images of lead vocalist Chris Martin holding a rainbow flag - which is used to represent the LGBT community - during a Coldplay performance at the Wembley Stadium in London.
Last Tuesday, Religious Affairs Minister Mohd Na’im Mokhtar was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insight (TMI) that the government has taken initiatives to curb the spread of LGBT ideology by conducting rehabilitation programmes.
The programmes are organised by the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) and monitored by a Special Committee on Muslim LGBT Issues in Malaysia.
“The committee meets at least once a year or as needed. It is composed of ministries, departments, agencies and NGOs that will coordinate LGBT issues arising among Muslims in the aspects of education and advocacy, dakwah (Islamic propagation) and guidance and enforcement,” said Mr Mohd Na’im in a parliamentary written reply, according to TMI.
The minister also stated that although Malaysia does not recognise the LGBT movement, the government does not discriminate against members of the community.