KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s Home Affairs Ministry seized rainbow-coloured Swatch watches under the brand’s Pride Collection, with 11 stores reportedly raided last week.
The collection features watches in six colors that match the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community flag.
According to The Edge, the raids at multiple Swatch stores in Malaysia were carried out over two days, starting May 13.
In response to the seizure, CEO of Swatch Group, Nick Hayek Jr said that the brand has long been known for utilising its vibrant and fun watches as a method to celebrate people from all walks of life.
“Swatch is proud of being the canvas on the wrist for all people worldwide and many artists working with us … We strongly contest that our collection of watches using rainbow colours and having a message of peace and love could be harmful for whomever.
“On the contrary, Swatch always promotes a positive message of joy in life. This is nothing political. We wonder how the Regulatory and Enforcement Division of the Home Affairs Ministry will confiscate the many beautiful natural rainbows that are showing up thousand times a year in the sky of Malaysia,” Mr Hayek was quoted as saying by The Edge.
Subsequently, other local media outlets also reported that the raids were carried out at stores in various malls in the Klang Valley on May 13 and 14.
Stores in other five states including Terengganu, Kelantan, Kedah, Johor and Sarawak were reportedly issued warning notices.
Swatch is appealing to the Home Affairs Ministry to return the seized watches, according to The Edge.
Instead of the seven colors found in a rainbow, the watches featured six colors. One of the most well-known symbols of the LGBT community is the six-color pride flag.
According to Free Malaysia Today, 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.
On Tuesday (May 23), 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.