‘We don’t have gay people in our country,’ claims Malaysian minister

Malaysia’s tourism, arts and culture minister has revealed to German media that he doesn’t think there are any gay people in his country.

Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi reportedly made the claim on Tuesday while speaking to media during a major travel industry trade show in Berlin. When asked whether Malaysia is a safe place for gay travelers, Mohamaddin reportedly responded: “Homosexuality? I think we do not have such a thing in our country. Whether it’s safe or not, I cannot answer.

++An aide to the minister reportedly said that while Mohamaddin’s statement was in line with the government’s stance to not recognize the LGBT community, it was his “personal view.”

Tourists coming to Malaysia like any other country are welcome regardless of their creed, sexuality, religion or colour,” the aide, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Free Malaysia Today.

Homosexuality is illegal in the Muslim-majority country and can be punished with up to 20 years in prison. In January, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said his government would not tolerate homosexuality, and the government has repeatedly dubbed same-sex marriage and other LGBT activities as “Western.