03/16/2023, 16.56
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Malaysian director accused of apostasy gets death threats

While Michelle Yeoh is celebrated as the first Asian woman to win an Oscar, Khairi Anwar found violent messages next to his vandalised car. His 2021 film tells the story of a teenage girl who seeks the meaning of life even in non-Islamic religions. Malaysia’s Communications minister urged people not to take the law in their own hands, but earlier this month he had distanced himself from the director.


Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Just days after Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh won an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, and is celebrated at home and abroad as the first Asian woman to be so recognised, another Malaysian, director Khairi Anwar, received death threats in his own country after he was accused by right-wing Muslims of promoting apostasy with his 2021 film "Mentega Terbang” (Flying Butter).

This morning the director found his car vandalised with messages on paper next to it that said: “don’t challenge Islam”, “Islam shall rise”, and “you and your family must die”.

A car belonging to Arjun Thanaraju, an actor in the film, was also vandalised.

The film tells the story of a teenage girl who, after her terminally ill mother dies, wants to find out the meaning of death (and life) in other religions.

The film was released in 2021 but became contentious earlier this month after it landed on the Hong Kong-based streaming platform Viu, which withdrew it as soon as it sparked controversy.

According to observers, Malaysia's right-wing Islamists, buoyed by good results in last November’s election, are polarising Malaysian society, attacking any film and song they consider contrary to Islamic values.

Faced with the situation, Khairi and Arjun travelled to the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to speak about their film with officials of the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia and are waiting for a date to meet representatives of the Islamic Religious Department of the Federal Territory.

Khairi said he was also attacked by right-wingers on social media. The latter are “causing danger to myself, my family, and my cast and crew’s well-being,” the director said. “But none of the ministers, ministries, authorities, are stopping this danger put on us.”

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil on Thursday waded into the affair, urging Malaysians not to take the law into their own hands, but earlier this month, he had suggested that the filmmakers had crossed the line.

“I want to remind everyone that even if we want to be filmmakers, we still have laws that apply to any work we produce, so we have to respect those laws,” the minister added.

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