The Malaysian government halted a music festival in the capital Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, a day after the frontman of British pop rock band The 1975 kissed a bandmate onstage and criticized the country’s anti-LGBTQ laws.
“There will be no engagement against any party that defies, disparages and violates the laws of Malaysia,” Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil said in a Twitter post after meeting organizers of the Good Vibes Festival, a three-day event that runs until Sunday.
The 1975 have also been banned from performing in Malaysia, a government committee that oversees filming and performances by foreigners has said.
Homosexuality is a crime in Malaysia, a Muslim majority. Rights groups have warned of growing intolerance against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
In videos posted to social media on Friday night, Healy is seen kissing bassist Ross MacDonald after criticizing Malaysia’s stance against homosexuality in a profanity-filled speech to the festival audience.
«I made a mistake. When we were booking shows, I wasn’t doing the research,» he said. «I don’t see the fucking point… of inviting The 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.»
Healy later interrupted the set, telling the crowd: “Okay, we have to go. We just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later.»
The band could not immediately be reached for comment. In an Instagram Story, Healy appeared to joke about the incident, posting the festival’s cancellation notice along with a caption: “Ok well why don’t you try and make out with Ross for 20 years? It is not as easy as it looks».
Healy was criticized for kissing a male fan at a 2019 concert in the United Arab Emirates, which also has laws against homosexual acts, media reported.
Festival organizer Future Sound Asia (FSA) has apologized for the show’s cancellation following Healy’s «controversial conduct and comments». He said that The 1975’s management had promised that the band would abide by the performance guidelines.
“Unfortunately, Healy did not honor these guarantees,” it said in a statement.
The festival was scheduled to showcase 43 performances by local and international artists over the three-day weekend. The 1975 was the headlining act on Friday, with Australian singer The Kid Laroi and American band The Strokes headlining events on Saturday and Sunday. Performances on both days were cancelled.
The FSA expressed concern that the incident could «erode the confidence of music promoters and various stakeholders…and threaten the stability of our burgeoning live arts scene.»
Communications Minister Fahmi said Malaysia was committed to supporting the development of creative industries and freedom of expression.
«However, never touch the sensibilities of the community, especially those that are against the traditions and values of the local culture,» he said.
In March, the government introduced stricter guidelines, including on dress code and conduct, for foreign acts arriving in Malaysia, citing the need to protect sensitivities, media reported.
Friday’s incident sparked an uproar on social media in Malaysia, including among some members of the LGBT community, who accused Healy of «performance activism» and said his action could expose the community to further stigma and discrimination.
“Matt Healy has undoubtedly made things worse for queer Malaysians living here and they have to face the consequences because we all know our politicians will use this to further their agenda,” Carmen Rose, a Malaysian drag queen and performer, said on Twitter.
The 1975 will play a festival in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim country, on Sunday, where a recent LGBT event was canceled amid security threats.
Jakarta festival organizers did not immediately respond to requests for comment on whether the band would perform.
The uproar comes at a politically sensitive time in multi-ethnic Malaysia, where Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s progressive coalition government will face its first major test of public support in August when six states hold elections.
An alliance of opposition parties, largely representing the majority ethnic Malay community, accused the government of not doing enough to protect the rights of Muslims.
The prime minister has said that his government will uphold the principles of Islam and will not recognize LGBT rights.