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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Jane Clinton and Tobi Thomas

Malaysia bans the 1975 after Matty Healy defies anti-LGBTQ+ laws with stage kiss

Matty Healy on stage with the 1975 in Glasgow in July 2023
Matty Healy on stage with the 1975 in Glasgow earlier this month. On stage in Kuala Lumpur, Healy said it was a mistake to perform in Malaysia. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Redferns

The English band the 1975 have been banned from performing in Malaysia after their lead singer criticised the country’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws on stage.

The group, fronted by Matty Healy, were playing at the Good Vibes festival in Kuala Lumpur on Friday.

Citing his comments, the three-day music festival in Malaysia was cut short.

While on stage, Healy criticised the Malaysian government’s position on LGBTQ+ rights and said the band had made a mistake in deciding to perform in the country.

It was reported by officials on Saturday that the group were now banned from Malaysia.

“I made a mistake,” Healy said on stage in a video recorded by a fan in the crowd.

“When we were booking shows, I wasn’t looking into it. I don’t see the fucking point, right.

“I do not see the point of inviting the 1975 to a country and then telling us who we can have sex with.”

Healy then went on to kiss his bandmate, Ross MacDonald, on stage. The band’s performance came to an end after officials ordered them off stage.

As they walked off, Healy said: “All right, we just got banned from Kuala Lumpur, see you later.”

After Healy’s comments on stage, the festival’s organisers decided to cancel the rest of the weekend.

In a statement, the organisers said the cancellation order had come directly from Malaysia’s ministry of communications and digital as part of its “unwavering stance against any parties that challenge, ridicule or contravene Malaysian laws”.

Homosexuality is illegal in Malaysia and punishable by 20 years in prison.

A source close to the band told the BBC: “Matty has a longtime record of advocating for the LGBTQ+ community and the band wanted to stand up for their LGBTQ+ fans and community.”

Future Sound Asia, which organised the festival, said in a statement: “Prior to the festival, the 1975 management team reassured us that Healy and the band would adhere to local performance guidelines.

“Regrettably, Healy did not honour these assurances, despite our trust in their commitment. Healy’s actions took us by complete surprise, and we halted the show as promptly as feasible following the incident.

“Healy’s unprofessional behaviour and overt defiance of Malaysian laws and regulations are disturbing.”

Fahmi Fadzil, Malaysia’s communications minister, described the band’s performance as “very disrespectful”.

The Malaysian publication the Star reported on Saturday that the country’s central agency for application for filming and performance by foreign artistes (Puspal) had made a police report against the 1975 and organisers of the festival for their “negligence and failure to adhere to the guidelines stipulated by Puspal”.

The Star quoted Puspal as saying: “When making the application, the organisers gave the assurance that they will take full responsibility for the artistes’ performance.

“As such, Puspal had made a decision to ban the 1975 from performing in the country.

“The ministry will never compromise with anyone who provokes and indulges in indecent acts during their performance in Malaysia.”

A tweet reposted by Fahmi Fadzil suggested there had been doubts over whether the band would be allowed to perform in the first place.

Suet Mei, a lawyer who advises the ministry, tweeted: “Backstory is Puspal rejected the 1975’s application on 22 June. Organiser appealed on 13 July, vouched for the 1975 in writing that the band will not act out and will take full responsibility should there be any non-compliance of the rules. Then guess what, they did act out.”

Other artists on the bill at Good Vibes included the Strokes, the Kid Laroi, Dermot Kennedy and Ty Dolla $ign.

Healy has previously spoken out against anti-LGBTQ+ laws while on stage. In 2019, while performing in Dubai he invited a male fan on stage and hugged and kissed him. In the UAE, homosexuality is punishable by 10 years’ imprisonment.

Tweeting after that show, Healy said: “Thank you Dubai you were so amazing. I don’t think we’ll be allowed back due to my ‘behaviour’ but know that I love you and I wouldn’t have done anything differently given the chance again.”

A representative for the 1975 would not comment on the reported ban or the claim that the ministry had made a report to the police.

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