Is Malaysia safe for Jewish people

ITB partner country : Malaysia's Minister of Tourism: Don't have homosexuals

Press conference in the Palais under the radio tower to mark the start of the world's largest tourism fair, ITB Berlin, which is to be officially opened on Tuesday evening. It was the first and, for the time being, the best chance for government representatives of the Southeast Asian country Malaysia, this year's partner country of the ITB, to meet current criticism of the local treatment of Jews, Israelis and sexual minorities. Among other things, the Paralympic Committee withdrew the 2019 swimming world championships from the country at the beginning of the year because of hostility to Israel. The Green Party politician Volker Beck criticized Messe Berlin for Malaysia's freestyle program at the weekend, arguing that the organizer was courting a government that punishes homosexuality with "corporal punishment and lashes," as he said.

"Is it safe for Jews and homosexuals to travel to your country?"

The Minister for Tourism, Art and Culture of the Islamic country, Datuk Mohamaddin bin Ketapi, was invited to the podium on Tuesday morning. The Tagesspiegel spoke to him about these issues and asked directly: “Is it safe for Jews and homosexuals to travel to your country?” The minister, an elderly gentleman, thanked him for the question, but then said in English: “I think , I would like not to answer this question. ”The partnership with the ITB in Germany is the topic here. “This is the wrong forum to answer that. We are here on a vacation mission at ITB Berlin. "

When asked, the question is ultimately security-relevant for Germans who are Jewish or homosexual. “Is it safe for them to travel to your country?” Turning to homosexuals in Malaysia, Minister Bin Ketapi said, “I don't think we have that in our country. I cannot answer whether it is safe or not. ”He is not informed enough. "But one thing I can say: we don't have that kind of situation".

The minister provoked head shaking not only among some of the well over 100 journalists present. A representative of the tourism industry from the Malay state of Malacca said away from the microphones: "This is nonsense, this is an old man, you shouldn't take it so seriously". After the event, Malaysia's ambassador to Germany, Shahafeez Shaharis, felt called upon to classify the minister's statements. "Sexuality is a private matter in Malaysia," she clarified. In addition, the Islamic legal system of Sharia, which makes same-sex sexual acts a criminal offense in some countries, only applies to Muslims. Religion is also a private matter, explained the ambassador. However, Malaysia does not recognize the Jewish state of Israel because of the conflict with the Palestinians. This means that Israeli citizens cannot enter, but German Jews can.

Trade fair boss Göke: "A host does not accept, but listens"

While still on the podium in front of the cameras, Christian Göke, Managing Director of Messe Berlin, was asked whether the choice of Malaysia as a partner country was really acceptable. “We are hosts. And a host doesn't accept, but listens, ”said Göke. There are two aspects to the matter. Can you do that? And should you?

“Permission is a legal question. Messe Berlin is a company under private law with private and public shareholders. We are not an institution under public law, we are not part of the judiciary, executive or legislative branches in Germany. We're a profit-making company that has customers. The customer has, like a newspaper, a radio station or a television station ”. So you are a communications service provider with whom you can place paid advertisements, explained the trade fair boss.

“As for the question of should, or to put it more concretely: Is it okay for Malaysia to be a partner country here? The last ten minutes have shown that it is very, very right and very okay. Because we help ensure that you do not get the information from second, third or fourth hand, but from first. "

Oman is to be the partner country of the ITB next year

These issues are addressed not only today and here, but also in various formats during the ITB, “where the local authorities and those affected” would be invited. In this respect, the ITB is creating a means of communication for the first time and thus contributing to objectifying the discussion. He believes that the other way around, “it becomes a shoe,” said Göke. The more exposed a customer is at the ITB, the greater their obligation to ask and provide answers, "which are up to our customers and guests and you to evaluate, but not to us as hosts," concluded the head of Berlin Fair.

Göke seemed to be better prepared for questions about Malaysia than the minister of the partner country himself. In recent years there has been repeated political criticism of the selection of one or the other ITB partner country that pays money for this election. In 2016, for example, the free choice of the Muslim partner country Maldives was criticized. There was unrest there and alleged human rights violations after a coup. The election of Egypt (2012) also sparked debates in the context of the unrest of the “Arab Spring”. In the coming year, the Arab Sultanate of Oman is to be the partner country of the ITB.

The governing mayor Michael Müller (SPD), who was not present at the meeting, reminded vacationers at the start of the ITB of the political dimension of their vacation. "Today travel has long been political," he said. Travelers would have compassion when workers in the tourism industry lived in misery. “More and more vacationers feel repulsed when regimes disregard freedom and human rights.” And economic senator Ramona Pop (Greens), deputy supervisory board chief of Messe Berlin, canceled her participation in the ITB after the press conference.

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