Film director accused of apostasy receives death threats

While Michelle Yeoh gets all the accolades as the first Asian woman to win an Oscar, Khairi Anwar found violent messages about her wrecked car. Her film, which was released in 2021, tells the story of a young woman who searches for the meaning of life even in non-Islamic religions. The Minister of Communications invited not to take justice into their own hands, but earlier this month he had distanced himself from the director.

Kuala Lumpur ( / Agencies) – Days after the Oscars, Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh continues to receive congratulations at home and abroad as the first Asian woman to win the Best Leading Actress award, while director Khairi Anwar has received death threats in Malaysia, accused by his country’s Islamic conservatives of promoting apostasy with his new film “Mentega Terbang”.

This morning the director found his car wrecked, smeared with paint and covered with messages reading: “Mind Terbang don’t challenge Islam”, “Islam will rise” and “You and your family have to die”. Another car belonging to Arjun Thanaraju, an actor in the film, was also vandalized in a similar manner.

The film tells the story of a young woman who, after the loss of her terminally ill mother, searches for the meaning of death (and life) in other religions. The film was released in 2021, but controversy broke out earlier this month when it hit Hong Kong-based streaming platform Viu, which subsequently pulled it due to the controversy.

According to observers, Malaysia’s Islamist conservatives, backed by their recent election results in November, are pushing for a polarization of society, lashing out at films and songs they view as contrary to Islamic values.

Khairi and Arjun traveled to the capital Kuala Lumpur to speak about the film. They spoke to the National Film Development Corporation Malaysia and are waiting for a date to be set to meet with representatives of the Islamic Department of the Federal Territory.

Khairi said he had also been attacked by conservatives on social media: the situation “is putting me in danger myself, my family and the well-being of my cast and my crew”, commented the director. “But none of the ministers, ministries or authorities take action to stop this danger we are facing.”

Communications Minister Fahmi Fadzil urged citizens not to take the law into their own hands after the incident, but earlier this month also distanced himself from Khairi as he believes the film has crossed the line. “I want to remind everyone that even if we are film directors, we have to abide by the laws that apply to all the work we do,” Fahmi said.

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