Comedy Club in Malaysia challenges controversial decision by KL City Hall licensing committee to blacklist owners from registering a business licence for life

The 28-year-old female comedian, initially dressed conservatively, began to strip off her headscarf and dress to reveal less clothing underneath.

18th August 2022 – (Kuala Lumpur) On 14th July, Crackhouse Comedy Club co-owner Rizal van Geyzel was arrested for questioning at the local police headquarters over old comedy skits that were reported to authorities as being an insult to Islam and offensive to the Malay community. 5 days later, he lodged a police report over death threats against his family, in response to recent episodes involving stand-up comedy routines in the venue. He was charged in the Kuala Lumpur sessions court with three counts of uploading videos on his three social media platforms that allegedly touched on racial and religious sensitivities. He was released on bail.

In a move that shocked the locals, the owners of the Crackhouse Comedy Club have been permanently blacklisted from registering a business licence for any premises in Kuala Lumpur. Deputy federal territories minister Jalaluddin Alias said Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) licensing committee decided to revoke the comedy club’s licence effective 30th July. In response, according to Malay Mail, lawyers representing the co-owners of the Crackhouse Comedy Club have demanded that the Kuala Lumpur mayor reverse the ban on the premises and its owners’ freedom to open businesses in Kuala Lumpur, within two days. News portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) reported lawyers from Karpal Singh and Co as saying that they will sue Kuala Lumpur Mayor Datuk Seri Mahadi Che Ngah unless the ban is lifted.The news portal reported that a letter of demand (LoD) was issued to Mahadi on the matter, which highlighted that legal action would be initiated, should no response be received from him within the stipulated time period.The letter reportedly said that Crackhouse Comedy Club owners were not officially notified about the revocation of the club’s licence and the blacklisting, adding that they had never been found guilty of any offence that justified the Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) decision.

Earlier, another woman was accused of committing “obscene acts” while performing at Crackhouse Comedy Club. The 26-year-old woman’s name is Siti Nurmira Abdullah, who has pleaded not guilty in court earlier. She The woman told Judge Siti Amna Ghazali that the allegations against her were false. The woman is also accused of promoting religious strife among Muslims. The woman has claimed trial for causing disharmony among the Muslim community while her boyfriend, Alexander Navin Vijayachandran, pleaded not guilty to uploading insulting content on social media.

While the incident might be easily brushed off in other countries, Southeast country Malaysia where the majority population is Muslims takes jokes against religion very seriously – with insults against Islam punishable with a fine of up to US$676 (RM3,000) and/or a two-year prison sentence. In education and in certain professions, Malays are favoured through quota systems. Malaysia is one of the few countries in the world where the ethnic majority community benefits from quotas despite the fact that the population is made up of several races.

Following the uproar, Crackhouse Comedy Club released a statement on their Facebook page, condemning the act and informing people they had also made a police report against the woman.

A video of the performance, reportedly recorded by the woman’s ‘boyfriend’, made its rounds on social media, grabbing the attention of Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), as well as religious authorities. Naturally, many people who came across the video didn’t take too kindly to it either, Muslim and non-Muslim.

Places in prestigious residential schools in Malaysia are offered only to Malay students, while across the country Malays are given a quota to enable them to have better access and to progress well to tertiary education.

‘It is a deliberate policy of one race dominating public service and education. In other countries minorities get special rights, not here. It is very difficult for minorities to survive here,’ says Sardar V. Harcharan Singh of the Malaysian Gurdwaras Council (MGC).

As religion is so closely connected to ethnicity and nationalism in Malaysia, discrimination is not just on racial grounds but on religious as well.

Non-Muslims face serious issues of discrimination simply because of their religious beliefs.

Many have struggled to strike a balance between upholding free speech and being tolerant of differing views in a backward thinking country like Malaysia and many netizens have condemned DBKL’s action for overstepping its role by imposing a lifetime ban on the owners.