One of several photos of Ariff Alfian Rosli (left) and his "husband" that have been widely circulated in Malaysian blogs and other social media. (Photo source: decrewz.com)
KUALA LUMPUR: A wedding that allegedly took place in Ireland recently has caused a sensation in Malaysia – because the groom was a Malaysian man who had previously been reported missing, and because his “bride” was another man.
Photos said to be of a gay marriage ceremony that took place in Dublin began appearing online several days ago. The photos show a Malay man in traditional Malay attire, standing with another man who unknown sources say is an Irishman named Jonathan. In some of the photos, the two men are shown embracing and even sharing a kiss.
Bloggers who published the photos, which first appeared on Twitter on December 16 and quickly spread on that site and on blogs, identified the Malay man as Ariff Alfian Rosli, who had been sponsored by Petronas to study medicine at University College Dublin.
Ariff Alfian’s name had appeared in the news several days before this controversy erupted. A December 13 article in Utusan Online stated that Ariff’s father, Rosli Haron, had not heard from him in three years.
Two days later, Utusan Online reported that an investigation by the Malaysian embassy in Ireland had found Ariff who was safe and sound. However, Malaysian authorities were unable to pass information regarding his studies or even his contact information to his family because of Ireland’s privacy laws.
The most widespread reaction to news of the wedding among Malay bloggers and their readers has been shock. Some have harshly condemned Ariff’s actions and his sexual orientation, such as one blogger who called him “treacherous” and said he did “what the worshippers of Lucifer were hoping for”. Some blog posts on the issue have attracted hundreds of comments, several of which called Ariff "stupid".
However, the majority of comments have expressed sadness rather than anger, with many Muslims expressing sympathy for Ariff's family and hope that he might come to regret his actions and repent.
"We pray that Ariff Alfian Rosli realises that many Malaysians know about his same-sex marriage and want him to return to the right path," said popular gossip blogger Beautiful Nara, who added, "To Ariff's family, I hope you will be patient at this trying time. Hopefully everything will return to normal."
Similar remarks were made by several other bloggers and commenters.
A Facebook page appeared on December 17 called 'Campaign to bring Ariff Alfian Rosli back to Malaysia and save his faith'. Comments there have included both insults and messages of support for Ariff, but as with blogs (and in keeping with the page's title) most of the comments have focused on calling for Ariff to repent.
On December 20, some of the questions surrounding Ariff's case were answered when an article appeared in the Irish Times, in which Ariff broke his silence over the matter.
The article, entitled 'Malaysian Muslims seek action over man missing in Ireland', quoted Ariff as saying, "I am not missing. The Irish authorities know I am legally resident here. The Malaysian embassy has also been aware for several years that I am residing here legally.”
Ariff did not comment on whether or not he had indeed married a man, but he did speak out about his faith.
“I have not converted to any religion, contrary to what has been reported," he said. "I was born a Muslim, I am still a Muslim and will remain a Muslim ’til the day I die. Nothing will shake me from my faith.”
Aside from the wedding itself, another thing Ariff did not comment on was the fact that his father -- who Ariff has not spoken to since a falling-out in 2009 -- will have to pay back RM890,000 as a result of Ariff's failure to complete his studies and return to Malaysia.
This has become a focus of criticism by Malaysians in the last couple of days, with many commenters questioning Ariff's decision to leave his family with substantial debt.
Many of the nearly 200 comments on a December 20 article about Ariff at a local news portal have focused on the RM890,000. Even some comments expressing support for Ariff have taken issue with his failure to pay off his education loan.
"Ariff, I do hope you stay in Ireland, there's obviously nothing left for you back here in Malaysia," said one commenter. "God knows what sort of danger you'd be putting yourself in if you come home. I hope you and Jonathan are able to live your lives together in peace over there."
"On another note," the commenter added, "pay back the money!! It's the least you can do, dude."