In light of Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department in charge of religious affairs’ recent statement on granting permission to the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department (Jawi) to enforce action towards the transgender community, Sisters in Islam (SIS) would like to call for compassion, love and kindness to the transgender community and other marginalised communities.
Islam teaches us to be kind and compassionate to everyone and not to discriminate, shame or act violently, regardless of their backgrounds, gender or identities. Thus, SIS disagrees with Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri who has given Jawi authorities full licence to act against the transgender community. It will inflict more harm than good.
In Zulkifli’s statement, he mentioned that the Jawi authorities “must comply with the standard operating procedures, which have been put in place”.
This raises many questions. What are the standard operating procedures exactly? How effective are these procedures in ensuring that the individual is protected from any kinds of harm? Will their dignity be preserved during raids? What kinds of mechanisms are in place to ensure that these procedures are properly adhered to?
The transgender community in Malaysia constantly face discrimination, stigma, harassment and systemic inequality which result in many experiencing sexual harassment and assault from religious authorities during detention and when they were off duty. They also have limited resources to defend themselves, a limited support system from their families or friends, which can cause them to be shunned from society, and limited access to justice and legal protection.
Enforcement to educate the transgender community back to the right path would only heighten the stigmatisation against them and aggravate the aggression towards them by the public, making them more vulnerable to violence and threats to their lives.
In the past, Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri had positively engaged with the transgender communities in his capacity as the Mufti of the Federal Territories. We urge that instead of enforcement of religious education, that such engagements continue in order to understand the situation and challenges faced by the community and to show more compassion and empathy towards them and treat them with full recognition of their humanity and dignity.