The transgender woman left Malaysia after wearing the hijab


In February 2018, Noor Sajad attended a Muslim prayer session in a new building near the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, on his birthday. Three years after that sardorial exam, Malaysian authorities accused him of “insulting Islam” and wearing female clothing.

On Monday, transgender entrepreneur and social media personality Ms Noor Sajad announced that she had fled to Australia to escape a prison threat in her home state of Selangor.

“When I took refuge in Australia, I felt protected to be truly self-sufficient and independent,” Ms Noor Sajad told the New York Times. “In my own country where I was born, I was trapped by laws that criminalized me and treated me as a human being.”

Ms. Noor Sajad’s predicament – having to leave home to be herself – is widely reflected in Malaysia’s more conservative Malay and liberal Muslims and a nationalist division between the minority Chinese and Indians who emphasize the multifaceted, diverse heritage of the Southeast Asian nation.

Malaysia is bound by a hybrid legal system when it comes to personal or family matters. More than half of the population of Muslims must follow Sharia law. Non-Muslims are subject to civil law. Although some strict Sharia laws are rarely enforced, the ruling coalition, which has the support of the country’s Muslim Malay base, is tightening the law by targeting transgender and gay people.

Shortly after taking office as Malaysia’s new president, last month, Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yacoub said, “As Malaysia is an Islamic country, the government is serious about the problem of LGBT people in the country. “Any person who violates the law must face action. Nevertheless, at the same time, they need to be guided to return to the right path and raise awareness.

Led by Ms. Noor Sajdah, it means, at the very least, being placed in a rehabilitation camp for transgender people, Islamic officials said. On Tuesday, Idris Ahmed, the minister for religious affairs in the prime minister’s department, offered Ms. Noor Sajad such a camp as a more tasty option than imprisonment.

It is not clear why the charges were leveled three years after Ms Noor Sajad presided over the prayer ceremony in female dress. Ms. Noor Sajad, who has a large following on social media, said that according to Islamic custom, she regularly donates a portion of her proceeds to charity by conducting such events.

“I was born and raised as a Muslim person so I was taught to do things the Islamic way,” he said. “I ran a halal business.”

In January, Ms. Noor Sajad received a call from the religious department of the state of Selangor, where her health and lifestyle business is located. This is a kind of mistake that causes fear for transgender people in Malaysia. Along with several friends and family, Ms. Noor Sajad went to meet with officials from the Islamic Department, who said they had received public complaints about her.

While inside, Ms Noor Sajad said at least three people kicked her and pulled her down. They rubbed her breasts, she said. On the same day, she was handcuffed, arrested and officially charged in Sharia court. She was taken into male custody overnight.

Ms. Noor Sajd’s mother, who witnessed the attack, confronted an officer and asked how Muslims could do something like that. He replied that Mrs. Noor Sajad was a man so it was okay. (The account of her attack was confirmed by an activist who spoke to her mother.)

“They think it is fair for them to touch my private parts and my breasts because they make me feel like a male person,” Ms Noor Sajad said. “They did not treat me with any kindness or humanity.”

After the incident, Ms Noor Sajad lodged a complaint with the police and a few days later a religious department enforcement officer was called to give a report, officials said. After that, no further action was taken. The religious department declined to comment.

Panicked Ms. Noor Sajad fled to neighboring Thailand in February, after which she was convicted of trespassing. The offense may have been worthy of extradition to Malaysia, and Malaysian authorities have made it clear that they want her back. But Ms Noor Sajad left Thailand peacefully this month and ended up in Australia, where other transgender Malaysians have been resettled through the United Nations refugee process.

“I have always been a victim to be distracted from big issues and my case is bustling in the presence of my social media,” Ms Noor Sajad said.

Targeting transgender people has intensified under the current ruling coalition, which replaced the opposition last year. A high-ranking religious official has encouraged the country’s Islamic authorities to arrest transgender people. In September, an Islamic council in the state of Perlis banned transgender people from entering mosques.

By the middle of this year, more than 1,700 people were forced into a “spiritual camp” run by the government, facing “unnatural sexual intercourse.”

The law targeting homosexuals and transgender people in Malaysia is not limited to religious courts. British colonial sanctions outlawed “bodily knowledge against the order of nature” for Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Sharia courts have the power to order the beating of Muslims who engage in same-sex behavior, but have not been convicted for years. Then, in 2018, two women were subjected to brutal corporal punishment for having sex in the conservative state of Terengganu. A year later, five people were sentenced to life in prison in Selangor for the same crime, and this year the verdict was partially overturned by the High Court.

Ms Noor Sajad posted a video on social media earlier this year questioning whether she should give up her faith. He later deleted the video and told the Times he was “concerned” by the attack by religious officials. Abandoning Islam in Malaysia can be considered a crime.

“Islam is a sacred religion,” said Ms Noor Sajad. “This is a personal matter. I have a right to privacy.”

Mr. Idris, the minister for religious affairs, said last month that Ms Noor Sajad should “admit guilt” and “return to default”, “no problem”. He mentioned Mrs. Noor Sajad by the full name given to him when he was born.

“We are not trying to punish, we are focusing more on education,” Mr Idris added.

Ms. Noor Sajad runs a skin care, health and clothing business, and she has been in the position of one of Malaysia’s most influential people since she appeared on a reality TV show. Last year, he went on a pilgrimage to Mecca and documented the trip on Instagram, sparking controversy from some Malaysian clerics. The woman was dressed in prayer attire and was considered by an official to have “married Islam”.

In 2019, religious officials attempted to conduct physical tests on Ms Noor Sajad to determine her gender. She refused.

“She has no protection in Malaysia. Not only is she being prosecuted, but the government is hell-bent on using this event to impose broader restrictions on all LGBTQ individuals,” said Tilaka Sulathrey, co-founder of the Justice for Sisters group. Malaysia.

Other transgender Malaysians, the country’s religious authority, have recently received funding, Mrs.

“I, myself, will leave when the time comes, because I don’t want to be in a community like this,” said transgender musician Shika Corona.

Since the isolation of the corona virus in Australia, Ms. Noor Sajad has been forced to abandon a successful business “in the blink of an eye”. She loses her home, but sees no way back until laws aimed at homosexuals and transgender people continue to be enforced.

“I was trapped and cornered in Malaysia because of the Shariah system,” he said. “My existence, my existence is in question. But I am firm in my identity as a woman. This is who I am.”

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