Malaysia’s Religious Affairs Minister has caused outcry after giving “full license” to Islamic authorities to arrest and “educate” transgender people.
Minister Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri announced on Facebook on July 10 he’d given the country’s religious police, called JAWI, “full licence to carry out its enforcement actions” against transgender people.
He also said the authorities should subject transgender people to “religious education” in a bid to “return them to the right path”.
“Islam is a religion that wants to educate,” his Facebook post read.
“We will work towards coordinated efforts from all agencies under the religious affairs wing in the prime minister’s department.”
Human rights activists condemned Zulkifli’s comments, which they say amount to state-sanctioned persecution.
Community organisation SEED Malaysia said the comments would “fuel hatred” against the country’s already marginalised transgender community.
“The transgender community in Malaysia already face continued persecution by the state and broader society,” the group said in a statement.
“The statement by Dr. Zulkifli and the threat of arrest will drive the transgender community further into hiding. This will deteriorate the communities’ access to basic rights even more.
“Like all Malaysians, the transgender community have the constitutional rights to live with dignity and to not be discriminated against.”
Malaysia religion minister alludes to conversion therapy ‘torture’
Local group Justice for Sisters said the minister’s statement would lead to both police and vigilantes targeting trans women.
“We are already observing questions and concerns over personal security, safety and well-being by transgender persons across the country,” the group warned.
“We are also deeply disturbed by the government’s perception of transgender people as less than human and as undeserving of respect and dignity.”
The group said the suggestion of rehabilitating transgender people was a reference to harmful “conversion therapy”.
“These practices are forms of torture given the magnitude of harm on the individual and also their loved ones.”
The predominantly Muslim country forbids homosexuality under its Islamic laws. The country’s secular laws also criminalise gay sex.
Last November, Malaysian authorities caned four men for having gay sex in violation of Islamic laws, angering human rights groups.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.