KUALA LUMPUR, April 4 — The Federal Territories Islamic Department (JAWI) raided a dinner by trans women last night that hosted a so-called beauty contest on grounds that it violated a fatwa against beauty pageants, a lawyer said.
Lawyer and activist Siti Kasim, who attended the closed-door function at an upscale hotel here, said the religious authorities have also detained the event’s transgender organiser.
“The officer told me that it’s against the law to have a beauty contest — it’s ‘haram’ in Malaysia, based on a fatwa,” Siti told Malay Mail Online today.
“It’s not a real beauty pageant, it’s a show,” she added.
She said about 10 JAWI officers, together with the media, came to the hotel at about 10pm yesterday and prevented people from leaving the dinner that had about 200 transgender guests.
According to the lawyer, the religious authorities did not have a warrant and were unaccompanied by the police.
Siti said she called the police and that after they came, the guests were allowed to leave. However, JAWI officers took her and the event organiser to the Dang Wangi police station.
According to Siti, JAWI officers later denied at the police station that she was under arrest, but accused the event organiser of organising a beauty contest that was against the 1996 religious edict, which has been gazetted as law, prohibiting Muslim women from joining beauty pageants.
“If they say these people are not women, then why are they coming in?” Siti questioned.
She also said she was considering suing JAWI for wrongful arrest after the religious officers took her to the police station in their van.
The fatwa against beauty pageants entered the spotlight in 2013 when four Muslim contestants were dropped from the Miss Malaysia World 2013 beauty pageant and investigated for breaching the National Fatwa Council’s edict.
Federal Territories Mufti Datuk Wan Zahidi Wan Teh reportedly said the fatwa was gazetted under the Administration of Islamic Law (Federal Territories) Act in February 1996.
In 1997, the Shariah court in Kuala Lumpur fined two Muslim contestants of the Miss Malaysia Petite pageant for violating the fatwa, while three other contestants were brought to trial in Selangor for breaching a similar religious edict.