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KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — Sisters in Islam (SIS) has urged Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad to continue his engagement with the transgender community like he previously did as a mufti, rather than calling for enforcement to “rehabilitate” them.
The Muslim women’s rights group said the religious affairs minister should instead remember how Islam teaches its adherents kindness, compassion and not to discriminate, shame or act violently, regardless of their backgrounds, gender or identities.
“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 had positively engaged with the transgender communities in his capacity as the mufti of the Federal Territories,” the group said in a statement.
“We urge 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,” it added.
In 2018, when he was then Federal Territories mufti, Zulkifli had called on religious authorities to revisit a fatwa, or Islamic edict declaring transgenderism as un-Islamic, adding that the phenomenon is not inherently wrong.
He had also in 2017 reached out to the transgender community via a discussion which he streamed “live” on his Facebook in a session organised by charity group Pertubuhan Kebajikan dan Kesihatan Umum Malaysia together with social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi.
Zulkifli explained he was there not to judge or punish but instead to build bridges between communities.
SIS also questioned the so-called standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the Federal Territories Islamic Religious Department’s (Jawi) enforcement.
“How effective are these SOPs 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 SOPs are properly adhered to?” it asked.
On Friday, the Minister in the Prime Minister's Department said Jawi would not merely be conducting arrests but also provide religious education so that the transgender community can “return to the correct path”.
Zulkifli’s remark appeared to be in response to risqué photos on social media by cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat, which prompted the ire of some Muslim hardliners.