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Muslim cleric calls for changes to fatwa against trans people in Malaysia

Written by gaytourism

Malaysian Mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri. | Photo: Twitter via @AGCPutrajaya

A leading Muslim cleric in Malaysia has called for a reconsideration of the fatwa against trans people.

A fatwa is an Islamic legal pronouncement, issued by an expert in religious law such as, a mufti. The fatwa is about a specific issue, usually at the request of an individual or judge to resolve an issue where Islamic law is unclear.

In 1982 the Malaysia’s most important Muslim authority, the National Fatwa Council, banned gender affirming surgery. The Council believed it and trans people were ‘un-Islamic’.

In Malaysia it is illegal to be trans, but Mufti Datuk Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri said that being trans does not go against Islam. Zulfiki is the Mufti of the Federal Territories, three combined areas of Malaysia governed directly by the government.

According to a report in the Malay Mail Online, Zulkifli said Muslim clerics should reconsider the fatwa.

‘Since their identity is inert and not an impersonation, as long as they do not use their identity for immoral purposes, it is not a shame and they are accepted in Islam,’ he said.

Religious approval is important

Dr ​Sima Barmania specializes in research on the role of Islam in shaping HIV prevention and trans women in Malaysia.

Her work has been critical in influencing religious leaders in Malaysia on trans issues.

Barmania told Gay Star News Zulkifli’s comments were ‘monumental’.

‘It’s a good thing- religious leaders are influential in this society- they can talk about stigma and discrimination against the transgender community,’ she said.

‘As a doctor and researcher, I want the recommendations of my research to come to fruition. One recommendation was the need for meaningful dialogue between religious leaders and transgender people.’

While Barmania does not claim to speak on behalf of trans people but understood the impact the Mufti’s words had.

‘The first step is to rehumanise transgender people, some people do not even accept them as human beings,’ she said.

‘But how will you change that perception of transgender or any ‘other’ if you do not meet them and understand them.

‘There are some people that think there should be no engagement with religious leaders at all, but they are very influential, maybe they won’t recognise them as another gender but can they recognise them as a human being. That’s the first step.’

Saying sorry

Zulkifli not only said the fatwa should be reconsidered but that he wanted to work closely with trans groups.

Last year, after visiting a welfare centre he apologized to a number of marginalized groups including; trans people and sex workers, for the way Malaysia had treated them.

“What heart will not be touched after seeing them, who are despised by society, jostling to greet us. Their faces clearly showed how excited and moved they were by our presence,” he wrote.

‘We as representatives of the ummah sincerely apologise for the discomfiting attitudes of some Muslims against these communities,’ the Malay Mail Online reported him saying.

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