Dangerous to inflame religious intolerance against transgender community
11 November 2014
Lawyers for Liberty views with extreme concern the escalating religious rhetoric against the transgender community’s landmark constitutional challenge of section 66 of the Negri Sembilan Shariah Criminal Enactment 1992 which criminalises men cross-dressing.
Among the statements were: the transgender people were challenging God’s law (Mufti Perak); transgender movement has become a “cancer” (ABIM); calling for “jihad” (Dewan Ulama Pas) and defend Islam “by any method” (Minister Jamil Khir Baharom).
As respected religious authorities and organisations with wide reach and influence, it is shocking and irresponsible for them to respond in such an exaggerated and unrestrained manner to an emotive issue, all the more so since the target is among the most vulnerable communities in Malaysia.
What if some misguided persons were to take matters into their own hands or take vigilante action against transgender people in the belief they were performing jihad, defending Islam and God’s law against the transgender “cancer”?
We only need to look at religious inspired hate crimes and mob violence in Pakistan, India and Myanmar to see how dangerous it can be to inflame religious intolerance especially against vulnerable communities.
Further, there are other interpretations in Islam on how best to deal with transgenderism and the need to take into account justice, fairness, civil liberties, privacy and modern day changes including recognising gender identity disorder. There must be room for progressive thoughts and dialogue, rather than demonising and punishing the transgender people’s existence.
While Islam is undoubtedly important and recognised as the official religion, this does not make Malaysia a theocracy and must not detract from the fact that Malaysia is founded on parliamentary democracy where the Federal Constitution, which is secular in nature, reigns supreme and guarantees fundamental rights and minority protection.
Needless to say, the Negri Sembilan Shariah Criminal Enactment which is only a state enactment must be subservient to the Constitution. We applaud the Court of Appeal for standing up and protecting the transgender community’s right to personal liberty, equality, freedom of movement and freedom of expression.
Lawyers for Liberty
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