This Country May Ban Trans People From Entering Mosques

The idea in Malaysia would apply in federal territories, such as the capital.
September 27, 2021, 8:51am
Women; prayers; mosque
Muslim women in Malaysia practice social distancing at a mosque during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Photo: Mohd RASFAN / AFP

Malaysian officials are considering banning transgender people from entering many mosques and other religious compounds, as the situation for the country’s LGBTQ community worsens.

The idea, which was floated in an interview with an official from the religious affairs department, follows the recent arrest in Thailand of a prominent Malaysian trans entrepreneur, who was accused of insulting Islam after wearing women’s clothes at a mosque back home. 


Religion remains one of Malaysia’s most sensitive topics, especially when it comes to Islam, the country’s official faith practiced by more than 60 percent of the population. 

Speaking to local reporters on the sidelines of an event on Friday, religious affairs deputy minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary raised the issue of “maintaining sanctities at mosques” and said that the ban would avoid confusion among Malay Muslim communities. He cited the example of Perlis, a small northern state bordering Thailand, which officially bans crossdressers and trans people from its mosques.

“For me, what Perlis is doing is something that can be emulated, because if a man enters a mosque wearing headscarves, it is very inappropriate,” he was quoted as saying. “If [he] enters the women’s section of the mosque, it will disturb their privacy.”

He added: “But if they had come to the mosque to repent, then it’s okay.”

The proposal would apparently apply in federal territories like the capital Kuala Lumpur and the city of Putrajaya, where parliament and various government administrations are located.

Other conservative politicians and religious figures also weighed in on the idea of a ban. Wan Salim Wan Mohd Noor, a mufti from the island of Penang, told the online news portal Malaysiakini that while he was sympathetic towards the trans community, they needed to make more of an “effort” to adapt to community norms.

“The mosque administration should advise the group gently and prudently so that they respect the sanctity of the Islamic houses of worship with appropriate attire and no longer be looked down upon and considered strange,” he said.


Rights groups have documented deteriorating conditions for LGBTQ people in Malaysia, an issue that has gotten more attention after Nur Sajat, who built a successful cosmetics company, fled the country in March.

The transgender entrepreneur had failed to appear for a Sharia court hearing over a case that had been brought against her for dressing in traditional Muslim women’s clothes at a religious event that took place at a local mosque in 2018. Her absence prompted an intense monthslong search by Malaysian police and religious authorities. 

She was finally arrested at a luxury condominium in Bangkok last week, sparking outrage from rights groups who expressed their concern about the persecution awaiting Sajat back home. Authorities released her on bail and she is reportedly seeking asylum in a third country.

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