[PRESS STATEMENT] The Continuous Persecution of Nur Sajat Underscores Growing Extremism in Malaysia

[PRESS STATEMENT] The Continuous Persecution of Nur Sajat Underscores Growing Extremism in Malaysia

Picture from UN News

We, members of civil society, are deeply concerned about the developments surrounding Nur Sajat’s case. On 8 September 2021, Nur Sajat was arrested by the Thai Immigration Department following a request by the Malaysian authorities. These dangerous developments, taking place against the backdrop of growing restriction of freedom of religion and increasing anti-LGBTQ sentiments, have a wide-ranging impact on all people, not just Sajat and LGBTIQ persons.

Since the exposé by Harian Metro on 20 September 2020, several state actors have responded with alarming alacrity. Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department Director Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan stated that PDRM is working with the Foreign Ministry and the Attorney-General’s Chambers to extradite Nur Sajat. According to a media statement, Nur Sajat is wanted for the following charges:

  • Insulting Islam (S. 9 of the Selangor Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment)
  • Obstructing public servant in discharge of his public functions (S. 186 of the Penal Code)
  • Using criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duty (S. 353 of the Penal Code)

The latter two charges are allegedly related to a scuffle that took place on JAIS premises when JAIS officers proceeded to arrest her after taking her statement. Nur Sajat reported that she was violently pinned down and handcuffed. Nur Sajat also made a police report against the JAIS officers on January 13. However, the status of the investigation remains unknown.

In a communication to the Malaysian government on Nur Sajat’s case (JUA MYS 4/2021)​​, UN Special Mandate holders stated that “Ms. Sajat cannot be discriminated against and be restricted in the exercise of her right to freedom of religion or belief solely based on her gender identity. As provided in Article 29(2) of the UDHR, in the exercise of one’s rights and freedoms, one shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society, none of which is negatively impacted in regard to the activities of Ms. Sajat.”

In this communication the government was asked to provide the following information:

  • What steps have been taken to guarantee Ms Nur Sajat’s right to freedom of religion or belief without discrimination and harassment by non-state actors and State agents.
  • The measures taken by the Government to protect Ms Nur Sajat and her family from further intimidation, harassment or pressure and to ensure their safety.
  • What measures are planned or implemented to combat the growing pattern of incitement to violence?
  • The Permanent Mission of Malaysia replied on 24 March 2021 by saying that they have “transmitted the Joint Urgent Appeal (JUA) to the urgent attention of relevant Malaysian authorities.”

Wide-Ranging Impact

Since the release of the Harian Metro expose, various state actors have expressed restrictive measures against trans and LGBTQ persons, which have been gradually escalating since the introduction of fatwa prohibiting trans people’s rights to self-determination and bodily autonomy in 1982.

The Perlis Fatwa Committee released a fatwa, titled Hukum Berinteraksi Dengan Mukhannath (Pondan/Mak Nyah/Bapuk/Pengkid/Tomboi/Transgender) or a guide on interaction with mukhannath (Pondan/Mak Nyah/Bapu /Pengkid/Tomboy/Transgender), which considers transgender and LGBQ people in general as fasik or someone who violates Islamic law because of their gender identity and gender expression as well as perceived sexual orientation. The committee’s views on gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation are inaccurate, not evidence and rights-based, and most importantly extremely harmful. Among the harmful things in the fatwa is the prohibition of transgender people from entering mosques and performing haj and umrah because of their gender identity.

YB Nik Abduh (MP Bachok, Kelantan) called for more state-sponsored rehabilitation programs for LGBT persons in Parliament on 21 September 2021. Rehabilitation or conversion practices are widely discredited because of their long-lasting harmful impact not just on LGBTIQ persons but also on people who are connected to them.

This comes after the Prime Minister, in answering a question in parliament, noted that the government has rolled out a range of activities to ‘bring LGBT people back to the right path’.

The continuous and escalating anti-LGBT sentiments in Malaysia are extremely concerning.

A Suhakam study on the discrimination against transgender people based in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor found that 72 of 100 respondents thought of migrating to countries with better legal protection, legal gender recognition, accepting environment, among others. 54 respondents said that they don’t feel safe living in Malaysia. According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, between 2017 and 2018, over 50% of people who sought asylum in Australia were reportedly Malaysians. ’LGBT’ and discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity and religion are two of the four main reasons cited by Malaysian applicants. Other reasons include domestic violence and family pressure.

We recall that in its bid to secure a seat at the Human Rights Council, Malaysia made several pledges during the Human Rights Council pledging session on 8 September 2021. Malaysia reiterated its unequivocal commitment to advancing human rights. In line with this, the Malaysian government must respect the principles of non-refoulement and Nur Sajat’s right to seek asylum.

We call on the state and members of the public to end all investigations and harassment against Nur Sajat and respect her right to seek asylum as stated under Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The threats and risks against Nur Sajat because of her gender identity are blatant. Over the years, Nur Sajat has experienced bullying, doxing, harassment with impunity by both state and non-state actors, which have escalated by the day.

Appendix

Summary of activities by the government in relation to LGBT issues as stated in Parliament on 14 September 2021 by Ismail Sabri, the Prime Ministers:

  • Pelan Tindakan Sosial Islam, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (PTSI JAKIM) 2019-2025 or Action Plan on Social aspects of Islam, Jabatan Kemajuan Islam Malaysia (PTSI JAKIM) 2019-2025 was developed to address social ills among Muslims in Malaysia, including LGBT issues. The action plan has led to the creation of a task force made up of a few ministries and agencies who are working together to address LGBT issues
  • Support and Guidance programmes.
  • Mukhayaam or religious camps, which aims to provide “spiritual guidance and awareness” and health information, particularly HIV related information to LGBT persons. As of June 2021, at least 1,733 LGBT people have participated in the camps. As a result of the camps, 12 NGO komuniti Hijrah or ex-LGBT NGOs consiing of Muslim LGBT persons have been established.
  • Follow up and support programmes through religious sessions or classes and seed funds for business by the state Islamic departments and councils, among others.
  • Education and advocacy programmes in relation to LGBT issues, which includes seminars targeting school and university students, school counsellors, parents, volunteers and representatives of islamic NGOs, health providers. The seminar provides information in relation to how to stay away from LGBT behaviour, how to help someone to abandon their LGBT behaviour, among others. On 4 September 2021, a Pre-Workshop Conference for a Nusantara Religious Camp with LGBT community from Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore was held.
  • Donations through the Musa’adah Fund for LGBT people. 525 Mukhayyam participants benefited through the fund.
  • Establishment of a social center. The Family and social community service center or Pusat Khidmat Keluarga dan Sosial Komuniti (PKKSK) under JAKIM provides syariah counseling, islamic psychospiritual therapy and Ilaj syarie (Islamic treatment). These services are available nationwide
  • Development of publications by JAKIM, which includes the Ilaj Wa Syifa (Treatment and Rehabilitation) module.

This statement is endorsed by:

  1. Justice for Sisters
  2. Agora Society
  3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  4. Amnesty International Malaysia
  5. Association of Women Lawyers (AWL)
  6. Center for Independent Journalism
  7. Deaf LGBTIQ community
  8. Diversity Malaysia
  9. EMPOWER Malaysia
  10. JEJAKA
  11. KRYSS Network
  12. Legal Dignity
  13. PLUHO (People Like Us Hang Out!)
  14. North South Initiative
  15. Sisters in Islam (SIS)
  16. Shh… Diam!
  17. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
  18. PELANGI Campaign
  19. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  20. Our Journey
  21. Transmen of Malaysia
  22. Tenaganita
  23. The KLSCAH Women Division
  24. UMANY
  25. Women Center for Change (WCC)

Full endorsement list here.

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