No Right To Cross Dress During Pilgrimage : A Reply To Justice For Sisters – Assoc. Prof. Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar

We of the International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ) write this piece in response to the letter from Justice for Sisters (JFS) published by Malaysiakini on February 4, 2020.

In its said letter, JFS feebly attempted to defend the actions of Muhammad Sajjad bin Kamaruz Zaman which caused an uproar not just amongst Muslims of Malaysia but also worldwide when he, among others, recently entered the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia as a biological man but identified as, and accordingly performed the rites of Umrah (minor pilgrimage) crossed dressed as a woman.

The facts are not in doubt. As far as is ascertainable from publicly available evidence, Muhammad Sajjad was born as and still is biologically and anatomically male. It naturally follows, then, that in spite of whatever hormones he takes, or whatever surgery he has undergone or chooses to undergo, or indeed whatever clothes he chooses to wear, these lifestyle choices do not in their isolation nor collectively change the fact that as a biological male, he is, pursuant to Islamic religious teachings, prohibited from partaking in prayers as a female, nor can he be allowed to stand in line with women during congregational prayer.

In the eyes of Allah S.W.T, the Supreme Lord and Creator of humankind according to Islam as well as most of society, he is a Muslim male. As such, it is still obligatory for him to attend weekly Friday prayers at a mosque, and in his presence, women are still obliged to observe full hijab (covering everything except their faces and hands). The laws which have been ordained by Allah Most High, the God of Islam with respect to differences between men and women still apply to him. He may not shake hands with or in any way touch other women nor may he may not marry another biological male. Even inheritance laws will treat him as a man and accordingly, he is also required to wear two sheets of white cloth (Ihram) during any pilgrimage to Mecca.

No matter what his external appearance is, science confirms that every single somatic cell in his body carries an X and a Y chromosome. This quantifiable and objective reality is also explained in the Noble Qur’an, the Holy Book of Islam, which when referring to the creation of humans, limits their creation to a binary phenomenon of men and women or in pairs. The Shari’a recognizes neither a third sex nor a combination of both sexes in one individual. As far as Islam is concerned, there is no gender fluidity or spectrum which organisations like JFS, taking their cue from other leftist organisations worldwide, seek to impose.

Sajjad’s actions in Mecca were vile, deplorable and fundamentally wrong at their most basic level. Such actions being in clear contravention of the precepts of Islam, they offend the sensitivities of practising Muslims worldwide and counts among the most direct transgression against religious liberty protected in all international human rights instruments, among them the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam and the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration, all of which apply not just upon Sajjad and misguided individuals that make up the JFS, but us all as Malaysians. There is also the obvious yet flagrant disregard for Islam’s position as the religion of our nation, as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.

The transgender ideology which JFS seeks to promote in its letter that we seek to respond to by virtue of this article, is detached from biological and scientific reality. It has accordingly never been recognised as a valid human right.

The 2006 Yogyakarta Principles, which sought to introduce it, has never been accepted by Malaysia nor other nations that base their founding upon the precepts of Islam or any other major religions of the world.

Rather, the 2016 Yogyakarta Declaration on Human Dignity, which was declared on 6 November 2016 following the 5th International Conference of International Association of Muslim Psychologists at Gadjah Mada University in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in response to the 2006 Yogyakarta Principles, rightly defines the transgender ideology as a form of dehumanisation that must be condemned.
Article 7(1) of the said Yogyakarta Declaration states that all human beings have the rights to be protected from various kinds of dehumanisation that endanger child development, family resilience and eventually national resilience such as free sex, drug trafficking, pornography addiction, unnatural sexual orientation and gender identity, paedophilia and other paraphilia.

Article 7(2) entrusts the state with responsibility to protect society from such dehumanisation which is among others, being promoted by JFS.

Further, transgender ideology, as evidenced by the goings on in relation thereto within the countries where it is accepted, brings forth a whole host of serious problems.

From the seemingly simple matter of assigning bathrooms at schools, to serious privacy concerns for young girls and women, not to mention the dangers of voyeurism and sexual assault. Fairness and justice to naturally born women are also sacrificed by the ridiculous idea of allowing young men who are ‘transitioning’ to a female identity, to compete against young women in athletic competitions.

Islam upholds the fundamental truth that our bodies do not belong to us and this extends to every detail thereof, from the tips of our toes right up to the locks of hair upon our heads. Rather, they are created by, and accordingly belong to, the Lord Most High. A commonly recited verse from the Noble Qur’an, particularly recommended to say after hearing news of a person’s death, translates as “Verily, we belong to Allah and to Him will be our return”. Our bodies are a trust or ‘amanah’ which we hold.

This accords with the 2016 Yogyakarta Declaration, Article 22 of which states that all human beings must bear in their minds that human rights come with duties and responsibilities to their God, states and fellow human beings and that accordingly, human rights are to be exercised harmoniously with duties and responsibilities stipulated by religions, beliefs, state as well as customary laws.

This is also evident in Article 7 of the AHRD where the realisation of human rights must be considered in the regional and national context bearing in mind different political, economic, legal, social, cultural, historical and religious backgrounds. It is the same with Article 24 of the CDHRI which stipulates that rights shall accord with Shari’a.

Accordingly, we are prohibited from appearing as the opposite gender and also from permanently altering what has been bestowed upon us, much less regarding these wayward actions as any form of rights. Still, even though the actions of transgenders contravene the Shari’a, this does not warrant open season of taunting and degradation on them, particularly as many may suffer from mental illness or psychological issues underlying their behaviour. Needless to say, doxxing and infringements of private and personal information are all prohibited and we accordingly, condemn the foul and hateful treatment visited upon Sajjad by those who seek only to cause harm and sympathise with his current predicament.

Malaysians of all races who subscribe to any of our multitude of faiths are fortunate to have a Constitution enshrining Islam as the official religion of our federation as it is becoming increasingly evident that Muslims are the ‘last men standing’ (pun intended) in setting clear boundaries within the perplexing world we live in today.

Those who are confused or beset with mental anguish and anxieties from the multifarious choices in which they can supposedly present their ‘identity’ can take comfort within the firm and clear stability which Islam offers. As the madness of secular liberal norms escalate, so too, God-willing, will the reversions back to true submission to our Creator.

Associate Professor Dr Rafidah Hanim Mokhtar
President, The International Women’s Alliance for Family Institution and Quality Education (WAFIQ)
Co-Chairpreson, Malaysian Alliance of Civil Society Organisations in the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Process (MACSA)

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