Twenty-five civil society organisations (CSOs) have warned of growing restrictions on freedom of religion in Malaysia following cosmetic entrepreneur Nur Sajat’s arrest by authorities in Thailand.
The CSOs — which include leading rights organisations such as All Women’s Action Society (Awam), Amnesty International Malaysia and Tenaganita — said several state actors had responded with “alarming alacrity” since news of the arrest was first reported by Malay daily Harian Metro on September 20.
They cited, as among them, Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan, who confirmed that the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) is working with the Foreign Ministry and Attorney General’s Chambers to extradite Nur Sajat from Thailand.
Nur Sajat has been charged under Section 10 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor Enactment) 1995 for allegedly insulting Islam.
“However, PDRM reported that she is wanted for Section 9 instead of Section 10 of the Syariah Criminal Offences (Selangor Enactment).
“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,” said the CSOs in a joint statement today.
In the same statement, the CSOs also expressed concern about the threats faced by transgenders and LGBTQ persons in Malaysia.
This, they said, included the Perlis Fatwa Committee’s recent fatwa, titled “Hukum Berinteraksi Dengan Mukhannath (Pondan/Mak Nyah/Bapuk/Pengkid/Tomboi/Transgender)”, which translates to “A guide on interacting with mukhannath (Pondan/Mak Nyah/Bapuk/Pengkid/Tomboy/Transgender)”.
The fatwa categorised these individuals as fasik (violators of Islamic laws) and barred them from entering mosques and from performing the Haj and Umrah.
The CSOs also highlighted PAS’ Bachok MP, Nik Mohamad Abduh Nik Abdul Aziz, who called for more state-sponsored rehabilitation programmes for LGBT persons in Parliament on September 21.
“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. Fifty-four respondents said that they don’t feel safe living in Malaysia.
“According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, between 2017 and 2018, over 50 per cent of people who sought asylum in Australia were reportedly Malaysians. ‘LGBT’ and discrimination on the grounds on ethnicity and religion are two of the four main reasons cited by the Malaysian applicants. Other reasons include domestic violence and family pressure,” said the CSOs.
The CSOs then urged Malaysian authorities and the public to end all investigations and harassment against Nur Sajat, and respect her right to seek asylum as stated in Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“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 September 8, 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,” they said.