Trans woman flees Malaysia after charge for wearing hijab
Nur Sajat wore a hijab and attended Muslim prayer at a building she was opening in Kuala Lumpur back in 2018, on her birthday. Three years later Malaysian authorities levelled charges against her, prompting her to leave the country.
“When I received refuge in Australia, I felt protected to be my true self, to be free,” Nur said in an interview with The New York Times.
“I felt trapped in my own country, where I was born, because of the laws there that criminalise me and consider me a man.”
Malaysia operates on a legal system that works on both civil law and Sharia law; non-Muslims are governed by the former, and Muslim by the latter.
However, laws pertaining to LGBTQ people are not consistently enforced, and Nur said she had been involved in several ceremonies which she attended wearing a hijab – but this time, the authorities had gotten involved.
“I was born and raised as a Muslim person so I was taught to do things in an Islamic way,” she said. “I conducted a halal business.”
Religious affairs minister Idris Ahmad suggested placing Nur in a rehabilitation camp for transgender people, and in January she attended a summons from the religious department of the state of Selangor following a complaint, where she says she was assaulted.
“They think it is justified to touch my private parts and my breasts because they perceive me as a male person,” Sajat said. “They didn’t treat me with any compassion or humanity.”
Following her own complaint to the police that went unanswered, Nur fled to Thailand, where she was arrested for entering the country illegally, and later made her way to Australia.
“I was trapped and cornered in Malaysia because of the Sharia system,” she said. “My very being, my existence, was being questioned. But I am very firm in my identity as a woman. This is who I am.”