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Community building at the intersection of Muslim and transgender/non-binary identities
A look at cis allies who are Muslim, and public servants who are TNB and Muslim
This post has 2 sections:
a) Muslims who are transgender or non-binary serving the larger (predominantly cisgender) community through community service and/or public office.
b) Stories of Muslim institutions and cisgender (non-transgender) Muslim individuals who create safer spaces for transgender Muslims.
Note: There is a misconception that khwajasira, kinnar and hijra communities in South Asia (termed ‘transgender’ in the media articles linked below) consist only of intersex individuals. This is a myth, according to the article “Myths about Hijras” by Dr. Humaira Jamil & Dr. Anila Kamal of Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, published in Foundation University Journal of Psychology, 2017, Vol. 1, No. 4, 63-76.
Most people in “third gender” communities are MtF transgender individuals. Adnan Hossein’s article “The paradox of recognition: hijra, third gender and sexual rights in Bangladesh” published in Culture, Health & Sexuality: An International Journal for Research, Intervention and Care Volume 19, 2017 - Issue 12, also clarifies that the majority of people who are identified as “third gender” are MtF transgender individuals and not intersex.
Muslims who are transgender/non-binary and who serve the larger community
1. Nazrul Islam Ritu, mayor of Trilochanpur, Bangladesh
Nazrul Islam Ritu (pronouns: she, he), left her hometown of Trilochanpur at a young age to seek refuge with a transgender commune in Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka. In adulthood, she returned home as a philanthropist and contributed to her community, helping to build 2 mosques.
In 2021, the town elected Nazrul Islam Ritu as the country’s first transgender mayor. Ritu said: “The glass ceiling is breaking. It is a good sign…The victory means they really love me and they have embraced me as their own. I will dedicate my life to public service.” (Al Jazeera)
Nurul Hossain, one of Ritu's constituents said. "I'm sure, she can fulfil the promises she made to us because she has always been a philanthropist, helping people." (Deccan Herald)
2. Mauree Nivek Rajah Salima Turner, state legislator for Oklahoma’s 88th district
Mauree Turner (pronouns: they/them) served on the board of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and drove the ACLU’s “Campaign for Smart Justice” before running for office in 2020. They were elected to serve from 2021-2022 and re-elected for the 2023-2024 term.
3. Liliana Bakhtiari, city council member of Atlanta, Georgia
Liliana Bakhtiari (pronouns: they, she) , a community organizer born to Iranian parents in Atlanta, served as Emergency Homeless Response Coordinator for Partners for Home during the pandemic.
Bakhtiari was elected to the Atlanta City Council in 2021, becoming the first non-binary member of the Atlanta City Council and also its first openly queer Muslim member. Bakhtiari’s immigrant father was a local pharmacist who supported transgender employees of color and assisted people who could not afford their medications.
4. Hazreen Shaik Daud, political secretary to state assemblyman in Penang, Malaysia
Hazreen Shaik Daud, a former health NGO worker who spoke 5 languages fluently, worked as political secretary to Teh Yee Cheu, the state assembly member representing Tanjung Bungah in 2013. Her work included education, health, and human rights issues.
Hazreen Shaik Daud is the first known transgender person in Malaysian politics. She studies the Qur’an weekly.
Allies who are Muslim supporting community members who are transgender/non-binary
In 2020, Mufti Abdur Rahman Azad led a group of jurists to open Bangladesh’s first madrasah for transgender people. Dawatul Koran Third Sex Madrassa was funded by a foundation set up by the late Ahmad Ferdous Bari Chowdhury, "a businessman who wanted to educate the hijra community."
Mufti Abdur Rahman Azad said in an ABC interview: “We are responsible for the way we treated the hijras. Our country is responsible for it; our society is responsible for it; I am responsible for it… We want them to be respected, just like anyone else."
In 2021, the School Education Department of Punjab Province, Pakistan opened the first government-run school for transgender students in the country. Dr Murad Raas, who was the Education Minister of Punjab at that time, spoke about plans for the TransEducation program.
Students praised the school, which is staffed by trans teachers, for providing a space where they can learn safely without bullying and bigotry they encountered in cisgender-dominated schools.
In 2001, Dr. Muhammad Amjad Saqib started the nonprofit Akhuwat Foundation in Pakistan to provide microcredit to low-income people according to Islamic principles. In a 2021 interview with UrduPoint, Dr Saqib talks about his faith and about creating a safe space for the trans community.
Dr. Saqib was aware that the transgender community faced greater economic hardship than other communities. His Akhuwat Foundation created the Khwajasira Support Program to help the third gender community access health services, psychological support, and identity documents.
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