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Islam, Women and Feminism ( 29 May 2016, NewAgeIslam.Com)

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)’s Muslim Women Wing Rashtriya Muslim Manch (MRM) Begins Drive to End Triple Talaq

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo: A uniform civil code has been on the RSS’ agenda for long and has also been consistently raised by its protégé — the BJP in its election manifesto over the years. (Shutterstock)

 

Islamic Conversion and Custody Conundrum in Malaysia

Muslim Women Are the First to Pay the Price for Islamophobia in Europe

Fortress of Faith: The Brave German Woman Push Back On Islam in Germany

Israeli-Arab Crowned Winner of First Transgender Beauty Pageant

Muslim Women Thank Orange Ice Cream Shop Owners For Standing Up To Racist Customer

Meet Nisha Ayub, Who Survived Years of Suffering to Become Malaysia’s Most Prominent Transgender Activist

Compiled by New Age Islam News Bureau

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/islam,-women-and-feminism/new-age-islam-news-bureau/rashtriya-swayamsevak-sangh-(rss)’s-muslim-women-wing-rashtriya-muslim-manch-(mrm)-begins-drive-to-end-triple-talaq/d/107473

 

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Sangh’s Muslim women wing begins drive to end triple talaq

May 30, 2016

Lending weight to the RSS’ demand for a uniform civil code, the women’s wing of Rashtriya Muslim Manch (MRM), an affiliate of the Sangh Parivar, has started a campaign to register all marriages and divorce cases to stop the practice of ‘triple talaq’, whereby men end marriages by merely uttering the word divorce thrice.A senior functionary of MRM told HT talks with religious and socio-cultural bodies are under way and a meeting in June will churn out details to stop this.“Just as registration of births and deaths is mandatory, marriages and divorces should also be compulsorily registered. Our religion does

not allow a man to end a marriage by merely repeating talaq thrice. There is a provision for counseling,” said Shehnaz Afzal, head of the women’s wing of MRM.

A uniform civil code has been on the RSS’ agenda for long and has also been consistently raised by its protégé — the BJP in its election manifesto over the years.

Referring to the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937, which allows triple talaq, Afzal said many women have been victims of the practice with no efforts made to counsel the couple.“There can be no nikah without the presence of a lawyer and two witnesses, how is it then that a marriage can end with no such obligation? In the name of religion, women are being discriminated,” she said.Afzal said she came across a number of young girls who have seen their mothers suffer the consequences of triple talaq and have grown apprehensive of the institution of marriage. “There are families where children have slipped into depression,” she said, underling the need for legal and social intervention.

In December last year, at a convention in Ajmer, the wing had passed a resolution against triple talaq and decided to push for a uniform  civil code. A demand was also made for rehabilitation of Muslim men falsely implicated in terror activities.

hindustantimes.com/india/sangh-s-muslim-women-wing-begins-drive-to-end-triple-talaq/story-RzYA7gWMo0IscXQHG1CTeP.html

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Islamic conversion and custody conundrum in Malaysia

May 30, 2016

Ipoh, Malaysia - M Indira Gandhi hasn't held her daughter in her arms since her ex-husband snatched the then 11-month-old baby from the family home seven years ago.

"I only have a vision of her when she was small," Indira, 41, said of the little girl the couple named Prasana Diksa, rummaging through her handbag for a tissue to wipe away her tears. "Not seeing her is really heartbreaking."

Divorce is often fraught, but the breakdown of the kindergarten teacher's marriage was further complicated by her husband's decision to  become a Muslim, converting their three children, including Prasana, without telling his wife.

He went to the Islamic court - Malaysia has a dual legal system - not only to seek a divorce, but also to secure custody of the children -  even though Indira, as a Hindu, had no right to appear there.

Indira has challenged the unilateral conversion of her children through the civil courts. A series of decisions have gone in her favour, 

with judges granting her full custody of the children in 2010 and an annulment of their conversion in 2013.

But her former husband, Muhammad Riduan, hasn't complied with the rulings despite the High Court instructing the police at least three times to find him. And in December last year, the Court of Appeal overturned the lower court's decision, saying civil courts had no jurisdiction over Islamic conversions.

He is, "exploiting the judicial system to win advantage", M Kula Segaran, Indira's lawyer, told Al Jazeera at his office in Ipoh, two hours north of Kuala Lumpur.

"She cannot go to the sharia court because she's not a Muslim, and she cannot challenge it in the civil court because it's a 'Muslim' affair. She's helpless and voiceless, and they want her to suffer in silence."

Indira's case is the most prominent of a number of disputes involving the conversion of children to Islam in a country, which is 61 percent Muslim, but also has sizeable minorities of other religions including Buddhists, Hindus and Christians. The legal battles are testing the limits of jurisdiction in Malaysia's dual legal system as well as the sort of justice available to the country's Muslims and non-Muslims.

"It's definitely a jurisdictional issue," said Shareena Sheriff, programme manager at Sisters in Islam, an advocacy group for Muslim women. "The overlaps are creating a very high level of uncertainty about where the right of redress lies and that's not a healthy development. We don't have consistency in court decisions."

There is also uncertainty about the government's position. Seven years ago, the cabinet said there should be no unilateral conversion of children and, in the event that one parent decided to become Muslim, the children should continue to be brought up in the religion of their parents at the time of their marriage.

In January this year, after Indira lost her case in the Court of Appeal, S Subramaniam, one of five Cabinet Ministers on a special committee on the issue, said the government was looking at amendments to the law to prevent the unilateral conversion of children.

Last week, however, Jamil Khir Baharom, a minister who heads the same commission and is responsible for Islamic affairs, told parliament in a written reply that unilateral conversion would not be banned because it would contravene the constitution. His office did not respond to Al Jazeera's request for comment.

"The relationship between the sharia and civil law remains unresolved in the legal system," the US State Department noted in its International Religious Freedom Report for 2014.

"The actions of the Islamic authorities, however, increasingly affected non-Muslims. Child custody cases between converted Muslims and their non-Muslim spouses often favour the former."

Malaysia rejects conversion appeal

Malaysia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but Islam is the official religion and Muslims are governed by additional laws implemented and enforced by the Islamic authorities in each of the country's 13 states.

All ethnic Malays are born Muslims, and anyone who wants to marry a Muslim must convert to Islam. Muslims who want to adopt a different religion must also secure approval from the Islamic court, even though renouncing Islam is considered a criminal offence in some states.

The country's Muslims are easily identified because their identity cards carry the word "Islam", while the religions of other citizens are not defined.

For the last 24 years, Mahendran Ghanasan has been known officially as Mohd Sharif bin Abdullah, although he was born a Hindu, has no conversion certificate, and never recited the declaration of faith.

Mahendran said his mother, who's illiterate, converted him to Islam when he was 12 after marrying a Muslim man.

As a child, being Muslim didn't make that much difference to Mahendran's life, but as he has got older he has found it increasingly problematic. Although living as a Hindu, "Islam" is stamped on his identity card, which means he is subject to Islamic law, and any woman he marries who is not Muslim will need to convert (his partner is Hindu and isn't keen on converting).

After a series of failed attempts to remove the word from his identity card, and replace the name Mohd Sharif with his birth name, four years ago he took his case to the courts.

"From when I was born up until now I have followed the Hindu way," Mahendran explained. "I have never got married because of this [the childhood conversion] because then I would need to change my spouse's name as well. I cannot live a normal lifestyle. I was born a Hindu and I want to die a Hindu."

Mahendran's lawyers argued this month in the Federal Court that Mahendran's conversion was, in fact, an "administrative error" that needed to be rectified.

The judges ruled he should apply to a court for a declaration that he is not Muslim, but did not specify whether he should go to the Islamic or civil court. He is considering making an affirmation of his Hindu beliefs, he said.

A recent court ruling allowing Roneey Rebit, 41, from the indigenous Bidayuh community to renounce Islam, has raised hopes for people such as Mahendran who were converted as children. (Rooney was converted at the age of 10 by his parents).

Malaysia's social media rebels

However, because religious issues are the domain of Malaysia's individual states, the decision does not necessarily create a precedent.

Malaysia's highest court this month granted Indira permission to appeal her husband's conversion of their children, except for her eldest daughter Tevi Darsini; the legal battle has dragged on for so long that Tevi, now 19 and entering university, is considered an adult.

No date has been set for the hearing and despite the pressure on the police to bring Prasana home, mother and daughter have yet to be reunited.

"It takes a day to convert, but it's taking us so many years to renounce it," Indira said. "It is not only our lives that are destroyed, but financially it's bad. It's hard to be a single mother."

aljazeera.com/news/2016/05/islamic-conversion-custody-conundrum-malaysia-160530053731097.html

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Muslim women are the first to pay the price for Islamophobia in Europe

Monday 30 May 2016

Muslim women are the first to pay the price for Islamophobia in Europe. That was the finding of the first European research report to be

conducted on discrimination against Muslim women by the European Network Against Racism, launched in Brussels last week.

The report, which covers eight European countries, focused on discrimination in access to employment, education and hate crime. It found

that Muslim women face a “triple penalty” – suffering the same gender discrimination as other women, compounded by racial and religious

discrimination on account of their background, skin colour and faith. These forms of discrimination intersect in complex ways – for

example, in the United Kingdom, 1 in 30 white women said they had been illegally asked whether they planned to get married or have

children, compared to 1 in eight Pakistani women - i.e. nearly four times more. One in four employers in the UK also admit that they would

be hesitant to hire Muslim women on the basis of cultural stereotypes, due to concerns that childcare would be an issue for them.

Then, of course, there are the even higher levels of prejudice against Muslim women who wear the headscarf. Despite legal prohibitions

against discrimination on the basis of religion or belief in employment, Muslim women are being regularly excluded from career

opportunities across Europe. Forty four percent of Belgian employers state that wearing a headscarf can negatively influence the selection of candidates. In France, tests show that female applicants with a French sounding name and female applicants with an Arabic sounding name wearing the headscarf had a 71-point difference in positive responses for an interview.

For those who are lucky enough to secure a job despite the odds, many face discrimination once they are in the workplace including harassment, insults, discriminatory remarks, lack of career progression or dismissal. When Muslim women face discriminatory remarks, the  reaction of employers is often to pressure, dismiss or penalise them, rather than stand with their employees.

A pending French case at the European Court of Justice is a case in point - a design engineer was dismissed after a customer complained  about her headscarf, which “embarrassed” the company. Rather than supporting the employee, the employer demanded that she observe the  principle of "neutrality" with regards to her dress when dealing with clients – although this principle has no legal basis in the private  sector. When the employee refused, she was dismissed.

For those women who choose to challenge discrimination in the courts, the chances of success are pretty slim. While a strong legislative framework prohibiting discrimination in employment theoretically exists, companies and governments are using vague exceptions to justify discrimination against Muslim women.

Equality denied

In France and increasingly Belgium and Germany, states are using a particular interpretation of "secularism" or "neutrality" to exclude Muslim women wearing the headscarf from a whole swathe of public sector jobs. "Neutrality" and "secularism", concepts originally intended to ensure states treat individuals equally, are being interpreted in ways that directly result in discrimination against individuals of different religions or beliefs.

Once “neutrality” and secularism are used by states to ban religious symbols in the public sector, they often begin to seep into the  private sector. By imposing a discriminatory interpretation of these principles, the state thus opens the way for private employers to use the same language to justify discrimination across the board. This leaves the large numbers of Muslim women wearing the headscarf who graduate each year from French universities facing a brick wall of exclusion and rejection. When it comes to job prospects, Muslim women certainly do not enjoy the benefits of “liberté, égalité et fraternité”.

To cope with such discrimination, the report shows how Muslim women are developing a number of survival strategies. Some try to adapt themselves to employers’ discriminatory practices ("avoidance strategy"), requesting to be put in the back office to avoid customer contact, so as to keep their jobs while satisfying their bosses’ wishes for them to be invisible. Some are faced with the difficult choice between their personal convictions and their aspirations, and choose to remove the headscarf. Another strategy is to “opt out”, turning either to entrepreneurship and self-employment (a rising phenomenon in France), or give up on a career, leading to frustration and isolation.Particularly disappointing is the position adopted by the European Court of Human Rights - as one legal expert commented at the report launch, the court has never upheld a Muslim woman’s right to wear a headscarf in education or employment. After years of legal struggle, women who have brought claims in the court have been denied their religious freedoms based on various grounds – public safety, ‘established social norms’, secularism, protecting the rights of others, or gender equality. The most powerful regional court in the world, charged with upholding the ideals of a democratic and pluralistic society, has repeatedly upheld bans on the headscarf based on government assertions about Islam and Muslim women, and mere stereotypes unsupported by evidence. By doing so, it is sending a clear message that Muslim women’s right to practice their faith has no place in European society and that, in order to “liberate” Muslim women, we must restrict their choices.Muslim women targeted

The most significant finding of the report is that Islamophobia is a specifically gendered form of discrimination. It does not affect men and women in the same way – Muslim women are far more likely to be the victims of hate crime and speech than Muslim men, especially if they  wear a headscarf. They are the primary targets of threats, hate speech, violence, assaults and online hate. In the Netherlands, over 90  percent of the victims of Islamophobic incidents reported to the organisation Meld Islamofobie in 2015 were Muslim women. In France, 81.5  percent of Islamophobic violence recorded by the Collective Against Islamophobia in France in 2014 targeted women, most of them wearing a visible religious symbol.

The statistics put forward in the report represent only the tip of the iceberg – as a 2009 survey by the EU’s Agency for Fundamental Rights found, 79 percent of Muslim respondents did not report their most recent experience of discrimination to any competent organisation and an average 80 percent of respondents could not name any anti-discrimination organisation that could offer support or advice to people who experience discrimination.

Despite the clear rise in Islamophobic attacks documented by NGOs, most EU states do not register the religious affiliation of victims or disaggregate statistical data along religious lines. Without official statistics on the scale of the problem, it becomes easy to ignore it.

For Islamophobes, and for wider society, Muslim women (especially those who are visibly identifiable) are “boundary markers”, their dress not seen as a matter of personal choice, but as fodder for public debate, invested with meanings and prejudices imposed by society, by media representations and political exploitation.

Listening to the victims

While the public debates about Muslim women that flare up periodically in Europe are allegedly about their autonomy and liberation, they are often the last to be consulted. This report, for the first time, puts them centre stage and seeks to understand their experiences and realities.

It is time for us to take Islamophobia seriously. The discrimination documented by ENAR’s report is only a symptom of a deeper malaise that  is attacking the very roots of Europe’s democracy. Hate and intolerance are becoming the currency of political discourse, used by  governments to distract from their inability to offer social mobility and economic opportunity to a new generation.

Adopting the illiberal discourse of extreme and far right movements only serves to strengthen their appeal. It is time for European  governments to assert their commitment to the fundamental principles of democracy, human rights and equality – principles that were adopted  precisely to ensure Europe would overcome the horrors of conflict and genocide. It is time we listened to the voices of the victims, and

not to those who seek to draw Europe back into the grip of a not-too-distant intolerant past.

middleeasteye.net/columns/muslim-women-are-first-pay-price-islamophobia-europe-848269067

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Fortress of Faith: The Brave German Woman Push Back on Islam in Germany

May 29, 2016

Fortress of Faith Radio by Tom Wallace and Shahram Hadian, and the interview of Heidi Mund.

Heidi Mund has become known as “The Brave German Woman,” because of her stance against Islam in Germany. Before we get into the interview with her I want to add a little to the things I dealt with last week.

Last week we looked at what is going on in the European Union with a spotlight on Turkey. There are 3 million refugees in Turkey just waiting to come into Europe. The EU has made an agreement with Turkey and there are 88 things Turkey has to comply with. There are 5 that still have not come into full compliance. Once these come into compliance, Turkey will become a full member of the EU.

While they are waiting to complete the requirements, the EU has been giving Turkey money to take care of the 3 million refugees. The EU has also agreed to, sometime this summer, allow Turkey to have free movement in Europe as if there were no borders. They will no longer require visas to travel throughout the EU.

Turkey has threatened the EU telling them that if they don’t give them visa free travel in the EU, and if they don’t give them the 3 billion euros to spend as they see fit, they will open the doors and let these 3 million refugees into Greece. This is a big threat. Can you imagine 3 million more Muslim refugees in Europe?

There is talk of making one of the Greek islands and refugee safe zone. This may not be a bad idea, it would give a chance to screen the refugees and see who is legitimate and who is not.

The down side is that Greece is in real financial trouble and this could be the breaking point. We also know that Greece is already an entry point for refugees into Europe.

This is a good  place to get into the interview with Heidi Mund. Germany is a major target because it has the best economy in Europe. As many as 1 million refugees have already come into Germany.

Heidi says that the refugees are coming in with money. Where is this money coming from? Someone is paying them to come into Germany. It looks like Germany is committing suicide. Germany, according to Heidi, is in a process of slow Islamization, but in the last year it has become an invasion. It is a forced islamization.

Heidi Mund has become a crusader for truth in Germany. As Martin Luther stood up against the evils within the Catholic Church, Heidi has stood up against the evils of Islam today. We learned about Heidi and her efforts to stop the spread of Islam in Germany because of a video clip.

Heidi was raised in Communist East Germany and was an atheist. She later became a Christian. She was not even thinking about Islam. She  just wanted to share the Gospel with her fellow Germans. She went to an interfaith service in Martin Luther’s church to pray against an imam that was invited to speak.

When the imam got up and started to do the Islamic call to prayer it caused a righteous anger in her heart. She interrupted the service in protest and was kicked out of the church. She started getting death threats and her husband lost his job. Even the German government has come after her, charging her with agitation of the people. All of this because Heidi has a heart for seeing her fellow countrymen saved.

Heidi is leading a prayer movement to see revival in Germany. She sees revival as the only solution to the problems. Unless people’s hearts turn back to God there is no hope for Germany or America. She says that unless the people turn back to God, Germany is gone. Of course the same is true for America.

We are living in a day where cowardice and apathy rule. Thank God for those of you who follow the ministry of Fortress of Faith, and who  are willing to speak up in your communities. We need to be soldiers of the cross. We need to lift high His Royal Banner. We need to stand  for the name of Christ and not be ashamed. As I often say, we need to stand at the corner of truth and courage.

As you listen to the interview with Heidi you will see someone who is willing to stand for what is right. You will also see that it has not been without cost to her and her family.

We are living in a day when standing for Christ and for truth is not popular. Those who stand for righteousness are considered the troublemakers. Laws are being passed against those who take this kind of stand.

There is a group in Germany called “PEGIDA” which was doing rallies and the media was calling them Nazis for standing up for German patriotism. It is a little like when we are called radicals here in America when we stand up for our Constitution  and national sovereignty.

We must ask, where are the Christians? Where are the churches? Why aren’t they standing up or what is right? In stead of standing for Christ, the churches and Christians are involved in a social gospel and are embracing Islam.

The similarity between what is going on in Europe and here in the US is amazing. The Archbishop of Canterbury is telling Christians in  Great Britain not to share their faith with anyone unless someone first enquirers. I thought Jesus told us to take the Gospel to everyone.

And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. (Mark 16:15)

I don’t think He meant to do so only if they asked. We are going to stand for Christ no matter what the cost.

Be informed. Purchase our special package on Understanding Islam for the special price of $15.00 plus shipping and handling. You can order it from our webstore.

This next section is an interview with Heidi, and rather than tring to type out a transcript, I suggest that you go to our website and listen to our broadcast for today. I think you will find it very interesting and informative. It is also a warning to us here in America.

If you would like to schedule a meeting with Tom you can call him at 1-800-616-0082.

No church is too big or too small.

I ask all of you to keep Heidi and here family in prayer. She is warning her country of the dangers before them. She and her husband are doing this at great cost to themselves. You can learn more about them and their work at saveeurope.de.

We need people in America who will do the same. Just as Heidi said the church in Germany is non-existent, so are the churches of America. Very few churches are willing to take a stand for biblical righteousness. Very few are willing to stand against false teaching, especially the false teaching of Islam.

Germany has been here before. In the 1930’s the churches refused to speak out against Hitler and Nazism. The result was the slaughter of more than 6 million Jews, just for being Jews and a world war.

We need people who are willing to stand up and speak the truth. We need to understand that the solution to the problems facing our nation is not in the White House, it is in the church house. Our problems are spiritual, not physical. The solution must come from the bottom, not the top. This means that the people of America need to return to God and rise up against the evils of our day.

There will be no fix until we have courageous men in the pulpits of America. We must also have courageous men and women in the pews. When the people in the pew demand courage and right preaching from the pulpit, it will come. We need to stand behind those who are willing to preach the whole truth of God’s Word. We need to stand behind those who will not compromise God’s principles.

We need to be aware of what is happening in Europe because it is a warning to what is coming here. If we don’t learn from Europe’s mistakes, we will make them ourselves. We will go down the same path they have followed, and we will have the same results.

We can turn this country around. God is still on the throne. It will require a return to God, to His Word, and to His precepts. We must learn to trust Him in all things.

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)

God’s purpose in judging nations is not to destroy them, it is to turn them back to Him. If they don’t turn back, they will die. The ball is in our court. God is warning us, but are we listening?

We should be encouraged when we hear stories like Heidi’s. It should give us the courage to stand as she is.

rightsidenews.com/life-and-science/culture-wars/the-brave-german-woman-push-back-on-islam-in-germany/

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Israeli-Arab crowned winner of first transgender beauty pageant

May 29, 2016

Talin Abu Hanna was crowned the first ‘Miss Trans Israel’ on Friday at Israel’s national theater in Tel Aviv.

Abu Hanna, 21, is a Christian Israeli-Arab from Nazareth who described her victory as “historic” and said it promoted equality, according to the Times of Israel.

“I’m proud to be an Israeli Arab,” she told reporters.

Her reward for winning the pageant? She’ll take home $15,000 worth of plastic surgery treatments from a hospital in Thailand, plus airfare and a hotel stay during the treatments and recovery.

In what organisers described as an ethnic "mosaic", the 12 contestants vying for the Miss Trans Israel 2016 crown included a Jewish confectioner from an Orthodox Jerusalem family, a Muslim belly-dancer from Tel Aviv and a Christian ballerina from Nazareth.

english.alarabiya.net/en/variety/2016/05/28/Israeli-Arab-wins-first-Miss-Trans-Israel-pageant.html

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Meet Nisha Ayub, who survived years of suffering to become Malaysia’s most prominent transgender activist

Monday, 30 May, 2016,

Nisha Ayub has endured virtually everything thrown at Muslim-majority Malaysia’s repressed transgender community: contempt, violence, arrest and sexual assault in a prison where she was sent to become a “real man”.

She has attempted suicide, beaten down by strict Islamic laws that activists say subject transgender people to increasing legal constraints, discrimination and marginalisation.

“The way they treat you is like you don’t have any rights, you don’t have any dignity,” said Nisha, 37, dressed in the flowing skirt and long-sleeve shirt favoured by Malaysian Muslim women.

But she channelled the fury over her mistreatment into advocacy, and has become the country’s most prominent LGBT activist, despite the personal risk that entails.

In March she became the first transgender woman named one of the US State Department’s International Women of Courage, which recognises those fighting for rights and equality.

The way they treat you is like you don’t have any rights, you don’t have any dignityNISHA AYUB

A Muslim, Nisha’s first overt gender-identity expression came at age nine in a costume contest at her strait-laced boy’s school – she dressed as a ballerina.

Years of family and societal rejection followed, she said at Seed Foundation, an NGO she runs in a crime-ridden neighbourhood in the capital Kuala Lumpur.

In 2000, aged 21, she was arrested by the feared state religious enforcers who swoop on Muslims suspected of “un-Islamic” behaviour.

A sharia court – which handles civil-religious matters involving Muslims – jailed her for three months under an anti-crossdressing law.

Nisha said she had fully transitioned to a woman by then, although like many in the transgender community she did not disclose details which are considered private. However, she was sent to a men’s prison.

“So that I can come back as a real Muslim man,” she ruefully recalls the judge saying.

With her head shaved bald, she was mocked and repeatedly made to bare her breasts for other inmates. Once, several prisoners forced her to perform oral sex on them.

She attempted suicide in prison, and again after release. Traumatised, she drifted briefly into sex work, like many others in her situation.

Human Rights Watch said in a 2014 report that Malaysia was “one of the worst countries” in the world for transgender people.

Advocacy provided Nisha a lifeline. In 2010, she co-founded Justice For Sisters, which highlights trans persecution and, four years later, Seed Foundation, which assists transgender people, sex workers, HIV sufferers and other marginalised groups.

Nisha Ayub at the offices of Seed Foundation. Photo: AFP

Transgender is the umbrella term for individuals who identify with a gender different to their sex at birth.

While there are no official figures for Malaysia, transgender women are commonly seen – especially in the capital Kuala Lumpur – working in restaurants and retail outlets. But violent attacks remain an ever-present threat. One recent assault left a transgender woman in a brief coma, Nisha said. The attacker was fined just 400 ringgit (US$100).

“And not just that, he entered the court wearing a homophobic T-shirt,” she said.

Many transgenders fear seeking police help over abuses, and Nisha advises victims on where to turn if attacked or arrested.

Despite a thriving underground gay scene, homosexuality also is forbidden in Malaysia, where laws criminalising sodomy can result in imprisonment, corporal punishment, and fines.

Many keep their sexuality private even from their families. A 2015 HRW report said discrimination against such groups was “pervasive”. But Nisha believes the situation is worse for the nation’s transgender community.

“You could see a gay person, or a lesbian, and not know they are. But usually with a transgender person, you can see,” she said.

Why should I be afraid about speaking the truth? I always believe in speaking upNISHA AYUB

The State Department award recognised her courage and “deep sense of humanity”, the US Embassy in Malaysia said.

Activists says Nisha was instrumental in engineering a court challenge to an anti-cross-dressing law in Negeri Sembilan state. That led to a landmark 2014 ruling that called the law, which can bring three years’ jail, “degrading, oppressive and inhuman”.

The victory was later thrown out on an obscure technicality, but attorney Aston Paiva, who argued the case, called it a building block for future challenges. But Nisha’s higher profile brings risks at a time when increasingly hardline views are tolerated by Malaysia’s Muslim-dominated government as it seeks to maintain its conservative voter base.

Last year, she was assaulted in the street by unknown assailants, an attack she thinks was retaliation for her work, yet she remains undaunted.

“Why should I be afraid about speaking the truth? I always believe in speaking up,” she said.

Days after US Secretary of State John Kerry presented her with the award in Washington, Islamic enforcers raided a transgender fundraiser at an upscale Kuala Lumpur hotel. Video of the chaos went viral.

“It’s not going to be easy,” Nisha said of the fight for acceptance. “It’s going to take a long time.”

scmp.com/news/asia/southeast-asia/article/1959238/meet-nisha-ayub-who-survived-years-suffering-become

 

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