Despite society’s stigma towards the transgender community, Federal Territories mufti Datuk Dr Zulkifli Mohamad al-Bakri has chosen to reach out to them through an open dialogue.
Organised by Pertubuhan Kebajikan Dan Kesihatan Umum Malaysia (PKKUM) with help from social activist Syed Azmi Alhabshi, the dialogue, entitled “Masih Ada Yang Sayang (We Still Care)” aimed to build a bridge between the much-ostracised community and society.
In the one-hour dialogue that was aired live via the mufti’s official Facebook page on Tuesday, Dr Zulkifli said his presence was not to condemn, judge or punish the community but rather to find common ground.
“We are not here to find fault and we are not here to say who wins or who loses. It is our aim to talk about good deeds that you have done in your life and how to improve yourself as a person,” he said.
“Everyone has their own strengths, they should not give up even when they hit rock bottom,” he said, citing the success story of renowned author J.K. Rowling, who wrote the hugely-successful Harry Potter series of books.
“When her husband left her with a child, she continued pursuing her dreams despite failures,” added Dr Zulkifli.
He also said that there are many other ways to be successful, as long as it not against the religion.
However, a member of the audience disagreed, saying that becoming a sex worker was not a choice, but one born out of circumstance.
Despite some disagreements during the dialogue, Syed Azmi said he was happy that it served its purpose to create better understanding of the transgender community.
“The mufti was calm and receptive to the differing views throughout the dialogue. I have so much respect for him as he was willing to listen to and learn about the community,” he told The Star Online.
He also hoped to hold more of such dialogues in the future.
“The mufti has also invited them to his office in Putrajaya to have more dialogues. This is good progress,” he said.
PKKUM said the dialogue showed that the mufti empathised with the struggles faced by minority communities in Malaysia, including those living with HIV and AIDS as well as the transgender community.
“The key (issue) was not to encourage pre-marital sex but to discuss on harm reduction needs and anti-discriminatory action plans to reduce the stigma which will enable them to access their health rights and their basic needs.
“Although the dialogue was heavy and the mufti was not able to answer all questions immediately, the mufti’s department assured PKKUM that they would take note of what was shared and would try to find solutions to the problems.
“PKKUM will be following up with the mufti’s department on the issues addressed to come up with progressive solutions that will reduce the stigma in Malaysia,” it said in a statement.
The dialogue was held at PKKUM’s office in Jalan Chow Kit, Kuala Lumpur.