Hard-liners inspect transgender Islamic school in Indonesia

Hard-liners inspect transgender Islamic school in Indonesia
An Indonesian transgender person campaigns to increase awareness on HIV and AIDS in Malang on December 1, 2015.
PHOTO: AFP

Dozens of Islamic Jihad Front (FJI) members visited on Friday the Al Fatah Islamic boarding school for transgender students in Sayangan hamlet, Kotagede district, Yogyakarta, with the school pledging not to bow to acts of intimidation.

"We just wanted to check whether they were conducting deviant acts. We wanted to straighten it out," FJI commander Abu Hamdan told journalists upon finding the school empty after the students were evacuated by police for security reasons.

Hamdan and his fellow group members left the compound, which was guarded by scores of police officers, after handing over a letter to the hamlet chief Gatot Indriyanto, calling on the transgender students to return to "the right way".

At the same time, school chairperson Shinta Ratri reported the group to the police for intimidation."We have also secured protection from the police," she added.Ratri said she and other transgender people would not abandon the school, saying it was her home.

Banguntapan Police chief Comr. Suharno said the police would provide protection.

"It's my area; I will give a security guarantee," Suharno said.

The school is based in a traditional Javanese style joglo house, which was built in the 1800s and belonged to Ratri's grandmother before being passed down to her mother.

The school, which was founded by the late Maryani in 2008, was previously located in Notoyudan.Maryani previously made headlines for her failed attempt to reach Mecca, Saudi Arabia, in 2012 because of documentation problems.

However, Maryani's dream of pilgrimage to the holy land eventually came true in 2013. She flew to Mecca on April 26 and returned on May 5 after performing all the pillars of umrah (minor haj).

The school, which is supported by Nahdlatul Ulama University in Jepara, Central Java, offers various subjects, such as transgenderism and Islam, Quran reading and shalat (prayer) lessons.

The school moved to Ratri's house after Maryani passed away in March 2014.The school's supervisory board member Abdul Muhaimin deplored the FJI's actions, calling on the group to respect the religious rights of transgender people.

"I'm very angry at the FJI. They don't care about transgender people; they even destroy them," said Muhaimin, who is also the leader of Nurul Umahat Pesantren in Kotagede.

He said the country's only Islamic boarding school for transgender students was well supported by Nahdlatul Ulama University and had been visited by many domestic and overseas researchers.

Budi Wahyuni of the National Commission on Violence Against Women called on the government to protect transgender people, saying they had equal rights as citizens and should not be subjected to violence from other parties.

"I hope police protect the school and do not ask the transgender students to leave the area," Budi said.

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