INDONESIA - A Pesantren Waria (Islamic boarding school for transgenders) in Yogyakarta has once again opened its doors, and brought the subject of freedom of religion for all - regardless of sexual orientation - back into the public arena.
After the death of its founder Maryani last month, the school moved to a house belonging to Shinta Ratri, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transsexual (LGBT) activist, in a heritage area in Jagalan, Kotagede.
"Everyone has the right to observe their religion in their own way," said Faithful People Brotherhood Forum Yogyakarta Abdul Muhaimin advisory board member in his speech at the launch of Pesantren Waria Al Fatah in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, on Friday evening.
Muhaimin said humans were not allowed to undermine others, including transgender people, since everyone was made by God.
"According to the Quran, we are not allowed to classify people based on economic, social, political, gender or theological values," said Muhaimin, who also leads Nurul Umahat Islamic boarding school for girls in Kotagede.
He said although transgenderism was not specifically mentioned in the Quran, it had been discussed in fiqh (Islamic legal philosophy).
"I hope the students here are strong as they must face stigma in society. We have to care for them [transgender people]," he added.
Muhaimin lauded the reopening of the Pesantren Waria, which was originally located in Notoyudan.
Waria is a portmanteau of the words for woman (wanita) and man (pria) and is often used to describe transgender women.
Maryani had received local and international media attention since 2008 when she transformed her home into a place for transgenders to study Islam.
She made headlines last year due to her failed pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, last year after her efforts to go to the holy land failed due to documentation problems. Maryani's dream to make the pilgrimage eventually came true. She flew to Mecca on April 26 and returned May 5, and performed all the pillars of the umrah (minor haj), covered from head to toe as a woman.