Malaysian transgender entrepreneur says she was 'beaten' by officers

A beauty entrepreneur who fled after being charged with insulting Islam by wearing a dress has opened about her experience – claiming she was ‘hit, beaten and stamped on’ by officers in her home country.

Nur Sajat, 35, as she prefers to be known, ran away from Malaysia to after she was charged with dressing as a woman at a religious event and insulting Islam, which she pleaded not guilty to, in an Islamic court in January.  

The glamorous cosmetics company owner – who boasts a following of 381,000 fans on Instagram – was arrested by Thai authorities on September 8 on the grounds that she allegedly entered the country illegally. 

In Malaysia, she faced up to three years in jail – most likely in a men’s facility – and a fine for reportedly wearing a baju kurung, the traditional long-sleeved costume worn by Malay women, at a private religious ceremony in 2018.

As a transgender woman, she was given refugee status and allowed by Thailand to seek asylum in Australia. But in the eyes of the Malaysian authorities, Nur Sajat is considered male, and under Islamic law, men cannot dress as women.  

Speaking to the from Sydney, Nur Sajat said she was forced to leave her country after being assaulted by officers from JAIS, the religious affairs department in the state of Selangor, which had brought the charges against her. 

Nur Sajat (pictured), 35, as she prefers to be known, ran away from Malaysia to Thailand after she was charged with dressing as a woman at a religious event and insulting Islam, which she pleaded not guilty to, in an Islamic court in January 

The glamorous cosmetics company owner (pictured) – who boasts a following of 381,000 fans on Instagram – was arrested by Thai immigration authorities on September 8 on the grounds that she allegedly entered the country illegally

In Malaysia, she faced up to three years in jail – most likely in a men’s facility – and a fine for reportedly wearing a baju kurung, the traditional long-sleeved costume worn by Malay women, at a private religious ceremony in 2018. Pictured, Nur Sajat

‘I had to run away. I was treated harshly, I was hit, pushed, handcuffed, all in front of my parents and family. I gave them my cooperation, but they still did that to me,’ she said.

‘Maybe it was because they see me as a trans woman, so they did not care if I was held, beaten, stamped on. We trans women have feelings too. We deserve to live our lives like normal people.’

Nur Sajat also discussed being separated from her adopted son and daughter, who are being looked after by her family in Malaysia. 

‘As a mother, I am distraught when I am away from my children. I have never been separated from them in the past but this year I was separated from them for about eight to nine months. I couldn’t contact them or talk to them.

‘I don’t think I’ll ever go back to my home country because I believe they won’t let [transgender people] live peacefully in Malaysia. To me, when I am here, I am freer to be myself as a trans woman.’ 

As a transgender woman, she was given refugee status and allowed by Thailand to seek asylum in Australia. But in the eyes of the Malaysian authorities, Nur Sajat (pictured) is considered male, and under Islamic law, men cannot dress as women

Nur Sajat started her cosmetic business seven years ago, promoting herself on social media, where she soon gained hundreds of thousands of followers and became a ‘national celebrity, according to the broadcaster.

When asked about her gender, Nur Sajat, who is an observant Muslim and shared photographs situs slot online of her wearing a hijab head covering, explained that she was born intersex, with both male and female genitalia.

However, in 2017 Nur Sajat revealed she was now fully a woman, physically – which the authorities reportedly decided to investigate.

JAKIM, the Department of Islamic Development, allegedly said it would need proof that she was born intersex and offered to help her with what it labelled ‘gender confusion’.

Then last year, even more controversy surrounded Nur Sajat after images were published of her dressed in women’s prayer garments during a pilgrimage to Mecca with her family. She later apologised, but within a year she was facing criminal charges, said the BBC.

The BBC asked the Malaysian Religious Affairs Department to comment on Nur Sajat’s case but did not get a response.

Speaking to the BBC from Sydney, Nur Sajat (pictured) said she was forced to leave her country after being assaulted by officers from JAIS, the religious affairs department in the state of Selangor, which had brought the charges against her

In September 2021, Malaysian Criminal Investigation Department director Abd Jalil Hassan said police, the foreign ministry and the attorney general’s office were making efforts to bring Nur Sajat back. 

In a news conference, during which he referred to Nur Sajat by her formal name, the director said Malaysia recommended Nur Sajat ‘returns to the country in a good way to face the cases’.

Malaysia was also charged Nur Sajat on separate charges of obstructing and threatening a public servant.

Malaysia has a duel-track legal system, with Islamic criminal and family laws applicable to Muslims alongside civil laws.

Justice for Sisters, a Malaysian transgender rights group, said calls for restrictive measures against LGBTQ+ people have been on the rise and anti-gay sentiments have increased since Nur Sajat was arrested, according to . 

According to Human Rights Watch, transgender people in Malaysia ‘face arbitrary arrest, physical and sexual assault, imprisonment, discriminatory denial of health care and employment, and other abuses’. 

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