The holy month of Ramadhan is for all Muslims to enjoy, regardless of their sexuality, the Al Fatah Islamic school for transgender people in Kotagede, Yogyakarta, will tell you.
On a Wednesday evening, the owners and students of the school gathered in the main hall of a 200-year-old Javanese joglo for tarawih (evening Ramadhan prayers).
Transgender people who feel more comfortable wearing men’s clothing, such as Yuni Sara, performed their prayers behind the imam in the front row, while those who wore mukena (head-to-toe prayer gowns), such as Al Fatah leader Shinta Ratri, prayed in the back row. “This is our first activity in Ramadhan after [the Al Fatah] was arbitrarily shut down by the Islamic Jihad Front [FJI],” Yuni said, referring to a hard-line group that opposes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.
The FJI has been the loudest critic of Al Fatah Islamic school, which was shut down by local authorities in early 2016. Authorities, in the face of pressure from the hard-line religious group, claimed that the school’s events and activities were a public nuisance.
Al Fatah finally resumed its school activities after GKR Hemas, the wife of Yogyakarta Governor Sultan Hamengkubuwono, ensured their safety, Shinta said.
During Ramadhan, Al Fatah performs its activities every Wednesday and Sunday. The activities, ranging from iftar (breaking of the fast), Quran reading, tarawih, and sahur (pre-dawn meals) together, are carried out from afternoon to early morning the next day, Shinta said.
The school, which is located in Jagalan village, also holds a celebration of Nuzulul Quran (the day the Quran was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad) and sells cheap staple foods. It also held a seminar to counter radicalism in Jepara, Central Java.
“Performing one’s religion is a human right. We, as transgender people, have the right to conduct our prayers,” Shinta said. [yan]
Text by: Bambang Muryanto
Photo by: Magnus Hendratmo