Thailand Urged Not to Deport Transgender Beauty Tycoon

Nur Sajat is wanted in Malaysia for 'insulting Islam'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 28, 2021 7:12 PM CDT

Authorities in Malaysia say they don't want to "punish" transgender businesswoman Nur Sajat, only to "educate" her. Advocates say the 36-year-old is likely to face serious mistreatment if Thailand deports her back to her homeland. Sajat, a cosmetics entrepreneur who starred in a reality show in 2018, was arrested by Thai police earlier this month for having an invalid passport, the Washington Post reports. Earlier this year, she was charged under the country's Islamic laws with insulting Islam by wearing feminine clothing to a religious event. She failed to appear at a hearing in February and received death threats after she discussed the possibility of renouncing Islam in a now-deleted video on social media, reports the AP.

Malaysia—which canceled Sajat's passport after she apparently fled the country—has asked Thai authorities to send her back, and Thai officials say the deportation process is underway, though it may take some time, reports the Bangkok Post. Human Rights Watch says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has granted Sajat refugee status. "Malaysia’s outrageous harassment and persecution of Nur Sajat highlights just how repressive and abusive that country is toward the LGBT community," Phil Robertson, HRW's deputy Asia director, tells the Post. Sajat is believed to be planning to seek asylum in Australia.

Around two-thirds of Malaysia's population is Muslim and required to obey Islamic laws. Activists say the increasingly conservative government has stepped up a crackdown on LGBT people this year. Idris Ahmad, a senior government official in charge of religious affairs, told reporters Sajat will not have a problem if she "admits wrong" and wants to return to her "true nature." If she is deported back to the country, Sajat will likely spend around three years in a men's prison, the Post reports.

Afiq Harraz, secretary general of a new Malaysian political party that describes itself as "science-based," tells the South China Morning Post that authorities have an "unnatural obsession" with Sajat because they hate the fact that she became a celebrity and a business success while living openly as a transgender woman. "The Malaysian public is fascinated with Nur Sajat mainly because hers is a success story. She made it as an entrepreneur and became a cosmetics millionaire," he says. (Read more Malaysia stories.)

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