Local authorities in the Kotagede district in Yogyakarta in Indonesia have shut down an Islamic school for transgenders. They have also banned any religious activities from taking place at the Al Fatah Islamic School.
The decision was made following a meeting between representatives of the Al-Fatah school, security officers, local officials, the Yogyakarta Islamic Jihad Front and the local community. "We decided to close down the transgender Islamic school after considering security, order and public comfort issues," Jati Bayu Broto, the subdistrict chief for Banguntapan told journalists last week.
All parties were given the opportunity to have their say at the meeting, he added. Following the meeting, it was decided that the Islamic school should be closed down because it was located "in a cramped residential area."
"Whenever there are activities [at the school], motorcycles are parked on the street and this disturbs the public," Jati told reporters. The Yogyakarta Islamic Jihad Front troop commander Darohman was grateful that the group's objection to the Al Fatah School was backed by the local community.
"The Islamic school may re-open but the transgenders must show repentance," he said. He added that the group would allow the school to re-open only under the condition that the transgenders repented and "returned to being men. If they do not change, their prayers will not be accepted," he said.
But his views were not shared by all. Aditia Arief Firmanto from the Yogyakarta Legal Aid Foundation who represented the owners of the school at the meeting claimed that the meeting held was not a dialogue between parties but a judgement forum against the school.
He said Shinta Ratri, the school's leader was not given the chance to clarify issues raised at the meeting. "Our client could not defend the school against accusations of alcohol, karaoke and other activities at the Islamic School," he said.
"Shutting down the school is a violation of human rights. These students are being denied the right to a religious education," Aditia said.
Sholehudin, the former village chief of Jagalan said that the school had never reported its activities to officials following its establishment in the village in early 2014 when it moved from the Notoyudan village in Yogyakarta city. The school was set up in 2008.
"But I have never heard any negative reports on the transgender Islamic school. We would know if there were because village officials hold regular meetings," Sholehudin said. He said he lives near the school and retired in April last year.
Speaking to reporters later, Shinta said that she has no plans to set up a similar school in another area. "I am still tired and want to calm myself first. Life goes on, and I also need to earn money," she told Jakarta Post.
An Al Fatah school teacher, Abdul Muhaimin however said that he will continue to fight for the school's right to exist, saying that the school's activities were limited to reciting the Korea, learning how to pray and celebrating Islamic holidays. It did not involve anything that may disturb the peace and order of the neighbourhood.
"Why do we need permission for a Koran recital? Parking issues can be managed. It is of the upmost importance that we do not let this problem interrupt the students' right to learn their religion," said Muhaimin, who is also the head teacher of the Nurul Umahat Islamic Boarding School in Kotagede.