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Transgender Muslim woman at center of Islamic religious debate

Thursday, September 12, 2013
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LONDON — A week after the story of the first openly Muslim transgender woman in the U.K. was published, Lucy Vallender has been barred from her Mosque and shunned by her local community.

Vallender, a 28-year-old former Territorial Army soldier who had a gender-reassignment operation in 2010, is at the center of a contentious theological debate about the Islamic understanding of gender identity.

Lucy Vallender

Lucy Vallender

Some Islamic clerics reject any recognition of gender-identity: “Men and women are born they cannot make themselves into anything,” Muslim scholar Nasser al-Manghari from London told OnIslam.net.

“There is no such thing as a third gender, or gender confusion … Shari`ah does not provision for a person to change one’s gender or physical appearance according to one’s psychological preference and then expect to be treated as from a different gender,” he added.

Al-Manghari also rejected Vallender’s one year marriage to Murad, a Muslim man, labeling it as a religious aberration, and insisting she should be regarded as male, as it is only “God [that] defines your sexuality.“

“The Qur’an assures us that Allah created all the diversity that exists in the world out of divine and infinite wisdom,” Jalal, described as a progressist from Birmingham, told OnIslam.net.

Tehmina Kazi, chair of the British Muslims for Secular Democracy organization told LGBTQ Nation, “I strongly support Lucy Vallender, and other trans people who identify as Muslim, particularly those who are new converts to the faith.

“Contrary to popular belief, sex and gender are not considered ‘fixed’ in classical Islamic legal texts,” said Kazi. “Additionally, Islamic law places a strong emphasis on the privacy of the individual; the reasons for Lucy’s decision are her own business.”

“It is therefore scandalous that Lucy’s local mosque has allegedly barred her from praying alongside women,” she said.

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Pav Akhtar, a Muslim LGBT campaigner of UK Black Pride, told LGBTQ Nation that “too many transgender people are ostracized from the heritage Muslim community and society to an extent that they are forced to shy away from engaging at any with Islam. This is completely unacceptable.

“For my part, I believe there has to be recognition of a third gender. From an Islamic point of view, one’s ruh (the spirit present in all humans) is often described as asexual or bisexual,” he said.

In 1988, gender reassignment surgery was declared acceptable under Islamic law by scholars at the world’s oldest Islamic university, Al-Azhar, in Egypt but only for hermaphrodites — people born with both male and female sexual characteristics.

Sex changes have been deemed legal in Iran since Ayatolla Khomeini passed a fatwa authorizing them for “diagnosed transsexuals” over 25 years ago.

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