- Published on Monday, 10 October 2016 16:38
Al Fatah, believed to be the only religious school for transgenders in the world, has long since been a symbol of Muslim tolerance in Indonesia.
However, for the last several months amidst rising hostility towards the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, the school has been faced with backlash from local hardline group, Islamic Jihad Front (IJF), until they were forced to close.
Established since 2008 in Jogjakarta, the rising hostility has been brushed aside by the small group of residents at the school who still gather every week to pray and learn more about Islam.
"We want to prove that Islam accepts transgenders, that Islam is a blessing for all mankind,” the group leader, Shinta Ratri said, as reported by AFP.
The school is located in a labyrinth of alleyways in the middle of the historic Kotagede district in Jogjakarta.
Previously a residential home, it has been renovated, with a main room that has been transformed into a room for prayer and Quran recitation.
Until now, there are three preachers still teaching a dozen students from the former 42 that continue to come to the school every week since it was ordered to close in February.
“It's so difficult for these transgenders to pray in the mosque because of the stigma.
"So when I came to this school the first thing I told them is they have the right to pray, because they are part of God's creation,” Arif Nuh Safri, a 32-year-old preacher, told AFP.
Additionally, before the school was closed, the locals did not mind its existence.
"They want to learn to recite the Koran, they want to be good people, and that's better than drinking," said one neighbour, Aris Sutanto.
However, IFJ’s leader, Abdurahman, said that no tolerance will be afforded to those involved in the group.
"We can't be tolerant towards something that is bad," he said.
He also added that they will liaise with the police before any action is taken against activities that they consider immoral.
Jogjakarta was previously seen as a tolerant city, but it has now become a symbol of the conservative stance that is slowly seeping through the grassroots communities of Indonesia, which even led them to target the gay community, those who drink alcohol as well as pornography.