Cosmetics entrepreneur Nur Sajat is back in the limelight after she was arrested in Thailand following a tip-off by Malaysian authorities
According to New Straits Times, Sajat was arrested by Thai immigration on 8 September.
Sources revealed to Harian Metro that the 36-year-old businesswoman was apprehended at a luxury condominium in Bangkok, where she had been staying with a local man.
The source also alleged that she has been hiding at the residence since early March.
Sajat's arrest comes after she had failed to show up for a court proceeding in February this year, leading Syarie judge Mohammad Khalid Shaee @ Shaii to issue an arrest warrant against her
The entrepreneur has been under intense scrutiny by both local authorities and netizens as early as 2016 after she publicly announced that she identifies as a woman.
Since coming out, she has been on the receiving end of cyberbullying and death threats. Her plight as a transperson has often been reported by international media.
1. Sajat said she was born a 'khunsa'
Sajat started receiving hate after she came out in April 2016. In an Instagram post, she said she was born a 'khunsa', a Malay word for someone who is intersex – meaning they were born with both male and female sex organs.
"My life started when I was born in 1985. My father was a Malaysian navy and my mother was a laboratory assistant," SEISMIK quoted her as saying at the time.
"I was born in a hospital in Lumut, Perak. That's where my history began."
"At 10.30am, I was born. My doctor, nurse, and father were shocked by my extraordinary birth. I (Sajat) had two genitals. That time, everyone panicked. My father and mother didn't know what to do."
She said she was raised in a masculine manner, but she had always preferred to do what women normally do. She thought it was normal until she had to go to kindergarten.
She shared that she was afraid to go to the toilet at that time because her friends might see that she had two genitals, thinking, "People will say I am disabled later."
Because of that, she refrained from using the toilet throughout her elementary years, causing her to develop kidney stones at the age of six.
She also mentioned in the post that she adopted two children — a girl and a boy. She thanked God for the blessing and said she loves the children even though she is not their biological parent.
Astro Awani reported that prior to the Instagram post, Sajat was already popular as she had begun wearing the hijab after surviving from an accident.
Presently, Sajat's Instagram account can no longer be found. She used to have at least 1.4 million followers on her Instagram account.
2. Sajat posted a 'confirmation letter' that says she is now a woman
About a year after her shocking post, she had in February 2017 uploaded a photo of a 'confirmation letter' from KPJ Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital stating that 'Sajjad' is now a woman.
"I have examined the above named at the Ampang Puteri Specialist Hospital, who is now by gender a woman," read the letter signed by Dr Katheeja Alavi Syed Alavi Thangal.
At that time, the letter raised eyebrows as many doubted its authenticity. Attempts to verify the letter by Astro Awani found that the doctor had retired from the hospital three years prior.
3. Sajat drew backlash for wearing women's prayer clothing while performing the Islamic pilgrimage in Mecca
In early February 2020, Sajat was criticised for wearing female clothing while she was in Mecca, the holiest city in Islam.
At that time, she uploaded photos of herself donning the telekung, and jubah with hijab, as she walked on the holy ground. One photo captured her children standing in front of her with the Kaaba in the background.
Her action caused a huge uproar from both Mecca and Malaysia. According to Free Malaysia Today, the travel agency that managed Sajat's trip said they instructed Sajat to be taken out of Mecca.
They also told her to apologise for the controversy.
Meanwhile, back home, then Islamic Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Mujahid Yusof Rawa said Sajat's action could harm relations between Putrajaya and Riyadh, the political and administrative centre of Saudi Arabia, reported The Arab News.
The minister under the Pakatan Harapan (PH) government also said he had requested the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) to ban Sajat's social media accounts, reported The Straits Times.
Mujahid claimed her actions had given a bad image to the religion and the country. He also advised Sajat to return to the right path as a man, reported Malaysia Gazette.
During the peak of the controversy, Sajat's photos attracted more than 5,000 comments, most of them hate speech. Perlis mufti Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin, in response, chided those who condemned the entrepreneur.
He said even though it was wrong for Sajat to wear female clothing in Islam, Muslims should counsel her instead of saying she was cursed by God, reported Free Malaysia Today.
Meanwhile, prominent Turkish scholar Mustafa Akyol urged religious authorities in Malaysia to leave Sajat alone.
"The fact that Nur Sajat went for umrah shows that she is devoted to her religion. She also probably didn't disturb any other fellow Muslims around her on holy ground. So, why not respect the way she identifies herself?" said the US-based scholar who is a strong advocate of free speech in the Muslim world.
He also gave an example that in Iran, sex-change operations are not only legal but even encouraged. Mustafa urged Malaysia not to take action against Sajat and that Muslims need to accommodate transpersons as part of the ummah.
4. 122 officers were sent on a 'witch hunt' for Sajat after she did not show up for a court proceeding
On 6 January, Sajat was charged under Section 10(a) of the Syariah Criminal Offences Enactment (Selangor) 1995 as her act of cross-dressing is said to have brought contempt to Islam.
During the mention of the case on 23 February, Sajat failed to show up at court. In response, the Selangor Islamic Religious Department (JAIS) mobilised about 122 personnel to find and arrest Sajat, reported Malay Mail.
The elaborated move was criticised by Justice for Sisters (JFS), saying JAIS had misplaced their overzealousness to arrest someone who was merely expressing herself.
"We are astonished by the financial and human resources that are being allocated for this search and arrest operation against Sajat," said the non-governmental organisation (NGO).
"All these actions by JAIS are extreme and demonstrate their overzealousness in arresting and detaining Sajat at all costs for merely expressing herself and her gender identity."
JFS also stated Sajat's charge can be seen as a sign of the Selangor government criminalising and not recognising trans, intersex, and non-binary persons.
Meanwhile, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported activists as saying that the deployment of over 100 officers to find and arrest Sajat can be seen as a move to intimidate the LGBT community in Malaysia.
5. Sajat said she wanted to renounce her faith
Following a series of incidents and brushes with authorities, Sajat said that she wanted to leave Islam in a livestream in early March.
"I'm not saying this as a threat. By oath for the sake of my name, my father's name, and my mother's name, I no longer want to be a Muslim. I want to leave Islam," she said to some 300 audience members who tuned in to her Instagram livestream.
"It would be better like this. I'm not joking, I'm serious. They were the ones who made me want to quit the religion. They further pushed me away from Islam."
"They thought that the things that did could teach me a lesson, but no. I became more terrified, I feel it's better for me to leave Islam. Because I was born a Muslim and I just followed everything my mother taught me, I did. Turns out... I don't know."
The video was perhaps the most controversial as of yet. SCMP reported that Sajat received death threats after the video was published.
The Hong Kong-based daily sighted a comment saying they wanted "to stone" her.
Human rights activists said the public reaction to the video is "concerning" as there had been violence and murders against the transgender community in Malaysia every year for the past decade.
Commenting on Sajat's no-show at the court, her lawyer Zuri Zabuddin Budiman said his client was probably "terrified".
"Sajat feels [she] would not get a fair trial. I urge Sajat to show up before the next court proceeding on 1 June. I am here ready to fight and defend [her]," he said.
6. Sajat is allegedly seeking refugee status in Australia
While it is popularly known that Thailand has an LGBT-friendly front, Sajat's recent arrest by Thai authorities is reportedly because of having an an invalid passport, The Star reported Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department (CID) director CP Datuk Seri Abd Jalil Hassan as saying.
According to Harian Metro, her passport has been revoked by Malaysian authorities.
Currently, Sajat has been released on bail after paying RM8,343 for immigration-related offences, which she was charged for in a Thai court. She has to report to the authorities once every 14 days.
Sources told the Malay daily that Sajat "is getting permission to move and take refuge in Australia".
It is understood that she currently holds a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) card and claims that she is a refugee.
The source added that Sajat's real motivation to escape to Australia is because she received death threats after announcing that she will be leaving Islam.
The CID director also said that Sajat is wanted for criminal intimidation and preventing civil servants from performing their duties, reported The Star.
7. #LeaveSajatAlone and #FreeSajat hashtags get momentum on social media
Sajat's arrest in Thailand has sparked a #LeaveSajatAlone and #FreeSajat movement back home.
On Twitter, political satire artist Fahmi Reza and human rights activist Michelle Yesudas have publicly called the authorities to #LeaveSajatAlone.
A tweet by Marina Mahathir captured over 1,700 likes about the issue. The former premier's daughter said she could only hope Malaysian authorities put in as much effort into finding Indira Gandhi's daughter or fugitive financier Low Taek Jho.