Indonesia Shuts Down Transgender Islamic School over ‘Accusations of Alcohol, Karaoke’

YOGYAKARTA, INDONESIA - AUGUST 12: Members of a boarding school, Al-Fatah, for transgender people known as 'waria', stand as prepare for their muslim fashion contest during Syawalan tradition on August 12, 2015 in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. Syawalan tradition is recognized by the Javanese community as a part of religious traditions as …
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images

Indonesian authorities in Yogyakarta have shut down the Islamic Al Fatah School for transgender students after complaints from residents.

“We decided to close down the transgender Islamic school considering security, order and public comfort issues,” explained Banguntapan chief Jati Bayu Broto.

Officials in Al Fatah, security officers, representatives, the Yogyakarta Islamic Jihad Front (FJI), and locals met with each other Wednesday night. Authorities justified their decision because “the school was located in a cramped residential area.”

“Whenever there are activities, motorcycles are parked on the street and disturb the public,” said Jati.

Public attorney Aditia Arief Firmanto, who represented Al Fatah’s leader Sinta Ratri, claims the locals used the meeting to inflict “psychological abuse.”

“There was no clarification in the meeting. Our clients could not defend against the accusations of alcohol, karaoke and other activities at the Islamic School,” he retorted.

Hard-liners visited the school last week after the school promised “not to bow to acts of intimidation.” FJI commander Abu Hamdan insisted the group only wanted to make sure no one committed “deviant acts” inside the school. Hamdan told the students to “return to ‘the right way.'”

Ratri went to police for protection, who vowed to support the school.

“It’s my area; I will give a security guarantee,” exclaimed Banguntapan Police Chief Comr. Suharno.

The school was opened in 2008 by a waria, a transgender Indonesian, named Maryani to accept other transgender Muslims and give them a comfortable place to act as themselves. She made the news in 2013 when she attempted a pilgrimage to Mecca, but it ended “due to documentation problems.” She achieved her wish, though, in 2015, when she went “to Mecca on April 26 and returned May 5, and performed all the pillars of the umrah (minor haj), covered from head to toe as a woman.”

“They come to Yogyakarta just because they know about this school,” said Italian photographer Fulvio Bugani. “They know that there they can pray and live like a woman in a good atmosphere.”

Bugani spent three weeks with the transgender community. One image won “third prize in the World Press Photo’s Contemporary Issues.”

The school closed in 2014 after Maryani passed away, but reopened to a house that belongs to Shinta. Local officials said no one complained about the school before.

“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,” said former Jagalan village chief Sholehudin.