First ever Islamic school for trans students opens

The founders of the first Islamic school for trans students in Bangladesh are hopeful this will help the community break away from dominant social stigmas.

People carrying a banner reading 'trans Muslim and proud'
Image: @ImaanLGBTQ

Bangladesh has made history by opening its first madrasa (an Islamic educational institution) dedicated to supporting the education of trans students. 

On November 6, the Islamic institution Dawatul Quran Third Gender Madrasaon opened with 40 trans people enrolling as students on the first day alone. The college will hold up to 150 people in total. 

The madrasa, referring to any type of educational institution, has become the first school dedicated to serving local hijras (a term for trans and intersex people) both in Bangladesh and around the world. It was built in the Lohar Bridge area of Kamrangirchar, Dhaka. 

Speaking at the opening, the school’s secretary for education and training, Mohammed Abdul Aziz Hussaini, stated, “Anyone can be admitted here as soon as a transgender person is identified, no matter what age they are.”

Amid nationwide stigmatization and discrimination, the madrasa was established to help pave the way towards equality among the Muslim faith. In an address to students, founder of the institution Abdur Rahman Azad said, “We often blame the hijras for their alleged undisciplined lifestyle. But they are not the ones to be blamed, I think.”

“Rather, we as a society are to be blamed. We won’t let them attend schools, seminaries or universities. We won’t let them have a decent job. What else would they do?” Abdur Rahman Azad concluded. 

In 2013, Bangladesh recognised trans and intersex people as a legal third gender, however the community still suffers due to lack of property rights, rights to marriage, and other social barriers. A recent survey reported that 82% of trans people failed to earn any income since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic as a further 59% spoke about not receiving support from family members.

33 year-old Shakila Akhter shared with the Agence France-Presse, “We are Muslims, yet we can’t go to a mosque. We can’t even mix with other members of society.”

A trans woman told AFP, “Society treats us in the most hateful ways. We are denied any love or happiness. I cannot express our sorrows enough. Nobody would understand.”

Trans students in Bangladesh will have the opportunity to learn about Islamic teaching at the madrasa. A separate department will also offer technical education.

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