Muslim-majority Bangladesh opens mosque for transgender community

Bangladesh’s transgender hijra community has discovered a new sanctuary for worship – a mosque purposefully constructed to embrace them. Situated in Mymensingh, north of the capital Dhaka, this unassuming yet momentous structure represents inclusion and acceptance in the Muslim-majority nation.

For years, hijra individuals encountered discrimination and were often prohibited from praying in mainstream mosques. However, the Dakshin Char Kalibari Masjid for the Third Gender now provides a safe refuge where they can practice their faith without facing judgment or mockery. “No one can deny a hijra from praying in our mosque anymore,” affirmed community leader Joyita Tonu, her words resonating with emotion.

The mosque’s inception coincides with Bangladesh’s efforts to officially acknowledge its transgender populace, granting them recognition as a third gender. Nevertheless, hijra continue to grapple with basic rights and societal acceptance. This new place of worship aims to challenge that narrative, offering a venue where they can worship “like any other people,” as expressed by the mosque’s imam, Abdul Motaleb.

As the community endeavors to expand the mosque, locals such as Tofazzal Hossain have already embraced it, dispelling misconceptions about the hijra. “They lead devout lives like other Muslims,” he observed. This mosque emerges as a beacon of hope, illustrating faith’s capacity to transcend societal barriers and foster genuine understanding.

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