Saudi Arabia Bans Trans People From Muslim Pilgrimage

“It is the house of God and everyone should be allowed to come and see it."

Umrah—sometimes known as the “lesser pilgrimage”—is a religious journey made by Muslims to the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

But not everyone may be allowed to partake in the journey, it seems.

Pakistan’s Express Tribune is reporting that the Saudi government has halted issuing visas to transgender people.

MECCA, SAUDI ARABIA - SEPTEMBER 12: Muslim pilgrims circumambulate around the Kaaba, Islam's holiest site, located in the center of the Masjid al-Haram (Grand Mosque) during Hajj (Islamic pilgrimage) in Mecca, Saudi Arabia on September 12, 2016 on the day, one of the Muslims most important holiday, Eid Al-Adha (Feast of Sacrifice).Muslims worldwide celebrate Eid Al-Adha, to commemorate the holy Prophet Ibrahim’'s (Prophet Abraham) readiness to sacrifice his son as a sign of his obedience to God, during which they sacrifice permissible animals, generally goats, sheep, and cows. Eid-al Adha is the one of two most important holidays in the Islamic calendar, with prayers and the ritual sacrifice of animals. (Photo by Orhan Akkanat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Orhan Akkanat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“Homosexuality and cross-dressing are punishable crimes in the kingdom and there has been an ongoing debate in the country since the start of 2016 on whether to bar transgender people from entering the country or not,” says Qamar Naseem, a member of rights group Trans Action KP.

Naseem says if this ban has not been imposed yet, “it will be in the near future.”

Ironically there is a history of gender-nonconformity in Islam.

“During Ottoman rule, transgender people were part of the administration of Masjid-e-Nabawi,” explains religious scholar Javed Ahmed Ghamidi. “[They] were responsible for opening and closing different doors and cleaning the holy mosque.”

Kaaba Mecca

Ghamidi is against preventing anyone, Muslim or not, from visiting the holy sites of Islam. “It is the house of God and everyone should be allowed to come and see it; there is no reason to stop anybody,” he told the Tribune.

“Transgender people are conscious, rational human beings. Physical differences don’t make them less of a human and they should be treated equally.”

While the government hasn’t addressed the issue, a source in the Saudi embassy in Pakistan has denied there is an official ban.

For more on international LGBT issues, visit Logo’s Global Ally page.

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