Mujahid did the right thing taking down my portrait, says Nisha Ayub

Mujahid Yusof Rawa with Nisha Ayub after their meeting today. On the left is Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Fuziah Salleh.

PUTRAJAYA: Mujahid Yusof Rawa today defended his instruction to organisers of a Merdeka-themed exhibition in Penang to bring down several portraits over their “LGBT” flavour, saying it was done to protect the community from being harassed.

The minister in charge of Islamic affairs today emerged from a meeting with transgender activist Nisha Ayub, whose portrait along with that of another activist, Pang Khee Teik, was recently removed from the “Stripes and Strokes” photography exhibition at the George Town Festival.

“I took the action to protect them. Can you imagine what would have happened if the portraits were there for the whole month?” asked Mujahid in a joint press conference with Nisha.

Mujahid accused the organisers of misrepresenting Nisha, saying the activist should not be lumped together with the lesbian, gay and bisexual community.

Nisha agreed with Mujahid, saying the organisers’ decision to use a portrait of her holding the Jalur Gemilang — taken during Merdeka celebrations last year — had attracted a backlash, including threats to her life.

“I was not informed until I was tagged on my Facebook page and it went viral,” she said.

“My portrait was taken down for a reason. It is not a big issue,” said a visibly emotional Nisha at the press conference. “People were sending hate messages to kill me.”

She said she did not consider herself an “LGBT activist”, but a “trans advocate”.

Nisha also thanked Mujahid for responding to her request for a meeting.

The removal of the portraits attracted criticism from rights groups, including from social activist Marina Mahathir, who told organisers to take down her picture in solidarity with Nisha and Pang.

Nisha said transgenders were constantly being discriminated over their appearance.

“We are just asking for respect and dignity. All I ask from the public is to stop stereotyping us.

“We are Malaysians, we want to be treated with respect and to integrate with the community at large,” she said, adding that majority of them ended up becoming sex workers due to society’s treatment of them.