De facto Islamic Affairs Minister Mujahid Yusof Rawa today clarified that he has not given any "permission" for transgender people to access a female public toilet.
Instead, Mujahid in a statement said his remarks made during a joint press conference with transgender activist Nisha Ayub was merely a spontaneous response to a question from a journalist.
"It (his comments) was not a final decision nor an instruction, but rather merely my spontaneous response.
"I would like to stress there has been no instruction or permission from me for transgender people to share the women's toilet...only 'maybe' or 'if' because it could involve various situations or circumstances," said Mujahid.
Last Friday, Mujahid had, following a meeting with Nisha, pleaded to the public to stop discriminating against transgender people.
Responding to a question, several news reports quoted Mujahid as saying that a transgender like Nisha who "looks like a woman" should be allowed to use a female toilet with no questions asked.
"Does it bother you, if she (Nisha) goes to the female toilet because she looks like a female?" he was quoted as saying by Free Malaysia Today.
Mujahid's reported remarks had triggered an outcry from groups who accused him of being disrespectful towards women's safety in general and the rights of a Muslim woman to uncover their aurat while in a female toilet.
Posting on social media, many of Mujahid's critics shared images and links to an article about a transgender woman convicted in the US purportedly for committing sexual assault in a female public toilet.
Last October, fact checker site Snopes.com, however, revealed that the transgender woman, Michelle Martinez, was actually convicted of sexually assaulting a young daughter of a friend in a bathroom in a private home.
The article also pointed out that conservative journalists and bloggers in the US have sought to link the case of child sexual abuse to an ongoing debate about allowing transgender people to use the public restroom that matches their chosen gender.
'Further discussions by muftis'
Aside from the issue of public toilets, Mujahid in his statement said other matters to be looked into, include the question of a transgender person's position while praying with a congregation in a mosque.
"All such matters must be further discussed by the muftis to come up with the best decision.
"Whatever it is, I apologise to all parties who felt offended by the confusion which has arisen and I retract any remarks deemed inappropriate," he said.
'Taliban-style extremism' slammed
Meanwhile Amanah Youth vice president Shazni Munir Mohd Ithnin said attacks against Mujahid over his meeting with transgender representatives was “political” and did not display the ideals of Islam.
“The Taliban-style approach the extremists are taking is not only a wrong step away from religion, but also distances the transgender community from religion,” he said in a statement today.
He said the zeal of the critics using harsh language and cursing was regrettable.
“These extremists should be ashamed of themselves,” he said, pointing out how while they propogate hate and damnation, there were preachers like Ebit Lew, who have approached the transgender community with the message of love.
Shazni urged religious institutions to take “proactive steps” to produce more people like the Pahang-born ustaz Ebit Lew.
He said such a friendly and open approach was far better “compared to some people who only know how to act holy, with their “holier than thou” approach.