CAIRO - The story of a former British army soldier who has got transgender surgery and married after converting to Islam is causing debates, especially after complaining from the local mosque move to bar her from praying with women.
I felt happy and relieved at last -- the happiest I've ever felt in my life, Lucy Vallender, a former Territorial Army male soldier who used to be called Laurens, told The Daily Mail on Thursday, September 5.
She has been called the first transgender Muslim in the UK, but she said, I bet there are more -- they are just frightened.
Vallender's story started when he was only 14 when he told his mother he wanted to become a woman.
Later on, he joined the TA in an attempt to fit in to that kind of life but I couldn't handle it anymore and left after about a year.
I felt like I was in the wrong body. To carry on living as a male was living a lie.
After quitting the TA, the 28-year-old started dressing as a woman.
Changing his life altogether, he had the transgender operation, moving from his family home in Cirencester to settle in Swindon, Wiltshire.
Later on, she converted to Islam because it promoted peace last September.
I had thought about it for a while but it is such a taboo I thought, she said.
But I did it because it is a nice religion - so peaceful. I felt good and I had something to believe in.
Expressing comfort in her new life, she complained that the local mosque in Swindon barred her from praying with the women.
"I hope people will change their attitudes and other people like me will realize they are free to just be themselves," Vallender said.
A spokesman for the mosque said, "Everybody is welcome, as long as they behave according to Islam."
But Muslim scholars denounced Vallender's transgender surgery as against Islamic laws.
Muslim should be satisfied with the way Allah has created him or her, Dr Wael Shehab, head of OnIslam.net's Shari`ah department, said.
If one faces physical or psychological problems, he or she should treat them within the general values and morals of Islam.
In Islam, changing one's sex is not permissible if the person (male or female) has âcomplete male or female sex organs. This is because this person would be âseeking to change Allah's creation, which is forbidden by âAllah Almighty.
Dr. Shehab, who has a PhD in Islamic studies from Al-Azhar University, stressed that Islam allows medical intervention only in very limited cases.
It is possible for the hermaphrodites to get assigned a certain sex, by means of medical intervention (surgical and/or hormonal therapy) and behavioral training, he said.
When a sex is assigned, the individuals must do their best confirming themselves in that sex.â"
Dr. Shehab noted that Valeender has changed his gender before Islam, praying to Allah to forgive his sins.
For the case in hand, as the sex-change operation was undergone before the person's conversion to Islam, Allah forgives all sins committed before one's conversion, Dr. Shehab said.
He also advised him to return to his original sex, urging Muslim community to help him overcome his problem.
Given the above, it's my advice for him to return back to his original sex and go through professional counseling and treatment to lead normal happy life, he said.
As for the Muslim community, they should help him go through this difficult phase of his life. Some particular measures may be taken in order to cope with the current situation until he overcomes his problem.