A Malaysian student has been granted refugee status in Canada after successfully arguing he would be persecuted for being gay if he was returned to his home country.
Hazim Ismail says his parents disowned him and refused to fund his university tuition fees after learning he was gay and an atheist.
Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia. A 2015 Human Rights Watch report found discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people is pervasive in the country.
Ismail’s claim for refugee status was granted at an Immigration and Refugee Board hearing Tuesday in Winnipeg.
"Hazim walked in as a refugee claimant and he is walking out as a protected person … which means he cannot be deported back to Malaysia," Ismail's lawyer Bashir Khan told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.
"This is one of those cases where the evidence is strong, my client is very credible and he has got tremendous public support, and all of that came together and he won his claim without too much struggle at the hearing room today."
The University of Winnipeg student set up a crowdfunding page last year to help pay for his Winter term fees and successfully reached his target before resuming classes in January.
"I was disowned for being gay and atheist and had my funding cut off and now need to raise enough for winter term," Ismail wrote on the page.
"Last year, I was in immigration status limbo and was forced to drop my classes."
Ismail says he wants to pursue a career in moral psychology, inspired by social psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Paul Bloom.