In the EUC Auditorium on April 6 from 6-7 p.m., Faisal Alam presented the lecture “Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims.” Alam, a Pakistani Muslim gay man, is an activist and has been dubbed an
“Innovator” by Advocate Magazine, a “Founding Father,” by Genre Magazine and was chosen as one of the 30 “Young Visionaries Under 30” by Utne Reader. Additionally, Alam has been featured in
the New York Times, BBC and the Washington Post.
During his presentation, Faisal offered an account of a demographic often undiscussed in mainstream LGBT discourses; gay Muslims. In the first portion of his lecture, Alam emphasized the importance of recognizing the complex diversity of the Muslim world. There are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and 56 countries in which Islam is the dominant religion. In the United States alone, there are between two and four million Muslims. As such, Faisal cautioned the generalization of Muslims, and emphasized that there are hundreds of Muslim groups with differing cultural influences and viewpoints.
Alam then spoke of a shift towards the recognition of women in positions of leadership throughout the Abrahamic faiths of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. If women, Alam said, are able to be open and accepted leaders of churches, synagogues and mosques, then LGBT members of these communities will soon follow to a similar degree. To Faisal, this change will potentially open new possibilities for Muslim women and LGBT Muslims.
In the final portion of his presentation, Alam spoke of his own personal experience as a gay Muslim and activist. When he was ten years old, his family moved from Pakistan to the small town of Ellington, Connecticut. Growing up, he described encountering homophobia in the Muslim community, and experiencing confusion as a result. Alam pushed through the homophobia, he recounted, and threw
himself into work at his mosque.
Joining several different Muslim Youth organizations, Alam told of organizing many events within his community. In high school, Alam said his graduating class consisted of 100 people: 95 of them, white, four African-American and him. He spoke of his “intersections of life” that define who he is: a brown, gay, Muslim, Pakistani that was born in Germany and a generation and a half first American.
Once Alam moved to college, the internet was just beginning. In this time, there were several email groups for people with similar interests, backgrounds and lifestyles with which he was able to connect. Hoping to find others like himself, he created a group on social media analogous to a Facebook
or Google group, entitled: “gay-Muslims.” Still involved in multiple organizations, he anonymously sent out the invitation for others join. Within minutes, others were joined in and many people filled the group.
Soon after this, at just 19, Alam founded Al-Fatina. Open from 1998-2008, this organization offered counseling services, an open conversation and most importantly, a safe place for gay Muslims to gather.
Now, Alam is the founder of the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity. Their mission statement reads: “The Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity works to support, empower and connect LGBTQ Muslims. We seek to challenge root causes of oppression, including misogyny and xenophobia. We aim to increase the acceptance of gender and sexual diversity within Muslim communities, and to promote a progressive understanding of Islam that is centered on inclusion, justice and equality.”