BY LESLIE WENDLOWSKY, Staff Writer
This past Thursday, the Office of Student Engagement hosted an event that could be eye opening for many students on our campus. Special guest speaker Faisal Alam visited our campus to bring to light a silent and otherwise invisible community and the struggles they share.
Faisal Alam is an activist, writer, and organizer that has faced many difficulties as a gay muslim and having to hide his sexual identity for years in fear of tarnishing his religious identity.
When he was just 19 years old, Alam started an email discussion group for LGBT Muslims where they could discuss issues that they all had in common in a safe environment. It was the first internet based discussion group and was a great step toward the bringing this community into the light and letting others know that they are not alone.
“I thought I was the only gay muslim when I growing up,” Alam mentions in his presentation.
This discussion group led to the First International Retreat for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Muslims where the theme of the retreat was Al-Fatiha which means “The Beginning” or “The Opening”. The theme caught on and became the name of the organization that supports Muslim LGBT.
The mission of the organization as stated by Alam is to “provide support and to empower LGBT Muslims who are trying to reconcile their sexual orientation or gender identity with their religion.”
As a volunteer director of the organization himself, Alam has traveled not only across the country but around the world to places such as New Delhi, London, and Bangkok.
In his presentation, Alam uses his own life experiences to illustrate the struggles sexual and gender minorities within the Muslim world face and how religion and sexuality continue to be “controversial” or “taboo” subjects. The presentation “Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims” has been featured at more than 100 universities and colleges and at many other events across the country.
This presentation brings a different perspective on an otherwise silent community. For more information on his presentation, or to find out where he will be speaking next you can visit www.hiddenvoices.info