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LGBT activist brings religious perspective

When discussing what faces the LGBT community in America, many do not take into account the effects on those individuals of non-Western religions.

On Tuesday, Open Doors, The Women’s Center, The LGBT Center and The Department of Classics and World Religions will present the program “Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims.”

The program will feature speaker Faisal Alam, a Muslim activist of Pakistani descent, who identifies as queer. Alam began the group Al-Fatiha, which means “the beginning” or “the opening,” after beginning the first known email discussion for LGBT-identified Muslims. Al-Fatiha eventually turned from an email chain to a gathering with the same name and, in 1998, the group as it is known today.

Al-Fatiha has 800 members in the United States. Since its formation, the organization has provided resources, counseling services and information to more than 3,000 people around the world, according to the group’s website.

“Hidden Voices delves into an area seldom discussed,” Alam said on his website. “The challenges and achievements of LGBT Muslims are often invisible, but I’ve been lucky to engage with students from across the country in dialogue and discussion on this extremely sensitive topic.”

Alam’s speech covers the difficulties that LGBT people in the Muslim religion face when coming out in the church, explores the legacy of colonialism and sodomy laws within the Muslim world and the suppression of LGBT rights.

Alam became involved with Ohio University after he contacted Sarah Chadwell, a senior studying international studies, about possibly speaking from his perspective. Chadwell said she immediately accepted because she knew Alam was “rare and amazing.”

This discussion is especially important coming from a person who is a part of both groups, Chadwell said.

“Lately the LGBT Center has become progressively more aware and helpful on the topic of racism in the LGBT community,” Chadwell said. “I thought it would be wonderful to expand on this subject more. I also want to understand the perspective of the LGBTQA community in Islam. I have never had a chance to speak to a member of the LGBTQA community who was out and is Muslim.”

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