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Speaker shares stories from life as Muslim LGBTA activist

As the Supreme Court started its discussions on Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act, students at Ohio University participated in a discussion of their own about the “hidden voice” of LGBTA individuals.

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

The program featured speaker Faisal Alam, a Muslim activist of Pakistani descent, who identifies as queer. Alam founded 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 formed as it is known today.

Alam began by addressing the trend of those in the LGBTA community changing their profile pictures on Facebook to the red marriage equality symbol. Alam said it was a positive step, but he opted for a different symbol, a quote from author and activist Michael Cavadias that explained his hope that marriage equality would be achieved soon so that the community could become more focused on health care and other pressing human-rights issues.

“I don’t have a boyfriend, so marriage equality does not directly affect me right now,” Alam joked.

In the first half of his presentation, Alam explored the history of the Muslim religion and its relationship with different genders and sexualities. This discussion included the Quran and its passages about homosexuality, the opening of the first mosque catering to LGBT people in Paris and the rise of women in Islam.

“The change is really going to happen from in the mosque to another community to another, one country to another,” he said. “I think we’re going to see this happen fairly quickly about integrating women more into the church.”

Alam also discussed his struggles as a closeted gay man in college who was also a prominent member of the Muslim community. The pressure eventually lead to his hospitalization and a “mental breakdown,” which he said prompted his involvement in the LGBTA Muslim community.

“I don’t want anyone, especially anyone from my community, to have to go through that,” he said.

Alam added that support for religious LGBTA people could come from intersecting groups.

“One of the things I’ve learned from being in a community such as Ohio University, the communities are very isolated from each other,” he said. “What I would ask you all to do is look past these identities that seem very obvious and there’s so much more to us than that.”

Sarah Chadwell, one organizer who brought Alam to OU and a senior studying international studies, said this concept is one reason she wanted to bring Alam to speak.

“This is a new perspective that has not been heard before at Ohio University,” she said. “I think it is vitally important for all members of the LGBTQA community to support, listen and love all of our members.”

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