State governments are gradually changing laws to allow same-sex couples to wed, and on Oct. 21, New Jersey became the 14th state to allow same-sex marriage. Many religions and cultures, however, do not condone homosexuality.
Faisal Alam, an LGBTQ Muslim activist, presented “Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims” on Wednesday, Oct. 6, as a part of PRISM’s Queer Awareness Month.
“We definitely took the feedback from last year to have a more ethnically diverse queer awareness event,” said sophomore nursing major Jordan Stefanski, the Queer Awareness Month chair.
Alam shared his struggle growing up in a small town as a Muslim homosexual man and his ongoing efforts to promote gender equality and gay rights.
“Oftentimes I was stuck in between two worlds,” said Alam, who moved to Ellington, Conn. from Pakistan when he was 10 years old.
Growing up, he was taught that Islam condemned homsexuality. As a young adult, when he noticed the boy’s soccer team more than the cheerleaders, he was caught between the contradiction of his sexual orientation and the teachings of his faith.
“Why would God make me gay and put these feelings in my heart if he was going to send me to hell?” he said. “I literally thought I was the only person in the world who was gay and who was Muslim.”
When he left his small town for Northeastern University, he was surprised to discover a prominent gay community. For six months, he lived a double life, living as a poster child for the Muslim association at his university, while secretly exploring gay communities. But the duplicity soon became unbearable.
“Somehow I had to bring these identities of being gay and being Muslim together,” he said.
He began a quest to find other gay Muslim people. Alam joined several international Muslim email lists with the hopes of finding like-minded people. Soon enough, about 50 people joined the virtual Muslim LQBTQ group. In 1998, this email list prompted “Al Fatiha,” the first international Muslim retreat for LGBTQ people. Alam reached several people like himself, grappling with their religion’s disapproval of their sexual identity.
Alam has continued to work on behalf of Muslim LGBTQ people who fear being ostracized by their families and neighbors.
The disposition toward homsexuality in Islam is not surprising. Traditions of patriarchy throughout history have led to misogyny and sexism in religious communities, Alam explained. This history has contributed to Islamic religious leaders’ reluctance to allow gender equality and accept LGBTQ people.
“Within Judaism, Christianity and Islam, there is such a hesitation to allow women in religious leadership positions,” Alam said.
Yet, many Muslim activists, like Alam, are working from mosque to mosque to change the gender inequalities.
“There is a growing religious revival,” he said.
Students enjoyed learning about a different side of LGBTQ activism and experiences.
“It’s not something I heard a lot about in the past,” said senior art major Sam Prowse. “It’s an important part of the LGBT rights movement.”