FREE SPEECH ZONE | Hidden Voices Speaker at Macalester College

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Our corporate media will report about LGBTIQ issues, and will report about Islam and Muslims. But would you ever hear about LGBTIQ Muslims? Well about 60 people came to an event at Macalester College Monday night to hear Faisal Alam, one of the founding members of Al-Fathiha, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender organization for Muslims.

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Knowing full well that concept of LGBT Muslims was breaking stereotypes, there are other movements Alam spoke about that were surprising, even to Muslims. One was the movement of Punk Rock Islam: Muslims in various countries that are embracing punk rock culture while being true to Islam. Also, many people learned that laws against sodomy in Lebanon and India were introduced from their colonizers of France and England. In addition, Alam talked about how Muslim countries have actually been more transgender friendly than the United States, citing that even the Ayatollah Khomeni issued a fatwa to accept transgender people, and the city of Tehran will even pay for sex reassignment surgery, making Iran second to Thailand to have the most sex change operations in the world.

The heart of the discussion came at the end of the presentation during the question and answer session. Some of the Muslims in the audience found it difficult to talk about dismantling misogyny and oppression in a mixed room of Muslims and non-Muslims without perpetuating false stereotypes of Islam being inherently oppressive. The crux of the conflict was the “transformation of Islam” that Alam had presented. Alam was discussing conversations and movements among Muslims, while others misunderstood the speaker’s message, which was Islam, in its purest form, need not be changed. Yet their defensiveness was met by the defensiveness of the speaker who made the same presentation at Augsburg College, and was met with homophobia. When both parties started to let go of their defensiveness, and started listening to each other, the discussion was found to be very meaningful by attendees. After much discussion, the message of the speaker was clear: Islam is a religion of peace and love that welcomes all, but people interpret it to fit their needs of fear and bigotry, which contradicts Islam. Alam clearly explained how the Qu’ran does not forbid homosexuality, citing only 10 verses in the Qu’ran that homophobes use to argue otherwise. Alam also pointed out these challenges are prevalent in other Abrahamic religions such as Christianity and Judaism, and encouraged people from all faiths, and of no faiths, to work toward social change.

Alam talked about building solidarity between oppressed communities, stating that people who are hateful toward Muslims also hate LGBT people, and vice versa. And homophobic organizations such as the Minnesota Family Council seek homophobic Muslims to seek support on anti-LGBT initiatives. Faisal Alam finished a series of speaking events here in Minnesota, the first being at Carleton College October 5th, and then Augsburg College on October 6th. Attendees felt that this was a great precursor to discussions that will happen later in February 2-6 2011, at the Creating Change conference in Minneapolis.