Faisal Alam, a gay Muslim activist, spoke at USC on Tuesday night about bridging the various stereotypes of Islam with followers who are progressive or gay.
The Queer and Ally Student Assembly hosted Alam in Doheny Library in an effort to provide a different perspective to the LGBT and Muslim community.
“There is a notion that Islam is out to take over the world — that we will bring Islamic fundamentality to the U.S. … and so there is this association with that in the U.S. today,” Alam said.
QuASA Executive Director Emily Allen said the organization wanted to host an event that incorporated a wide variety of people — in this case, the Muslim and LGBT communities.
“This event caters to the Islamic community and other people who want to know more about this section of the queer community,” Allen said.
Alam spoke to a full crowd in the Intellectual Commons about a side of Islam that many Muslims and Americans might not be familiar with.
“Islam is a very diverse and dynamic faith. There are more than 1.5 billion Muslims in the world and 56 countries with Muslim majorities,” Alam said.
Alam said he struggled with coming out as a gay Muslim growing up in a small town in Connecticut, and that when he was growing up, he was taught that a gay Muslim cannot and should not exist.
“This notion that [being a gay Muslim] was not acceptable or that it didn’t exist obviously caused me a lot of pain, because by the time I got to high school, when I realized that I was gay, I was faced with this question of: How can I be gay if I’m Muslim, if God doesn’t make someone like that and if it’s not acceptable?” Alam said.
Alam said that because he was so heavily involved in a Muslim community growing up, he wanted to get involved in the global Muslim gay community. For this reason, he started an e-mail listserv for gay Muslims.
“Within minutes, people started to join, because that’s how much silence there is among people in our community about this issue. But for six months, not one person out of the 50 people who had joined wrote a message,” Alam said.
He launched the organization Al Fatiha in 1998 to address the issues of LGBT Muslims and provide support in reconciling their faith and their sexual orientation.
“The world is really not black or white — regardless of what Osama Bin Laden, George Bush or Barack Obama want us to believe,” Alam said. “I believe there is great diversity in the world and a lot of complexity in the world. And a lot of times we are looking for quick answers and we don’t want to look at the history of the world we live in.”