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I'm angry at the militant and extremist Muslims who hijacked a dynamic and peaceful faith.

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A pro-Islamic demonstrator is flanked by police at the sixth annual rally for Islam in London's Trafalgar Square, August 25, 2002. Ian Waldie

Remembering September 11th
as a Queer Muslim

by Faisal Alam

SEPTEMBER 11, 2002. September 11, 2001 will forever be etched in the minds of people everywhere. It was a day when all of our lives came to a standstill, and the United States and its citizens wondered what had gone wrong. As I reflect upon this past year, and all that has happened around the world, I feel a combination of anger, sorrow and exhaustion.

I'm angry at the militant and extremist Muslims who hijacked a dynamic and peaceful faith and used the name of God to justify their actions. I'm angry at a world where civil liberties are destroyed, and battle cries are sounded in the name of a "war on terrorism."

I feel sorrow at the loss of so many human lives, both on September 11, and as a result of our war on the so-called evil-doers, in which "collateral damage" is dismissed as easily as recycled paper going out with the trash.

I'm exhausted — in my soul, in my spirit, in my body, and in my heart — from the news of increasing hate crimes, the rhetoric of hate and xenophobia spewing through our media and press, and the continuing crackdown on lgbt people around the world by oppressive regimes now legitimized by the United States government.

Moments after I found out that the terrorist attacks were committed by a group of people that called themselves Muslim, I knew that the lives of most lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Muslims would drastically change, and that my work with Al-Fatiha, the international lgbt Muslim organization, would double.

Al-Fatiha's mission, to support lgbt Muslims who are struggling to reconcile their sexual orientation or gender identity with their faith, was now more important than ever. And our work to educate the larger lgbt community about our faith of Islam took on a new and urgent meaning.

For the past year, I have written letters to editors and columnists of far too many lgbt newspapers imploring them not succumb to Islamophobia, the irrational fear of Islam and Muslims. I have also been interviewed by dozens of reporters world-wide on the challenges facing our community.

In trips abroad, and crisscrossing the United States, city after city, I have spoken to thousands of people about the increase in asylum cases, the fear of being out as both queer and Muslim, the "voluntary" interviews, the racial and ethnic profiling at airports and on highways, the fear of arrest and deportation, and the worry about our family and friends abroad.

I have written at least half a dozen letters of support for asylum cases in a world where freedom is now cherished more than ever before. And I have also met with hundreds of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Muslims across the United States to discuss the backlash and aftermath of 9/11.

Since then, the world has changed. The "war on terrorism" has turned our communities into a battleground. And the environment for peace, social justice, and tolerance, three principles that are at the core of Islam and Al-Fatiha's mission, seem to be far more distant today than they were a year ago.

At the same time, lgbt Muslims today have begun to recognize their unique role in our post-September 11th world. Many in the United States have gained a new found identity as Muslims, and have reconnected to their spiritual and religious heritage, while proving that they are as "American" as anyone else.

The activist world of queer Muslims also seems to have taken on new life. As human rights abuses continue against sexual minorities in countries that are predominantly Muslim, the lgbt Muslim community has found new strength in speaking out against these injustices and others committed by authoritarian regimes. More and more lgbt Muslims are denouncing the illegal occupation of Palestinian cities and towns by the state of Israel, and are instead calling for justice and the peaceful coexistence of Israelis and Palestinians.

Lgbt Muslims are joining anti-war and anti-globalization demonstrations and protests, making the connections that the "war on terrorism" is not a new war at all, but rather the old one of corporate empires expanding and ensuring access to oil, all at the expense of democracy, civil liberties, and freedom.

As a queer Muslim, this year on September 11th I will continue to mourn all the lives that have been lost since the first plane hit the World Trade Center on that fateful day — in New York City, at the Pentagon, in the crash in Pennsylvania, as well as the hundreds of people that have been lost in the U.S. government's "war on terror" in Afghanistan.

I will join today thousands of others around the world by participating in a candlelight vigil for peace and a rally to protest the impending war on Iraq. And I will be reflecting on the past year, the trials and tribulations, as well as the support and sense of community that I have gained from people across the globe.

In a world that seems to be filled with anger and hate, the only peace of mind comes from knowing that, ultimately, advocates of non-violence and harmony will prevail. Until then, lgbt Muslims around the world, including myself, will continue to search for true social justice through a progressive vision of a world in which all humans are valued equally.

Faisal Alam is a 25-year old queer-identified Muslim of Pakistani descent who works in the field of HIV/AIDS in Washington, D.C. He is the founder and director of Al-Fatiha, an lgbt Muslim organization, and is also active in human rights work, immigration and asylum rights, and LGBT-youth organizing.

Related links:

For Al-Fatiha, an international organization dedicated to Muslims who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, questioning & their friends!

For Complete Coverage Gay Mundo

Gay Mundo
gay pride The Gully's ultragay coverage. Includes musings on activism, info on queers from Puerto Rico to Taiwan and more.


9/11 and Aftermath
Guide to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on NYC and DC. Includes info on Afghanistan and the Taliban.


Middle East
From a US-Iraq showdown, to the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Includes original features, headlines, and web resources.


Asia
From global warming to gay- trendsetting. Includes headlines, politics, and news from beyond.

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