Alam educates on sexual orientation and the Islam culture

Nicholas Birdsong

Nationally recognized speaker and activist Faisal Alam spoke at Washburn University on Wednesday as part of No Name Calling Week. Alam addressed the topic of sexual orientation within the context of Islam and popular culture.

In 1998, Alam founded one of the first LGBT Muslim organizations, Al-Fatiha. The group provides support for a sub-culture that is heavily persecuted in some regions.

“There is an association, whether it is right or not, with Islam being a homophobic faith,” said Alam during his presentation. “In 2003 the government of Egypt launched a crackdown against gay men in that country, and these men were tortured, arrested, jailed and put on show trials.”

Egypt was one example given of how LGBT are persecuted within some Islamic nations, but examples such as this do not define the faith, according to Alam. Despite widespread persecution, there have been trends toward liberalization of the Muslim faith.

Alam cites widespread debate within the religious community on issues of gender and equality and the expansion of groups such as Al-Fatiha. The central message of the presentation was that Islam is a faith capable of tolerance.

Just as some Muslims may unfairly condemn LGBT individuals, some of the LGBT community may unfairly condemn Muslims, according to Alam.

Wednesday’s keynote speaker fit into the theme of No Name Calling Week by focusing on education as a method to overcome bullying and discriminatory attitudes.

“Faisal Alam has the ability to bring together this great conversation,” said Kim Morse, associate professor of history at Washburn University and supporter of No Name Calling Week. “This is a really important conversation about diversity in terms of religion, in terms of sexual orientation and gender identification. He is able to bring that out in ways that few people can.”