Faisal Alam is queer-identified Muslim activist of Pakistani descent. Faisal began the first internet-based email discussion group (listserv) for LGBT Muslims in November of 1997 (when he was 19 years old) which marked the first time that LGBT Muslims could discuss issues of common concern in a safe environment. This listserv eventually led to the First International Retreat for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Muslims, in Boston in October, 1998. At the time it was believed to be the first known gathering of queer Muslims. Al-Fatiha (which means “The Beginning” or “The Opening”) was the theme of the retreat and eventually became the name of the organization founded to support Muslims who were struggling to reconcile their faith and their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Since its inception in 1998, Al-Fatiha has grown to include eight chapters in the United States with another seven sister-organizations in three countries (the United Kingdom, South Africa and Canada). Al-Fatiha has 800 members in the United States. Since its formation, the organization has provided resources, counseling services and information to more than 3,000 people around the world. Al-Fatiha’s mission is to provide support and to empower to LGBTIQ Muslims who are trying to reconcile their sexual orientation or gender identity with their religion (Islam). In a post-9/11 world, Al-Fatiha continues to advocate on behalf of the LGBTIQ Muslim community in immigration, refugee, and asylum cases, and in the HIV/AIDS and human rights movements. As an all-volunteer organization Al-Fatiha serves as a crucial resource for those struggling with questions of sexuality, gender identity, and faith.
As the founder and former volunteer director of Al-Fatiha (1998-2005), Faisal has traveled across the United States and around the world (including London, Cape Town, New Delhi, Karachi and Bangkok) to meet with LGBTIQ Muslims and their allies to build a community leading to a global movement for liberation and equality for Muslim sexual and gender minorities.
Faisal has represented Al-Fatiha on a number of advisory boards. From 1998-2000 he was the youngest member of the National Religious Leadership Roundtable (NRLR), an interfaith network of more than fifty lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender faith-leaders in the United States. During his tenure as volunteer director of Al-Fatiha, Faisal served on the national advisory boards of: the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies in Religion and Ministry at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, PFLAG National’s Family of Color Network and the Fellowship for Reconciliation’s LGBT Network.
Faisal’s presentation “Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims” has been featured at more than 90 universities and colleges. He has spoken and presented at numerous events across the country including LGBT interfaith services, inter-religious LGBT panel discussions, at synagogues, churches, PFLAG meetings and other community events. Faisal has been featured as a plenary and keynote speaker at regional and national conferences including the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Creating Change conference (2001 and 2010), Amnesty International’s Mid-Atlantic & Mid-West regional conferences (2001), University of California's system-wide LGBT conference (2003), the Mid-West LGBT Student’s conference (2006) and the LGBT Western Regional College conference (held at UC Santa Barbara in 2009). In 2000 Faisal was one of a handful of religious leaders who spoke at the Millennium March on Washington which brought together more than 500,000 people from across the country.
Faisal has received numerous recognitions and awards for his activism on behalf of queer Muslims. Advocate Magazine selected him as an "Innovator," Genre Magazine has recognized him as a "Founding Father," and the Utne Reader chose him as one of 30 "Young Visionaries Under 30." In 2005 the Equality Forum recognized Faisal as one of “40 Heroes” who have "made a defining difference in LGBT civil rights over the last forty years." In 2008 he received recognition and an award from Pride Toronto for his "outstanding contribution in the area of spirituality that positively impacts LGBT communities." And in 2010 Faisal received a "Community Honor" award from the Unity Fellowship Church of Atlanta for his "tireless justice seeking efforts on behalf of LGBTQI individuals, and all marginalized people."
In August 2011, Faisal had the honor of being invited to and attending President Obama's annual White House iftar dinner (breaking of the fast during Ramadan).
In addition to his LGBT faith-based activism, Faisal has championed other social justice concerns including human rights, immigration & asylum rights, HIV/AIDS education and advocacy, public health, reproductive health and reproductive justice. His past employers have included the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Minority AIDS Council, and the Association of Minority Health Professions Schools. Faisal currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia, where he continues to advocate for peace, equality and justice.
(This biographical statement provided by Faisal Alam.)