An Open Letter to Our Community
In 2012, a group of committed LGBTQ and allied Muslim organizers made the difficult decision to leave behind Al-Fatiha—an organization for LGBTQ Muslims founded in 1999—and to look ahead to a new future for the LGBTQ Muslim movement.
It is with both sadness and optimism that we announce this end of an era. Al-Fatiha was born at a pivotal moment in history, filling a void felt by many LGBTQ Muslims in the United States and beyond its borders. Al-Fatiha’s founder, Faisal Alam, and two early members incorporated the non-profit organization in the state of New York in 1999. For nearly ten years, Al-Fatiha worked diligently to improve the lives of LGBTQ Muslims. Best known for holding community-building conferences, the organization also nurtured local LGBTQ Muslim groups, assisted asylum seekers in the United States, and provided much-needed education to the general public about the lives and challenges of LGBTQ Muslims.
Despite the organization’s significant contributions to the LGBTQ Muslim movement, Al-Fatiha was not immune to the problems that befall many non-profits after changes in leadership. After several years of lack of attention, Al-Fatiha ceased to operate and began a process of legal dissolution.
Al-Fatiha’s demise served as a powerful call to action. In 2011, a dozen concerned members of the community came together to assess the state of the LGBTQ Muslim movement—and strategize for its future. This strategy team brought together former leaders of Al-Fatiha, as well as other LGBTQ and allied Muslim activists who have emerged as leaders since 2005.
With the generous support of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the group convened three times at the Creating Change conference. Each year, we have led sessions for and about LGBTQ Muslims and held community building caucuses, in addition to our strategy meetings. Between gatherings, we have continued our strategic planning—and our work has already born fruit.
In 2011 and 2012, we produced the first LGBTQ Muslim retreats to be held in the United States since 2005. Theses retreats, held in Philadelphia, have welcomed 80 participants each, gathering LGBTQ Muslims from across America, and welcoming a number from Canada, the U.K., Spain, and Pakistan. We have raised funds to provide numerous scholarships for youth and adults. Our third annual retreat, which will take place in May, sold out in a matter of weeks.
Now, we are proud to announce that our work has led to the launch of a new organization—the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity (MASGD)*. MASGD is committed to building on the achievements of Al-Fatiha and revitalizing the LGBTQ Muslim movement. To that end, we are excited to join the work of other organizations that serve LGBTQ Muslims outside the U.S., such as Salaam (Canada), Imaan (U.K.), the Safra Project (U.K.), HM2F (France), CALEM (E.U.), Meem (Lebanon), and Inner Circle (South Africa).
Over the past two years, our membership has evolved into a core group of nine highly-committed individuals. Together, we bring a vast array of skills with which to build our new organization and serve our community. We represent a variety of LGBTQ and allied identities, as well as a wide spectrum of experience as Muslims in the U.S. The founding MASGD collective consists of: Yasmin Ahmed, Faisal Alam, Urooj Arshad, Sara Farooqi, Kamal Fizazi, Tynan Power, imi rashid, Raquel Saraswati, and Sahar Shafqat.
As we invite you to share our enthusiasm for MASGD and the work it is already doing, we also want to recognize the complicated feelings that exist around the dissolution of Al-Fatiha. Over the past few years, it has been painful for leaders of the LGBTQ Muslim movement to watch the organizational collapse of Al-Fatiha. There have been times when we have felt helpless witnessing as the needs of our community went unmet. We want to recognize the frustration and anger that many have experienced in Al-Fatiha’s failure to act on behalf of the Muslim community, and the profound sadness many may feel upon learning of the organization’s closure.
We also want to express gratitude to those who have stepped in to support LGBTQ Muslims during Al-Fatiha’s decline, including Muslims for Progressive Values, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the aforementioned LGBTQ Muslim organizations outside the U.S. We also wish to thank all of those who have worked tirelessly as individuals to support LGBTQ Muslims, especially those who have contributed directly to our organization. These include Imam Daayiee Abdullah (Light of Reform Mosque, Washington, DC), who served for two years as part of the strategy team that became the Muslim Alliance, as well as El-Farouk Khaki (El-Tawhid Jumu’a Circle, Toronto, ON), Prof. Scott Siraj Al-Haqq Kugle, author of Homosexuality in Islam (Emory University, Atlanta, GA) and many others too numerous to name.
We hope that you will join us in recognizing the closure of the era of Al-Fatiha and in welcoming the Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity —and a bright new era for LGBTQ Muslims in the U.S.
Prof. Sahar Shafqat and Tynan Power
on behalf of Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity: