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Plenary Panel at Creating Change Conference - February 3, 2011 - Minneapolis, MN

Plenary Panel at Creating Change Conference - February 3, 2011 - Minneapolis, MN

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Published by faisalalam
"Practice Spirit, Do Justice" - Plenary Panel at Creating Change Conference. 2,500 LGBT and Ally activists gathered in Minneapolis, MN at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Annual Creating Change conference. See http://www.creatingchange.org for more information.
"Practice Spirit, Do Justice" - Plenary Panel at Creating Change Conference. 2,500 LGBT and Ally activists gathered in Minneapolis, MN at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's Annual Creating Change conference. See http://www.creatingchange.org for more information.

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Published by: faisalalam on Feb 16, 2011
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04/27/2012

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Practice Spirit, Do Justice: Hard Work for our Common Good
 
Given this historical time, what does this moment mean to you personally and what does it mean for the larger movement?
 It is absolutely incredible being on the same stage as individuals like Rev. ElderNancy Wilson, the moderator of the Universal Fellowship of MetropolitanCommunity Churches
 – 
a Christian denomination that has more than 250congregations in 23 countries
.
I remember the first gathering of the NationalReligious Leadership Roundtable 13 years ago
 – 
in 1998. It had been only a fewmonths since I had organized the first-ever gathering of LGBT Muslims
 – 
thatbrought together 40 people from 6 countries and led to the founding of Al-Fatiha
 – 
 an organization for LGBT Muslims. I was invited by The Task Force to attendthis meeting of national LGBT religious leaders
 – 
and I had no idea what I waswalking into. As I stepped into a hotel conference room a very tall, large andboisterous man came walking up to me
 – 
and proclaimed
 – 
 
We’ve b
een wonderin
 where the Moslems were! Little did I know that I had just met Rev. Elder TroyPerry, who founded the Metropolitan Community Church in 1968 from his livingroom in Los Angeles.Thank you to The Task Force and to Creating Change for this historical moment
 – 
 where we can bridge the gaps that have existed for far too long between LGBTsecular and religious leaders and activists. How wonderful it is to be inMinneapolis
 – 
 
and in Congressman Keith Ellison’s home state
. CongressmanEllison, the first Muslim elected to the House of Representatives is a strongsupporter of LGBT equality. As a strong supporter of LGBT equality and as aVice Chair of the Congressional LGBT Equality Caucus, Representative Ellison is
 
a testament to the diversity of ideologies that exist within the American Muslimcommunity.Before I begin I must acknowledge that my mind, my heart and my soul are notfully present here. My mind is thinking about the brave women and men who arecreating a revolution across the Middle East
 – 
a revolution that may finally bringtrue democracy to the Arab world
 – 
without the interference of the United Statesand our skewed foreign policies. My heart is filled with sorrow as I think about thetragic death of David Kato, a gay activist who was murdered last week in Uganda.
And my soul is angry knowing that David’s death was the direct result of the
homophobic vitriol being exported by Christian Evangelicals in this country.Today - I come here not only as a queer person
 – 
but also as a Muslim
 – 
a memberof a religious minority, a person of color, an immigrant and a son. As a queerperson I come here worrying about the rising tide of homophobia across the UnitedStates - and I come mourning the loss of too many young people who felt theirlives were not worth living any more
 – 
because of who they were. As a Muslim Icome here wondering when my mosque will be infiltrated by the FBI, when myphone will be tapped and which Islamic Center will be the target by right-wing andhate mongering people. As a religious minority I feel as though I am livingthrough an era from our historical past
 – 
as the House of Representatives preparesto hold Congressional hearings on the supposed extremism of American Muslims.I wonder how long I will be viewed as part of a fifth column in my own country.As an immigrant, I can only pray that my home state of Georgia will not joinArizona and other states - passing legislation that questions my legitimacy to be inthis country. And as a son, I worry about my mother and when she will see a
doctor to have a mammogram, something she can’t afford
to do because her
 
employer doesn’t offer health insurance.
 For me - this moment holds many conflicting emotions and realities
 – 
being onstage with inspirational leaders of faith like Rev. Rebecca Voelkel, Rev. ElderNancy Wilson, Bishop Yvette Flunder and Rabbi Joshua Lesser
 – 
is deeplyhumbling. There was a time in my life when I literally thought that I was the onlyMuslim who was gay. In my struggle to find other people who were like myself, Iwas astonished to find religious denominations that were welcoming to lesbian,
gay, bisexual and transgender people. Could it be that God really didn’t hate
me?
Fifteen years ago I couldn’t fa
thom the concept of a loving God
 – 
a Divine figurethat created queer people like myself. Not to hate them or to deny them a happylife. But a Divinity that blessed them with special gifts and special insights that themajority of human beings did not possess. Today
 – 
I sit amongst this group of leaders
 – 
to testify that Allah
 – 
the Compassionate, the Merciful
 – 
has indeedcreated me
 – 
 
exactly as I’m supposed to be.
 
But here’s something I didn’t know when I thought I was the only gay Muslim on
this planet. Queer people, sexual and gender minorities have played a vital role insocieties across the globe
 – 
and throughout history. We were the shamans, thegate-keepers, the mediators, the ones who embodied both genders of male andfemale. We were recognized for our ability to see beyond gender and in some
cases we didn’t have a gender at all – 
making us even closer to the Divine.In the Muslim world - our names vary. We are the
waria
, the
calabai
and the
bissu
 of Indonesia, the
hijras
of Pakistan, the
kothis
of India, and the
khaanit 
of Oman.We have always played significant spiritual and ceremonial roles in our societies.And it is only in the recent past
 – 
with the advent of colonization, the rise of 

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