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Monday, December 31, 2012

BBC News - Libyans’ new love affair with ice cream

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BBC News - Lahore roundabout sparks battle of identity in Pakistan

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BBC News - Libya rediscovers its hidden talent

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From alcohol to kites: An A to Z guide to the Islamic Republic of 'Banistan' - World News

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

BBC News - How India treats its women

Female foetuses are aborted and baby girls killed after birth, leading to an an appallingly skewed sex ratio. Many of those who survive face discrimination, prejudice, violence and neglect all their lives, as single or married women.

TrustLaw, a news service run by Thomson Reuters, has ranked India as the worst country in which to be a woman. This in the country where the leader of the ruling party, the speaker of the lower house of parliament, at least three chief ministers, and a number of sports and business icons are women. It is also a country where a generation of newly empowered young women are going out to work in larger numbers than ever before.

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

BBC News - Athens - the EU capital city without a mosque

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

BBC News - Timbuktu mausoleums 'destroyed'

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Saturday, December 22, 2012

BBC News - The new wave of Arab supermodels

Arab supermodels are making a name for themselves in the fashion industry, and are changing the way Arab women are perceived by the rest of the world.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Mormon Church Calls For Compassion Toward Gays, Says Homosexuality Is Not A Choice - The Huffington Post

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Al-Azhar - Ancient mosque is at heart of fears that Egypt is turning toward theocracy

Ancient mosque is at heart of fears that Egypt is turning toward theocracy.

Al-Azhar leaders say they didn't want the role but were pressured to accept it by adherents to a puritanical, Saudi-influenced school of Islam known as Salafism, whose clout has surged in Egypt's newly democratic era.

"The Salafis want to make Azhar a part of the political system, which we are against," said Abdel Dayem-Nossair, an adviser to al-Azhar's grand sheikh and a member of the assembly that wrote the new constitution. "We don't like to put the law in terms of a religious dogma that says 'this is right' or 'this is wrong.' "

But under the new constitution, that is exactly what the millennium-old mosque and university complex will soon be doing. Dayem-Nossair said he believes the Salafis insisted on the provision because "they think they'll take over al-Azhar."

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Video: Afghanistan's increasing temporary tattoo trend

Afghanistan's increasing temporary tattoo trend

BBC Video:

Despite the traditional culture of Afghan society, temporary tattoos are becoming increasingly popular with the country's younger generation.

Some people believe this is a direct result of the western influences in the country.

Marzieh Mashkoori reports.

Video produced by BBC Persian's Mariam Ghamgousar

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A new division in Church of England

In a debate over women bishops, some say church must enforce tradition
in fast-changing times..

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Turkey's middle-class women mix fashion with Islamic piety

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Article: Gun control after school shootings: Lessons from around the globe -

Gun control after school shootings: Lessons from around the globe - -

Get #1 rated SkyGrid news app for free to follow all of your interests in real time

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Article: Our Christian Earth: The astounding reach of the world's largest religion, in charts and maps

Our Christian Earth: The astounding reach of the world's largest religion, in charts and maps - The Post World

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Insight: Once a symbol of new Afghanistan, can policewomen survive?

Once a symbol of new Afghanistan, can policewomen survive?

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Saturday, December 15, 2012

BBC News - New York, a graveyard for languages

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Israel expansion threatens West Bank Bedouin

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Friday, December 14, 2012

BBC News - Indians begin to talk about S&M

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

UN Press Release: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for end to violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

UN Press Release: Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon calls for end to violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

UN chief Ban urges world leaders to fight LGBT discrimination - National World News |

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Video - Pakistan: Youth and Democracy

In Pakistan, as terrorist attacks are on the rise, a young pop star, Abra Ul Haq, is concerned over the vulnerability of young people to violent extremism. He created a movement called the Youth Parliament of Pakistan. His vision – to empower the youth of Pakistan to shape their own destinies and build a nation where people can prosper and live in peace.

BBC News - Unusual jobs highlight restricted choices of Gaza youth

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Friday, December 7, 2012

Timbuktu Falls

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BBC News - Afghanistan's growing demand for plastic surgery

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Thousands of LGBT rights advocates to convene in Atlanta next month to strategize and organize for the year ahead


Inga Sarda-Sorensen
Director of Communications
(Office) 646.358.1463
(Cell) 202.641.5592

Thousands of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights advocates to convene in Atlanta next month to strategize and organize for the year ahead

The 25th National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change, the nation's largest annual gathering of LGBT rights activists and allies, will take place in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 23-27, 2013

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 — More than 3,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights advocates from across the country will converge in Atlanta, Ga., on Jan. 23-27 for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change.

This marks the 25th Creating Change conference, which has grown into the country's largest and most important convening of LGBT activists and allies in the country. They come together from every corner of the nation to strategize just following the presidential inauguration and to learn how to build political power back home.

The conference kicks off with pre-conference daylong institutes on Wednesday, Jan. 23, and Thursday, Jan. 24. This year, on our institute program for the first time there will be the Latino Institute, the Human Rights Institute, and Funding our Collective Liberation Institute. Other institutes will focus on racial justice, transgender rights, LGBT elders, faith, youth and more.

"At a decisive time in the struggle for LGBT rights, activists from all over the country will convene to continue to mobilize and strategize. The movement for equality is making great strides, as we saw with the sweeping marriage victories on Nov. 6, but there is much more left to do — from securing protections against discrimination, to fighting HIV/AIDS and anti-LGBT violence, to securing racial and economic justice for all," says Sue Hyde, Creating Change director. "We will continue to work harder than ever with local partners in communities across the country to secure full equality for all."

On opening night, Thursday, Jan. 24,
Center for Community Change Executive Director Deepak Bhargava will address the conference. On Jan. 25, Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey will deliver the annual "State of the Movement" address. On Jan. 26, José Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and openly gay immigration activist, headlines a plenary session on immigration issues where he engages a panel of LGBT DREAM Act organizers. Songbird Frenchie Davis, a Grammy-nominated artist who competed on American Idol and The Voice, will perform at the closing plenary on Jan. 27. All plenary sessions will be emceed by comic and social commentator Kate Clinton.

The National Conference on LGBT Equality: Creating Change also features hundreds of skills-building workshops, more than 15 additional daylong institutes, receptions, caucuses, networking sessions, interfaith services and much more.

For more information about the conference and to register, please visit

For media credentials, please contact Pedro Julio Serrano at 

To learn more about the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, visit
and follow us on Twitter: @TheTaskForce.


The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force builds the power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community from the ground up. The Task Force is the country's premier social justice organization fighting to improve the lives of LGBT people and working to create positive, lasting change and opportunity for all. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, D.C. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. © 2012, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1325 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C., 20005. Phone 202.393.5177. TTY 202.393.2284.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

In Saudi Arabia, unemployment and booming population drive growing poverty

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Iranians relish free food during month of mourning

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Monday, December 3, 2012

Muslim and gay: Islam begins to confront the issue – The Times | Insights

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Israel says will stick with settlement plan despite condemnation

I thought you might be interested in this:

I found this using the Thomson Reuters News Pro for iPhone app.

To install News Pro on your iPhone or iPad, visit:

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Amid Conflict, King Abdullah Interfaith Center Replaces Fear With Hope - The Huffington Post

The fact that the opening of the King Abdullah Centre went forward as
planned despite the Gaza conflict, and with the involvement of
world-renowned rabbis and imams, shows that Muslim-Jewish engagement,
which barely existed a decade ago, is alive and well. This profoundly
important process of reconciliation between the two faiths,
strengthened by the involvement of King Abdullah, the Guardian of the
Two Sacred Shrines of Islam, offers hope for a future in which Muslims
and Jews around the world put aside mutual fear and loathing and build
ties of friendship and trust.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

AP Mobile: The factory fire: Global commerce, local tragedy

A story from AP Mobile:

The factory fire: Global commerce, local tragedy

thumbnailIn the charred bones of the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory, the labels and logos - sewn and printed in scarlet and royal blue - beckon from the ashes. Even in ruins, there's no missing that these T-shirts and jeans were intended for U.S. stores and shopping carts, designed as bargains too good to pass up, or stocking stuffers just in time for the holidays and in just the right size. But a week afte...

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In northern Mali, music silenced as Islamists drive out artists

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Progressive Muslim Journalist Mona Eltahawy Challenges Gender Inequality in Islam | PRLog

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Friday, November 30, 2012

J-Lo to 'cover up' for Jakarta

She and all the dancers must wear clothes that don't show men's chests or women's cleavage, and sexual dance moves will have to resemble laughs as opposed to "making love," he added. Some women will wear black ties, he said, based on photos he's seen.

The adjustments are in keeping with informal rules that make the concert "suitable for Indonesia" and will satisfy the local government, Muslim Indonesians and clerics, Ibrahim said, adding that he spoke with many parties.

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Thursday, November 29, 2012

BBC News - Palestinians win upgraded UN status by wide margin

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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Paris Hilton whips up a storm in holy Mecca

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Why we have to take the Saudis’ interfaith offer seriously

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Bosnian Muslims thrive in U.S. despite unease over homeland

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

CDC: US AIDS epidemic fresh in risk-taking youth - Vitals


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BBC News - Iraq conflict: Crisis of an orphaned generation

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Gay men sue conversion therapy counselors

The conversion therapy techniques included having them strip naked in
group sessions, cuddling and intimate holding of others of the
same-sex, violently beating an effigy of their mothers with a tennis
racket, visiting bath houses "in order to be nude with father
figures," and being "subjected to ridicule as 'faggots' and 'homos' in
mock locker room scenarios," the suit said.

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Monday, November 26, 2012

Atheists and Islam: No God, not even Allah | The Economist

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

AP Mobile: When it comes to gender gap, men play crucial role

A story from AP Mobile:

When it comes to gender gap, men play crucial role

thumbnailWASHINGTON (AP) - Sorry, fellas, but President Barack Obama's re-election makes it official: Women can overrule men at the ballot box. For the first time in research dating to 1952, a presidential candidate whom men chose decisively - Republican Mitt Romney - lost. More women voted for the other guy. It's surprising it didn't happen sooner because women have been voting in larger numbers than men ...

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AP Mobile: At renovated Iraq shrine, Shiites mark a holy day

A story from AP Mobile:

At renovated Iraq shrine, Shiites mark a holy day

thumbnailKARBALA, Iraq (AP) - It is the most impassioned day of the year for Shiite Muslims - Ashoura, when one of the faith's most revered figures, Imam Hussein, was martyred in battle. Hundreds of thousands of Shiites who flocked to his resplendent, gold-domed shrine to commemorate him Saturday found the site has radically changed. The shrine of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, is seei...

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Saturday, November 24, 2012

BBC News - Gaza baby 'only knew how to smile'

A must-read.

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Fighting cancer with mustaches

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Friday, November 23, 2012

‘Fighting Reality’: Life as an atheist in Saudi Arabia

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

Gay rights group calls for dialogue in the UAE | Gay Star News

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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Shared from BBC News

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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Palestinian gay couple killed by Israeli Gaza bombing | Gay Star News

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Church of England votes against allowing women bishops - World News


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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Isolation of H.I.V. Inmates in Alabama at Issue -

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When war is pre-packaged for sharing

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Friday, November 16, 2012

In post-Gaddafi Tripoli: The Bee Gees, burgers and militia gun battles

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Palestinians: Settlers threaten West Bank's centuries-old olive harvest tradition - World News

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

BBC News - Viewpoint: Egypt's emerging revolution of the mind

Fascinating article about the religious progressives within
traditionally fundamentalist groups. And how Egyptians are learning to
think for themselves.

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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rising Muslim American leader in D.C. speaks for his generation

Rising Muslim American leader in D.C. speaks for his generation

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Maryland voters approve same sex marriage; Maine is free too - Baltimore Gay Issues |

Quotes / links about Muslim reaction.

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Upcoming Speaking Engagements - "Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims"

Salaam folks. Wanted to share with you my upcoming speaking engagements. Please email me privately for details. Hope to meet / see some of you in my travels. :)

November 1 - Roanoke College (Roanoke, VA)
November 3 - Georgia Southern University (Statesboro, GA)
November 5 - East Carolina University (Greenville, NC)
November 8 - Armstrong Atlantic State University (Savannah, GA)
November 12 - Rhodes College (Memphis, TN)
November 27 - Kansas State University (Manhattan, KS)
November 29 - Colby College (Waterville, ME) - with my amazing friend Tynan Power

 For more information on my presentation "Hidden Voices: The Lives of LGBT Muslims" visit

Faisal Alam

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

BBC News - Afghanistan's first female rapper upbeat on future

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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Interview: Sexuality and Gender in Islam: A Conversation with Scott Kugle


Sexuality and Gender in Islam: A Conversation with Scott Kugle
By Susan Henking

24th Aug. 2011

As scholar Scott Kugle knows well, to be both Muslim and gay means the possibility of having to "come out twice"—with the likely chance of encountering either homophobia or Islamophobia (or both), depending on the context.

Follow up:

But in recent years, a new discussion of Islam and sexuality has emerged, led in large part by professor Kugle, who teaches South Asian and Islamic Studies at Emory University. Having written many books on Islam, including Homosexuality in Islam: Islamic Reflection on Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslims (2010), he is currently working on a collection entitled Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslim Activists (forthcoming in 2012, NYU Press).

Susan Henking: As you know, when Gary David Comstock and I published Que(e)rying Religion: A Critical Anthology in 1997 it was not easy to find material on Islam and homosexuality, so I was thrilled to learn of your work. What do you think explains the shift?

Scott Kugle: The field of Islamic Studies has changed drastically over the past two decades, and new conditions within this field of study have made it easier to do research and write about homosexuality and transgender behavior in Islam. I'm speaking of the United States academy here, but similar things were happening in the global network of university inquiry.

Islamic Studies used to happen under the rubric of "Orientalist Studies" which was mainly philological and text-based, and was carefully sealed off from wider currents of cultural criticism. But in the 1980s, scholars began to take Islamic Studies out of this narrow field and merge it more with Religious Studies, connected to wider intellectual trends like feminism, interfaith dialogue, and progressive political analysis. In the 1990s, this yielded a new intellectual climate. Mature scholars trained in Islamic Studies and textual traditions began to make bolder inquiries, and homosexuality was no longer considered a taboo subject; so for instance we see the books and articles of Everett Rowson (such as "The Effeminates of Medina" which you published in Que(e)rying Religion) who is a scholar of Arabic literature and Middle Eastern Studies.

At the same time, a younger generation of graduate students were coming of age, pursuing research in a climate in which inquiry into sexuality and gender was no longer seen as risqué. In this younger generation were also an increasing number of Muslim students (from Muslim family backgrounds and also from convert backgrounds) who brought Islamic Studies into closer dialogue with Religious Studies and began to question the divide between "studying religion" and "living religion."

That said, it was really non-Muslim scholars who broke open the field. I remember the thrill of buying the book Islamic Homosexualities edited by Stephen Murray and Will Roscoe in 1996, when I was a graduate student at Duke University and had recently accepted Islam. It was the first book that addressed the topic, though admittedly it was from an anthropological perspective that showed great naiveté and even ignorance about Islam as a religious tradition. Still, it existed between two covers! It opened the doors, and invited others to begin publishing… as much to correct its misperceptions as to emulate its boldness. Then J. W. Wright and Everett Rowson's edited collection Homoeroticism in Classical Arabic Literature (1997) showed how much literature in Arabic addressed questions of same-sex attraction, if only researchers would open their eyes to it. Yehuda Schofer and Arno Schmitt also contributed to this dialogue.

What was missing was a more intimate engagement with the religious tradition of Islam. This came with feminist Muslim scholars. They provided the techniques of skeptically critical yet faithfully engaged scholarship that nurtured a next generation of scholars. There was the cautiously secular approach of Leila Ahmed and the audaciously zealous approach of Amina Wadud; both styles of feminism provided tools and perspectives for sexuality-sensitive scholars to appraise the religious tradition of Islam from within.

Q: So, Homosexuality in Islam was published in 2010. Beyond what you've already described, what inspired you to write it?

That book was a long time in the writing. The process actually began in 2002. After 9/11 a group of scholar-activists came together to discuss our reactions to the attacks and the patriotic chauvinism that followed it in the USA. We were mainly Muslim scholars who worked together through the American Academy of Religion. Omid Safi suggested that we each contribute an essay to a book entitled Progressive Muslims: on Gender, Justice and Pluralism (2003) in order to publish our stance (political, cultural and theological) as progressive Muslims. For that volume, I decided to write an essay on homosexuality in Islam.

I was frankly afraid of doing it, being uncertain of what its ramifications would be for my position as a young professor without tenure, and as a Muslim convert in Islamic communities in North America who were by and large not open to acknowledging homosexual women and men in their midst. But the enormity of the 9/11 crimes and the pressures that Muslim communities in the USA were placed under after this convinced me to put aside self-centered concerns and write for the greater good. We all felt that "extremists and reactionaries" had hijacked Islam, and that we needed to speak boldly (and write furiously) to do our part—however small it might be—to take Islam back.

In that essay, I was basically "coming out" twice. I was coming out as a Muslim believer to my Academic colleagues. I was coming out as a gay man to my Muslim fellows. Neither position was very comfortable. So to do both at once was very foolish. Yet, I never regret it.

That book was a great success. It was widely discussed, and we were surprised that it galvanized the support of a wide spectrum of Muslims who had been largely silent. After that, many progressive-minded Muslims (within the academy and beyond) began to speak up with new boldness. But many mainstream Muslim groups expressed discomfort (often in the form of keeping silent) about my contribution, entitled "Sexuality, Diversity and Ethics in the Agenda of Progressive Muslims." There were offers to publish translations of the book in Arabic or Turkish… if only my chapter was left out. To the great credit of the editor and publisher, these compromises were not made. The book today exists only in English, but my chapter is in an integral part of it, and stands unrepudiated, even if unpopular.

At the same time, I became involved in a community-based support group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer and questioning Muslims. This support group for LGBTIQ Muslims was called Al-Fatiha Foundation and it organized yearly conferences and retreats. Through it, I met other scholars and activists who were thinking along the same lines as myself. I discovered that I was not thinking alone! There was a collective effort, and many of us were advancing similar interpretations of Qur'anic scripture to create a "gay-affirming" interpretation of Islam.

That initial essay of 2003 did attract criticism from other Muslim scholars. I was called a Mu`tazili, a brand of rationalist theologians in early medieval Islam who were branded as heretics. I took that as a compliment, but also as a misreading of my stance. I found that there was an on-line boycott (among some Muslim groups) of my books, even those which did not deal with homosexuality at all!

These critiques incited me to write more, based on deeper theological research. By 2003, I had decided to seek help to enable me to do this. I applied for a research fellowship at the Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World in the Netherlands. They generously gave me a two-year fellowship. So in 2004, I left my teaching position at Swarthmore College, which I dearly loved, and moved to the Netherlands to pursue two years of research and writing. I was determined to produce a full book that would include a study of hadith and also Islamic law and ethics. Homosexuality in Islam was published only in 2010, but it was written during that two-year period, from 2004-6.

That grant allowed me to also interview activists who are LGBTIQ Muslims in South Africa, the Netherlands, Britain, USA and Canada. I am now preparing a book that features their interviews, to show both the variety of activist activities they engage in and the common issues that they face. That book will be published soon by NYU Press and will be entitled Voices of Gay, Lesbian and Transgender Muslim Activists.

Q: I know you have already commented a bit on this, but can you say more about what sorts of reactions do you get within Muslim circles? From LGBT groups or people? From Muslim LGBT people and groups?

I have to admit that my perspective on reactions to the book is skewed. I only hear from those who read it and had positive reactions! Those who have negative reactions either don't want to buy it, don't care to read it, or have decided that silence is the more effective strategy to suppress its ideas.

Yet I am overwhelmed by the positive reactions that I hear. Many people write to me by internet to say that reading the book has saved their lives. This is the ultimate compliment, and may God bless them and me! To offer someone information and through that information they are touched with compassion, that is the ultimate reward. So many people are alienated from family and community (and even from God) that they consider suicide or fall into depression. If my book can offer them a way out of this deadly cycle, then it is a great success and I am satisfied. As the Qur'an says, "If you save the life of one person it is as if you saved all of humanity…"

Other Muslim readers have written to me saying that they are using the book to argue with their families, to present an alternative view. If the book can provide them with information and arguments to open a dialogue with their parents and elders, then it is a success. But some Muslim readers have responded that the book is too conservative; they see it as obsessed with dialogue with the tradition, Islamic law, and conservative interpretations, a dialogue which can never bear fruit. I understand their impatience, but still I feel an attempt must be made to explore the Islamic tradition itself for resources to comprehend and accept LGBTIQ people. Until that exploration is exhausted, it is too early to give up.

Finally, I am pleased to report that there are many students who are taking up the challenge posed by my book. There are graduate students now, and undergraduates too, who are doing their own research… and they are empowered by the book I wrote. Some of them disagree with me vehemently. I'm happy to hear that! As long as they learn from the techniques of inquiry that I explain in my book, I am happy to see my conclusions challenged. In the next decade, we can look forward to a real flowering of studies of sexual orientation and gender identity in an Islamic framework.

Q: Do you see the work as having relevance to contemporary struggles in Muslim majority countries?

My book was written for Muslims in secular democratic states (the so-called West) who mainly live as a small religious minority. They enjoy access to education and legal rights that allow them to think critically and act independent of their families, in many circumstances. The book was written with them in mind.

But it is also written to address universal issues for Muslims, and the arguments about gender and sexuality that originate in the West have great relevance for arguments that happen in a quieter way in Muslim-majority countries. Access to my book is limited in Muslim-majority countries (and this true generally of progressive and feminist Muslim scholarship from the West). It is limited by language, and by economic access, and by political censorship.

Some people from Muslim-majority countries have written to me asking if they can purchase the book as an internet file or an e-book, because their country censors book purchases and deliveries through the post. I have not yet worked this out with the publisher Oneworld Publications, but hope to do so, considering the political situation in many Muslim-majority countries and the tenuous privacy that people have within their families.

I believe that—for better or for worse—Muslims in the West have a privileged place in this progressive dialogue. The opinions expressed by Muslims in the USA, Canada, Europe, and South Africa have a great impact on the international dialogue. I hope more US-based Muslims will take up this challenge, acknowledging the gift of freedom and legal rights that God has given them in their residence here.

Q: In the book you "posit that there are real categories of people who can be called gay, lesbian, and transgender" and focus on what you call dispositional homosexuality. Why is this important?

This argument is a legacy of the last two decades of academic debate about the epistemological category of sexuality orientation. It is often called the "essentialist/constructivist" debate. There was a tendency in academic circles to embrace an extreme "constructivist" position, with Michel Foucault as a constant reference. There were "essentialist" hold-outs like John Boswell and Bernadette Brouten, who maintained the usefulness of "homosexual" as a category that describes a class of people across the divide of era, region or culture. I tend to agree with Boswell and Brouten. I see much of the "Queer Theory" debate in a constructivist mode as an academic enterprise that is good for making careers in the university but is not so good at affecting the rights of real people in situations of vulnerability and struggle. I try to balance the urgency of activism with the accuracy of scholarship, and I do believe that a good balance can be achieved.

Q: That's an area where I like the both/and approach myself—or better yet, Gayatri Spivak's notion of "strategic essentialism"—when expedient for purposes of justice! Not unrelatedly, I was startled to learn that the Ayatollah Khomeini favored sex reassignment surgery in some circumstances—and yet find this matches the controversies about sex reassignment, on the one hand, as re-instantiating gender binaries and on the other hand as liberating. Sometimes I experience sex reassignment surgery as a conservative alternative and sometimes liberating. Do you find this a bit puzzling too?

In the USA, we are so used to demonizing Ayatollah Khomeini that we often fail to see the more creative and constructive aspects of his life and political rule. Not that I'm a supporter of his Islamic Revolution in Iran, mind you! But nobody is a demon.

Ayatollah Khomeini made a decision that sex-reassignment surgery was Islamically permissible, if and when the "real gender" of the person could be determined beneath any anatomical or psychological ambiguity. This is a potentially progressive Islamic stance! Much has been written about this by journalists and scholars, most effectively by Afsaneh Najmabadi. She states rightly that this decision is potentially liberating for transgender people, but it is effectively debilitating for homosexual men. (For more on her views, click here.) Often in Iran gay men are pushed toward gender reassignment surgery as a "cure" for their sexual orientation: if a man feels attraction for another man then he should become a woman so that this attraction is no longer subversive of the social order, you see?

In the USA, there is often tolerance for homosexuals but bafflement or hostility toward transgender people… but in Iran, the policies but in place by Ayatollah Khomeini have the opposite effect and often transgender people are accepted if they move toward surgical reassignment while homosexuals are oppressed. There is no ideal place, only contrasting shades of gray.

Q: You take up the issue of marriage in Homosexuality in Islam. And, of course this is a big issue in today's news. I admit I sometimes find the marriage equality movement—and the movement for inclusion in the military—paradoxical. On the one hand, of course I want the full rights of citizenship and I am lucky enough to be living in New York! On the other hand, I think of these as two very conservative institutions that got critiqued in serious ways by progressives in my lifetime. Is the best world we can imagine one where LGBT persons can join these two problematic institutions?

I agree with you on this. But I see the issue of marriage equality as an important indication of human rights and social tolerance. I favor marriage equality because those who want to marry deserve the chance to do so, whether they have opposite-gender partners or same-gender partners. And I will fight so that they have this right and have equality before the law.

That said, marriage itself is a bourgeois institution that is as much about property, child legitimacy, and taxation as it is about love. Not everyone who is LGBTIQ will find fulfillment in marriage, even if it is legalized. It is one thing to advocate that LGBTIQ people should be able to marry… and it is quite another to claim that they must or that they should be married!

Still, in the current climate of the USA, it is crucial to fight for the right of all people to marry the partner of choice, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation. It establishes a legal principle that will affect many other more universal and quotidian issues of rights and capabilities. Among LGBTIQ Muslims, there are some who want to marry in an Islamic ceremony (nikah), and they should have the means to do so. That is an important symbolic statement. In the last decade, there have been many such ceremonies in the USA, out of the limelight and beyond the reach of the media.

In my opinion, one should support the right to all people to marry, even one does not want to marry. In the same way, one should support the right of all people to serve in the military without discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation, even if one would never want to serve in the military (or even opposes the existence of the military!). And one should support anti-discrimination measures within big corporations or banks, even if one despises the financial shenanigans of such organizations. This is a question of political strategy, not radically idealism. We need to get realistic about what battles to fight first, and which to prepare for later on.

Q: In your work, you adopt what you call a liberation theology approach combined with traditional modes of Islamic argumentation. Would you say that there are possibilities for alliance building across more "progressive" forms of religions insofar as they take history and culture into account or not so much?

Liberation theology is a power set of tools and approaches within any religion. It refers to internal reform of a religious tradition in order to consciously align the religious beliefs and practices toward the goal of stopping oppression, protecting the vulnerable, and advancing a progressive political agenda.

The term is mainly related to the Catholic Church, as many lay-leaders and some church authorities organized a progressive and radical critique of the Church's institution in Latin America. The term then spread to Protestant Churches, in the civil rights movement in North America and to the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa. It is also used in Buddhist communities when religious belief is coupled with desire for radical social change through nonviolent means and/or forceful civic protest.

There are scholars who use the term liberation theology to describe progressive approaches to Islamic belief and practice. Amina Wadud and Asma Barlas are good examples in the field of feminism in Islam. Farid Esack and Asghar Ali Engineer are good examples in Islamic politics against racial oppression, poverty and exploitation. In Islam, many scholars and activists use the word "reform" or "revival" rather than liberation theology, because the later term sounds too much like it was borrowed from Christianity and that might be a liability for an indigenously Islamic project. In this sense, the legal scholar and reformer Khalid Abou El Fadl does "liberation theology" from within the Islamic tradition without actually calling it that.

Among LGBTIQ Muslims, there are many who talk about liberation from oppression, but few who identify as "liberation theologians." Yet liberation theology is exactly what they are doing, in an organic sense. They are building community, addressing marginalization, empowering lay-leaders, and challenging entrenched power structures within their religious institutions. I thought that it was important in my book to acknowledge that what I am doing is liberation theology, linked to a past tradition and a movement that has manifestations in many religions.

LGBTIQ people in other religious traditions are doing similar work, and Muslims can support them and learn from them in their shared goals. Often the obstacles and the tools to overcome them are similar, even if the religious traditions may differ. There is great potential for coalition building especially with Jews and Christians, since the Islamic tradition shares many features with these other Abrahamic faiths. I recently attended an interfaith gathering in Atlanta of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, who were called to address the question of whether their faith and institutions accept and include LGBTIQ people from their respective communities.

Faisal Alam, the founder of Al-Fatiha Foundation, was invited to speak from a Muslim perspective; a local mosque leader who is a medical doctor was invited to represent mainstream Muslim institutions. They disagreed with each other, but did so respectfully and with tact. It seemed that the LGBTIQ people of whatever religion had more in common with each other than they did with their co-religionists. The obstacles that they face are so similar—rooted more in cultural prejudice, patriarchal power, and masculine fear than in actual religious beliefs—that their personal viewpoints are similar as well.

I hope that Christian and Jewish groups, who have more resources and institutions at their disposal in North America, can reach out more to include Muslims in such discussion, and to offer help as fledgling Muslims groups with progressive values try to organize, often again considerable pressure from their own religious leaders. Often Christians and Jews think of Muslims as somehow exceptional—as if Muslims are somehow so different that they cannot be called to a common podium to speak. Yet Muslim communities are going through crises and internal debates now that Christian and Jewish communities have already passed through decades ago… and a few decades is really not such a long time.

Q: Thank you so much for everything you have shared with us today. I want to end with a question I will ask everyone I interview for Religion Dispatches: If you were to imagine the future—or to imagine the most hopeful future—what would the impact of your most recent book be? And how would our world be different?

Of course, books don't change the world. But they can help to change people's minds, and that can change the world, slowly and gradually.

I have three great hopes for the future, when I consider the possible effects my book might have. The first is that it might empower LGBTIQ Muslims to reconnect with their faith. That connection is very powerful and it can give them great strength and moral resources to stand up to the oppression and abuse that they often suffer from the hands of religious leaders, family elders and community authorities. Often LGBTIQ Muslims get estranged from their faith because they are struggling with their parents' expectations, and parental authority become fused in their minds with religion. Many of them take a secular turn or feel unable to worship, even on an individual level… or they can even feel that God has rejected them. Such attitudes can lead to despair and a deep sense of loss. On the other hand, if they can manage to reconnect with their faith in a personal and spiritual way, this can give them great endurance, resilience and hope which are all necessary virtues to survive the hardships that they face. It certainly has worked that way for me.

The second hope I have is that the book will be read by the Muslim parents family and friends of LGBTIQ folks. The book lays out an alternative to prejudice and rejection of LGBTIQ Muslims, and that alternative is based on Islamic sources and principles. Some readers might find it "conservative" in its adherence to religious sources. But the hope is that this appeal to the religion for tolerance from within will actually appeal to the parents of LGBTIQ Muslims, who actually suffer from oppressing and marginalizing their children. If the dynamic between parent and child changes, then there are seeds for change in the wider Muslim community. Many people expect dialogue and debate to begin with Imam and mosque leaders, but these will be the last to change their attitude and practice. Change will start first within the hearts of LGBTIQ Muslims, and then within their own families. I have heard some anecdotal evidence from email correspondence that in fact this is happening, slowly, one parent at a time.

The third hope I have is that the book will remove the veil of fear from an emerging generation of scholars and writers. I hope it will inspire and enable them to do their own research and write their own books. They will not agree with me, I'm sure—but I want them to say that my book paved the way for others. I have published Homosexuality in Islam from a perspective within the faith and for those with faith. I wrote it in my own name. I was not threatened. I was not attacked. I was not killed. I did not suffer professional setbacks. Perhaps I was ignored and perhaps I was shunned, but one can live with that! The point is that there is so much more research to do, and Islamic theology offers rich resources and spiritual insights that are yet to be uncovered and articulated. That is a great challenge for the future.

I learn each year of university students doing papers, and Masters degree students writing thesis, or Ph.D. scholars-in-the-making writing dissertations about Islam from the perspective of sexuality and gender identity issues. I find it amazing that they read my book and gain a sense of empowerment to do their own work. That is what we call, in the Islamic tradition, a sadaqa jariya, a gift that keeps giving benefit even after the giver has passed away. I hope my book is a sadaqa jariya.

Susan Henking is Professor of Religious Studies at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, NY—coordinate colleges for women (William Smith) and men (Hobart College). Her work focuses on theories of religion as well as religion in relation to gender and sexuality. She is co-editor, with Gary David Comstock, of Que(e)rying Religion (1997) and, with William Parsons and Diane Jonte Pace, of Mourning Religion. She also writes on higher education. The views shared here are, of course, not those of her employer, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, but of Susan Henking.

BBC News - Today - In pictures: The history of the Hajj

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Saturday, October 27, 2012

NYT: A Village Rape Shatters a Family, and India's Traditional Silence;jsessionid=7D66E77BB8A4C901615173F7A158FC87?f=110

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Friday, October 26, 2012

BBC News - Psy-ops: Tuning the Afghans into radio

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

BBC News - Is the world ready to take on Mali's Islamists?

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BBC News - Tunisia Jews: A tiny community hanging on - and cooking

Magdi Abdelhadi's documentary, Arab Jews: A Forgotten Exodus, was broadcast on BBC World Service. Listen to the programme via i-player radio or download a podcast.

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My Take: Muslims must engage politically, look outside themselves

My Take: Muslims must engage politically, look outside themselves

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AP Mobile: Informant: NYPD paid me to 'bait' Muslims

A story from AP Mobile:

Informant: NYPD paid me to 'bait' Muslims

thumbnailNEW YORK (AP) - A paid informant for the New York Police Department's intelligence unit was under orders to "bait" Muslims into saying inflammatory things as he lived a double life, snapping pictures inside mosques and collecting the names of innocent people attending study groups on Islam, he told The Associated Press. Shamiur Rahman, a 19-year-old American of Bangladeshi descent who has now deno...

Read Full Story

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

From The Washington Post: U.S. developing new blueprint for hunting terrorists

A friend shared this article with you from The Washington Post:

THE PERMANENT WAR | Over past two years, Obama administration has been
secretly developing a new blueprint for pursuing terrorists, a
next-generation targeting list called the "disposition matrix.".

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At Afghan shrine, ancient treatment for mental illness

At Afghan shrine, ancient treatment for mental illness

Mental health patients are chained to a cell for 40 days of living on
bread, water and black pepper..

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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Secular Egyptians protest Islamists’ role in drafting new constitution

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Friday, October 19, 2012

'Spy of the West': Al-Qaida, Taliban struggle to justify attack on Pakistani teen - World News

The Taliban, al-Qaida and conservative groups in Pakistan have
launched an unprecedented effort to justify the attack on teenager
Malala Yousufzai and to calm the reaction against her shooting.


Check out more stories at

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BBC News - Big Bang: Is there room for God?

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1 in 30 Americans Identify as LGBT

3.4% of Americans identify as LGBT

Of note in the latest Gallup survey, released Thursday, is the fact that non-whites are more likely to identify themselves as LGBT than whites, which challenges common belief that large numbers of the community are white, male and wealthy.

The Gallup poll showed that 4.6% of African-Americans identify as LGBT along with 4% of Latinos and 4.3% of Asian-Americans. Only 3.2% of white Americans say they are LGBT.

More women — 3.6% — identified as LGBT than men — 3.3%. That means 53% of the LGBT community are women.

And, perhaps not surprisingly,  younger adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were more than three times as likely as seniors 65 and older to identify as LGBT — 6.4% of younger Americans said they were LGBT versus 1.9% of older people.

Pakistani schoolgirl can stand, communicate

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Thursday, October 18, 2012

In Jerusalem, even street naming can be divisive

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NYT: Same-Sex Marriage Support Has Grown Among Latinos, Survey Finds;jsessionid=42F29095A86CA087D0FC3C968DDEEA2A?f=110

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Activists: 'Devastation' after mosque bombing

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Tuesday, October 16, 2012

SUBMISSIONS CALL! Totally Radical Muslims' Zine, Vol 2 (Deadline 11/15/12)

Subject: SUBMISSIONS CALL! Totally Radical Muslims' Zine, Vol 2 (Deadline 11/15/12)



Are you a queer, trans and or radical muslim with a story to tell?  of course you are!  share your writings, poetry, art and more through Totally Radical Muslims' Zine!  

After the raging success of our first zine, Islamophobia: A Bitchin' Zine, the Totally Radical Muslims' crew is back at it with volume two aiming at telling stories of resistance, resilience and continued struggle.  

We want to hear from you!  

Get on it and get at us if you're interested!  

Help spread the word!  

a Totally Radical Muslim

Volume 2: "Karbala Fired Resistance Stories"

the first zine was about being heard and speaking up.  broadly proclaiming our experiences, bitchin really, about islamophobia and doing it with humor, art, poetry and image.  

in our second edition, we'll focus our attention on stories of resistance and resilience.  the title of the second zine is "Karbala Fired Resistance Stories".  we hope to print by spring 2013. 

inspired by the yearly traditions of muharram and the stories of karbala which exemplify social justice, resistance to oppression, courage to change and strong solidarity, our second zine will show the strengths of our backs and the power of a determined heart.  

we invite submissions that show: your own process and struggle; how you have overcome adversity; ways you have healed; and stories that hold meaning to your inspired work.  

we encourage you to draw upon social justice movement history that inspires you, spiritual practices that energize you, community resources that stabilize you, and a political grounding that visions you. 

Expectations and Values

expectations we have and values we want upheld in submissions: 

* intersectional and anti-oppression lens (this is not the time to play oppression olympics, folks) 

* speak your truths, take care of your safety, be creative (pseudo names are useful, if needed) 

* work towards community building and breaking isolation 

* our stories are colored within a context of islamophobia - air your laundry, and be mindful of how the piece will be read 

* islamophobia falls within a continuum of oppression, honor the histories of other oppressed peoples


we do not edit your work.  this is our commitment to honoring individual voice and storytelling.  we are however, discerning in maintaining a political frame and may decide that your piece does not fit within our projects vision and intent 

* all submissions must be UNDER 800 words 

* art pieces need to be formatted to fit 5.5 x 8.5 (standard sheet of paper folded)

* blog posts can be audio/video files (talk to us about your idea before submitting)

we especially welcome submissions from voices often left out of muslim discourse: queer and trans, black, youth, disabled, shia (bohri, ismaili, ithna-asheri) ahmadi,  poor and working class

* submissions must be received by THURSDAY NOVEMBER 15, 2012
submit your pieces to: islamophobia dot zine at gmail dot com

salam and metta, 

"To tell the truth is to become beautiful, to begin to love yourself, value yourself. And that's political, in its most profound way."  — June Jordan

Immigrant, gay rights groups form alliance — and meet resistance among some Latinos

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Seeing a Homosexual Agenda, Christian Group Protests an Anti-Bullying Program -

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Millions of children face Malala's fight for an education

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The Young Teenagers Like Malala That You'll Never Meet

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pakistan Sends Girl Shot by Taliban to UK for Care - ABC News

Right-wing Islamic parties and organizations in Pakistan that regularly pull thousands of supporters into the streets to protest against the U.S. have less of an incentive to speak out against the Taliban. They share a desire to impose Islamic law in the country — even if they may disagree over the Taliban's violent tactics.

Pakistan's mainstream political parties are also often more willing to harangue the U.S. than direct their people power against Islamist militants shedding blood across the country — partly out of fear and partly because they rely on Islamist parties for electoral support.

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Exclusive: The Aga Khan, Women and Development: The Path of Education - The Huffington Post

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Saturday, October 13, 2012

MasterCard for Muslims points way to Mecca - Bottom Line


Check out more stories at

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BBC News - Tajik women face divorce epidemic

Tajikistan is among the few Muslim nations where men can divorce their wives by repeating the word "taloq" - divorce - three times. They can do it face to face, over the phone, or simply by sending an SMS text.

Even though the State Religious Affairs Committee outlawed the practice last year, it is still commonplace.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Pakistani clerics add voices to chorus of condemnation against girl’s attackers

Pakistani clerics add voices to chorus of condemnation against girl's attackers

Pakistani schoolgirls in Peshawar pray for the recovery of 14-year-old activist Malala Yousafzai, who was shot in a Taliban assassination attempt.

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CNN's Reza Sayah discovers that the teenage activist Malala Yousufzai shot by the Taliban is inspiring Pakistan children

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Thursday, October 11, 2012

A Catholic, a Muslim, and a Mormon Walk into a Marriage-Equality Campaign... by Brendan Kiley - Seattle Pullout - Marriage Equality - The Stranger, Seattle's Only Newspaper

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Fwd: Introducing DeQH - the first South Asian LGBTQ national helpline

Please share widely with your contacts and friends.  This is a HUGE achievement for our communities!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: SoCal Satrang <>
Date: Wed, Oct 10, 2012 at 11:45 PM
Subject: Introducing DeQH - the first South Asian LGBTQ national helpline

On National Coming Out Day, Thursday, October 11th, 2012, a coalition of South Asian lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) organizations and individuals in the U.S. will launch DeQH, the first South Asian LGBTQ national helpline. DeQH offers free, confidential, culturally sensitive peer support, information and resources by telephone for LGBTQ South Asian individuals, families and friends around the globe. The intent is to provide a safe and supportive ear for callers to share their concerns, questions, struggles or hopes through conversations with trained LGBTQ South Asian Peer Support Volunteers.

Callers can reach the helpline at (908) FOR-DEQH (908-367-3374), 8pm-10pm on Thursdays and Sundays, Eastern Standard Time [5-7pm PST]. Days and times will expand over time.

For general information, check out and contact

DeQH is a collaboration of South Asian LGBTQ groups and individuals around the nation including AQUA North Carolina, Hotpot! in Philadelphia, SALGA NYC, Satrang in LA, and Trikone San Francisco. Please contact us if your group is interested in joining our effort, and/or if you are interested in becoming a general volunteer or would like to be trained as a peer support volunteer.

All information in this email, including names, addresses, phone numbers, emails and locations are CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVATE, to be used only for the support and enrichment of Satrang and its members.

Please DO NOT USE the information in this email for any other reason, such as solicitation or harassment. Please respect the privacy of our members and forward this email with discretion only. If we find out that you have violated the privacy or confidentiality of Satrang or its members, we're going to sic Rashmi on you and you'll wish we used a lawyer instead, which we reserve the right to do as well if you really annoy us.

Forward email

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Satrang | 605 W. Olympic Blvd. | Suite 610 | Los Angeles | CA | 90015

Faisal Alam

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." - Gandhi

Valentine's Day Across the Muslim World (2012)