Regional Sects & Growth
As the first of its kind, Salaam received coverage in LGBTQ2+ media across North America (including in Xtra!, Genre, and Siren) and, as a result, Khaki fielded letters from Canadian and American writers. The founder of Al-Fatiha Foundation, an organization established in 1998 for American LGBTQ+ Muslims – was in part inspired by Salaam.
While Salaam was founded in Toronto, its mandate was always to serve LGBTQ+ Muslims across Canada. To better serve those beyond Toronto, regional groups were formed and remain in operation today.
As of 2022, there are regional groups in Edmonton, Ottawa, and Vancouver, with previous groups having also existed in Halifax, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal, and Winnipeg.
Salaam’s first regional group was formed in Vancouver in 1998 by Imtiaz Popat/Moomtaz Khatoon. That year, Atish (a group of South Asian and Middle Eastern queers in Vancouver) had folded, and Popat had attended the conference of the American Al-Fatiha Foundation which inspired him to begin what would become, Salaam Vancouver.
‘Al-Fatiha: Vancouver Chapter’ was established to serve the communal and social needs of LGBTQ+ Muslims in the region. The name was not well received, as it reminded people of the cemetery (‘Al-Fatiha’ is the opening chapter of The Qur’an, and is often read at the grave site of a deceased loved one). In 2003, Popat attended Salaam’s first international conference in Toronto and, upon meeting Khaki there, decided to rename their group and become ‘Salaam Canada: Vancouver Region,’ in the interest of creating a Canada-wide LGBTQ+ Muslim presence.
Salaam Vancouver now hosts socials and group meetings, marches yearly in the Vancouver Pride Parade, and hosts gatherings for significant events in queer and Muslim calendars, such as its annual picnic to jointly commemorate Pride and Eid, celebrations for Navroz, and, more recently, festivities for Kwanzaa.
Salaam Edmonton was initiated in 2006, by then-graduate student and queer man of Pakistani origin, Junaid Jahangir. Junaid describes the Edmonton context at that time as “very white.” Junaid first learnt of Salaam in 2004:
“when I heard of Salaam, I was like ‘wow’…. I wish we had something like that here in Edmonton..."
Junaid reached out to Salaam Vancouver, joining them in representing Salaam in the 2006 Vancouver Pride Parade. Upon returning to Edmonton, Junaid tried to establish a public presence for his group: “I made a sign. I was a grad student but I forked 50 bucks. I made a huge placard – ‘Salaam Edmonton’."
The group’s foundational event was marching with this placard in the 2006 Pride Parade. Salaam Edmonton folded in 2007, and in 2016, a Salaam group re-surfaced in Edmonton under the leadership of Gianmarco Visconti, with no connection to this original initiative.