In 1991 Salaam Canada formed as a community group to create space for people who identify as both Muslim and LGBTQ+. As of August 2022, after 30 years of service, Salaam Canada shut down its operations, however, some regional groups continue to operate. This exhibit is to recognize and celebrate their essential community work over the last 30 years.
Founder El-Farouk Khaki initially called the community ‘Min Alaq’, referring to a verse from The Qur’an, meaning “from a clot.” He intended this to be a reminder of everyone's shared humanity – regardless of sexuality, gender or other difference – as reflected in our common origin from a ‘clot’. He observed, however, that most people - including Muslims - did not know what the name referred to, and so he rebranded to Salaam shortly thereafter. ‘Salaam’, the Arabic word for ‘peace’, is the central message communicated in the universal Muslim greeting ‘as-salamu-alaykum’, translated as ‘peace be upon you’. The group’s subtitle at the time was ‘A Social Support Group for Lesbian and Gay Muslims’. Khaki acknowledged this subtitle intentionally described the organization as a ‘social’ support space – to identify its purpose and clarify its non-theological nature.
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Salaam was a forum for strength against undermining forces and allowed space to help reframe LGBTQ+ Muslim-ness as a gift instead of a burden.
Salaam provided: psychological healing; reconciliation between faith, gender, and/or sexuality; a community from which to draw shared experiences, friendships and romances; tools to counter queer-phobia and Islamophobia at the familial and communal levels; and logistical support and information for navigating the immigration, refugee, and other systems.
The existence and work of Salaam complicated dominant representations of what queerness and Muslim-ness are and can be, therefore making society more hospitable for even those LGBTQ+ Muslims who may have never attended a Salaam program.
Salaam Founder El-Farouk Khaki reflects upon the importance of Salaam, and the contextual evolution he has witnessed over its 30+ years:
“We’re starting to see parents who are queer, and parents of queers, who are embracing their queer kids. We're having more and more queer folks embracing the multiplicities and nuances of their identities. Reconciliation is a long process. I don't even know whether full reconciliation is even necessary, but it is in the engagement. So, when people can say I am gay and I am Muslim, or I am this and I am that, in the same sentence. And then when they can actually start to say that without cringing, without feeling pain within themselves, that’s what we’re looking for. That's what I'm looking for. That's what I was looking for, for myself. So, I figure if I like chocolate, other people like chocolate.”