"When I first arrived at the LGBT Muslim Retreat, I was a little apprehensive and unsure of myself. I only started coming out a few months prior to the retreat so I still had a great deal of anxiety and nervousness around being queer and Muslim.
"The LGBT Muslim Retreat was probably the most affirming experience I have had in my life, so far. I was a scholarship recipient and this was my first year as part of the retreat and I felt like I was finally able to be myself as a whole person. By “whole person”, I mean that I felt like all of my identities were represented equally and I did not feel like I belonged only in certain ways and not others.
The people I met, the plenaries and workshops I attended and the conversations I had were all part of a learning experience that was much needed for my personal growth and development. I learned about myself, as well as the larger Muslim community. The accepting and non-judgmental environment was something I had not experienced within my own community, which was truly refreshing.
I am hoping that next year’s retreat will be just as enlightening and affirming as this year was, and most likely even better."
- Sadaf Syed, Chicago, IL - 2012 Retreat Participant
"I had attended the retreat 2 years ago (without scholarship), but as a grad student funds have been limited, and so only because of the scholarship was I able to attend this year. Now, I am not under 25 (but at 27 still in training and not on a set career path), nor was this my first time to the retreat. Nonetheless, I was so grateful that donors and retreat organizers saw fit to also help people in my boat attend. For one, while space at the retreat is limited and the demand outweighs the space, it needs to be filled with returning members as well as new ones, to bring balance and a richness of perspectives to the table. Secondly, it is important to be inclusive of folks under 30 as they will be our future leaders (and already are, like myself, as a co-organizer of the new and growing Queer Muslims of Boston group, the first of its kind in Boston). It is important to have organizations and spaces such as the retreat, MASGID and Queer Muslims of Boston, but importantly, these spaces need to be populated with ground-breaking, comprehensive content that enriches, supports and educates members and the wider communities of LGBTQ-identified non-Muslims and other non-Muslim allies. As a pre-med graduate student of history and anthropology at a divinity school, a younger student told me how valuable it was for him to have one of the co-presidents of the Muslim student group at this school be queer, and so the scholarship was important in shaping a retreat experience that was important to me personally as well as academically, allowing me to build not just on the value of my identity, just my being, but also inform the how of my being i.e. how to most effectively deploy my work and my identity towards increased social justice, empowerment and well-being. One of the themes of the retreat this year was learning our history, and it was vital that I get a sense of what this history is, to more easily determine how best to serve the community’s future.
Personally, of course, it is rejuvenating to be with others
in community every year at Memorial Day Weekend, and this year was no exception.
I rekindled some friendships,
strengthened others, and made new ones. However, the retreat is not for me
primarily a time to kick back and sit around, with all the activities that
occur. Not only is it valuable networking to be around so many people all up to
amazing work, but as I have become familiar with the community and the stakes
in the last couple of years and most of the content was not new to me, it is
clear to me that there is nonetheless great value in observing and documenting
the interactions and knowledge that is enacted and developed during the retreat
itself. What the workshops were most valuable for me in was in terms of
learning what “lived Islam” looks like and how it is negotiated. This applies
to issues as broadly as masculinity and grappling with the meanings of
spiritual practice. The myriad ways of being Muslim, as they play out during
the retreat and in subsequent media coverage, are a vital element of American
Islam in particular and Islam in general, at a time when the flux of modernity
and globalization continues to be painful for many Muslims and Islamic societies.
It is important to bring these stories, these new ways of being, these
reinterpretations, these fears, and any mistakes and triumphs out into the
open. As I continue to work on my research on sex education in Islam (one small
aspect of which, a partial bibliography, was so graciously included by the
retreat organizers in the conference packet), I am enriched and inspired
greatly by my interactions and lessons learned during the retreat."
- N. Khan, Boston, MA - 2012 and 2013 Retreat Participant