THE voices of multicultural and interfaith people in the LGBTI community need to be heard to help younger people within those groups who are marginalised because of their sexuality, a local Imam has said.

Australia’s first openly-gay Imam, Nur Warsame, believes more diverse voices are needed when it comes to LGBTI rights and support to ensure more vulnerable members of the community don’t feel ostracised.

Warsame is currently slated to speak on a panel entitled Many Colours of the Rainbow about race, religion, and LGBTI issues.

“It’s very important because historically religion has been said to condemn LGBTI people, and when it comes to multicultural members of the community, there are a lot of difficulties they go through” he said.

“There has been a vacuum of support services for them because a lot of organisations have previously addressed injustices for one group of people in particular [white and non-religious].

“But I think there’s a shift happening now and through multicultural voices and religious leadership who are demanding their voices be heard, it can heal old wounds.”

Warsame added that for younger LGBTI people who may be religious or come from a culturally diverse background, seeing religion broadly painted as anti-gay or having a lack of diverse voices within the community can isolate them.

“There are a lot of youth who are ostracised and marginalised because of their sexuality in the name of faith, so to have platforms where they can reconcile both their spirituality and sexuality is quite important,” he said.

“These youths have lost their spirituality because they’ve been told you can’t be gay and Muslim… it’s letting go of one or the other.

“Coming to a panel discussion isn’t going to change a person’s reality but it can help start to bring these diverse identities back to the people who attend.”

The panel will be hosted by Greens MP Sam Hibbins, who said the panel was created after a number of equality bills were knocked back in Victorian Parliament last year.

“I think we hit a road block in terms of LGBTI reform in Victoria, like when we had the death of the Greens’ religious exemptions legislation” he said.

“One of the keys to progressing equality is getting those multicultural and multi-faith people in the push for equality – too often they’re presented as being opposed to equality which is just not the case.

“Too often we’re hearing from rent-a-quote organisations like the ACL who are not representative of the religious community.”

Hibbins believes it’s important to make sure diverse voices are being heard in the LGBTI community, but also that the community is ‘winning over’ the homophobic members of multicultural and religious communities.

“I guess we just need to make sure that in the wider community multicultural and multi-faith LGBTI voices are prominent, as well as within the LGBTI community,” he said.

The Many Colours of the Rainbow panel discussion is a free event. It runs tonight starting at 7pm at Chapel Off Chapel in Prahran. To RSVP click here.

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