A Way Beyond the Rainbow

#28 - On Support Systems: "Strong Support"

October 12, 2020 Ali Jaffery and Waheed Jensen Season 3 Episode 2
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#28 - On Support Systems: "Strong Support"
Chapters
0:38
Episode Introduction
1:58
Intro of Br. Ali
7:31
The Start, Mission and Vision
10:49
Services Provided
20:12
On Same-Sex Lust
23:56
Feedback to Strong Support
26:52
Members' Demographics
33:15
Current Challenges
37:00
Benefits of Healing Work and Final Words
46:51
Ending Remarks
A Way Beyond the Rainbow
#28 - On Support Systems: "Strong Support"
Oct 12, 2020 Season 3 Episode 2
Ali Jaffery and Waheed Jensen

In this episode, Br. Ali Jaffery from the UK joins me as a guest speaker and talks to us about his organization, Strong Support, which aims to help Muslims experiencing unwanted same-sex lust.

What is the mission and vision of Strong Support? What are the services that it provides? What are the demographics of members who benefit from such services? These questions and others are explored in this episode.

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

- Br. Ali’s podcast interview on The Muslim Vibe
- Strong Support homepage
- Study: “Barriers for Muslims with SSA in Accessing Support”

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

In this episode, Br. Ali Jaffery from the UK joins me as a guest speaker and talks to us about his organization, Strong Support, which aims to help Muslims experiencing unwanted same-sex lust.

What is the mission and vision of Strong Support? What are the services that it provides? What are the demographics of members who benefit from such services? These questions and others are explored in this episode.

Links to resources mentioned in the episode:

- Br. Ali’s podcast interview on The Muslim Vibe
- Strong Support homepage
- Study: “Barriers for Muslims with SSA in Accessing Support”

Waheed  00:38
Assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh, and welcome to a brand-new episode of “A Way Beyond the Rainbow”, this podcast series dedicated to Muslims experiencing same-sex attractions who want to live a life true to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and Islam. I'm your host, Waheed Jensen, and thank you so much for joining me in this episode. Last episode, we started talking about support systems, it was a general introduction with some FAQs, and it addressed mainly local and small support groups in your own life, friends, family, colleagues, and mentors. In this episode, we start a series of episodes where we talk about global and international efforts and support groups that are available, which you can take part in, and you can find, inshaAllah, lots of resources and lots of help in these different support groups. In this episode, inshaAllah, I will interview my friend Ali Jaffery, who is the head of Strong Support organization in the United Kingdom, and we will explore together so many aspects of that organization and how it helps individuals who experience and struggle with same-sex attractions. All right, so let's get started, assalamo alaikum, Ali. 

Ali  02:01
Wa alaikom salam. 

Waheed  02:02
How are you doing?  

Ali  02:03
Alhamdulillah, I'm very blessed for you to invite me to this podcast. I'm one of your fans, alhamdulilah. I'm a fan of all the beautiful work you're doing, so thank you for having me. 

Waheed  02:18
Thank you so much. I'm really honored to have you, and I'm a big fan of your work as well, jazak Allah khairan. We have so many things to talk about. I know that some of the listeners are already familiar with your story and your work. I'm going to be adding a link to the podcast episode, the interview that you did last year with The Muslim Vibe, so people can listen to your story in detail, inshaAllah. MashaAllah, such a moving and heartwarming story of so many triumphs and successes, may Allah increase you. But just as a brief summary to the listeners who may be listening to you for the first time, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you have come to where you are right now?

Ali  03:00
So, I remember, it was the first day of school, and I just remember being different. And I remember looking at the boys and thinking, “Wow, they are rough and tumble,” and I just didn't feel like I was one of them. I grew up with my sisters, mostly, and my mom was very present in our upbringing. My dad worked jobs, he's amazing, he is really good, but it wasn't [great] when we were growing up, because he wasn’t as much there as my mom and my sisters. I kind of grew up in that environment. And I remember being bullied throughout school years for being effeminate. I had very few friends, but the ones I had are still close to me now, so I had like a very small circle of friends. I was in a lot of pain, and I remember back then, I used to use academia as a self-defense. I would say I need to have the best marks or something so I could feel that I belonged, or I was worth something or was valuable. 

In terms of SSA, I was 12 when I remember, I had moved from Pakistan to England at that point, my whole family had migrated. And it was at the time of puberty. Not only had I migrated from Pakistan to a completely different country here in England, at that time, I was experiencing being different from the population in England, and I was experiencing same-sex attractions. And I remember the first time putting into Google “men like men”, because I didn't know how to describe it. And that's what kind of led me into pornography, which was an issue. And I remember being so angry at Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala because I was like, “Why has He given me this? Why, out of everything, this is what He has trialed me with?” And for 11 years, I didn't tell anyone. So, I can understand the shame that people go through. And it wasn't until I was at uni, I was working that year, I was alone, I was independent and I was learning to drive, there were so many factors, and I went into almost depression. And then I finally told a counsellor that I'm struggling with same-sex attraction. And that was the first person I told in 11 years, and I still can't describe to you the weight that was lifted in that moment, because I was carrying it for so long. Then, in terms of where I am now, I remember I started the first ever book I read was an online PDF of “Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality” by Joseph Nicolosi. And I read that book, and I was crying, because I was thinking, “Finally someone understands what I'm going through. Finally, someone understands what these feelings are.” And, fast forward to today, where I've been involved with work around this, with different organizations, and then setting up something for the Muslim community now. 

Waheed  06:58
Alhamdulilah, mashaAllah. And you are married now, right?

Ali  07:04
Yes, I'm married, alhamdulillah. I found someone who accepted me with all of this. And it just shows that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is present in our lives if we truly and sincerely believe in Him. So, alhamdulilah.

Waheed  07:31
Alhamdulilah, masha Allah. That's wonderful. So, you were saying that you've recently started Strong Support. So how did the idea for this organization come about? 

Ali  07:44
I was frustrated at the Muslim community for so long, because I was like, there isn't a Muslim voice, and I just didn't feel like there was any adequate support. And this was something which was in my mind for a long time, that I need to create a community, I need to do something. And it wasn't until last year when - so Brothers Road, which we can speak more about. I went into their weekend [program] “A Journey Beyond”, and I looked around at the end of the weekend, and I was like, “Oh, wow, you know, there's no Muslims here, there's no Muslim influence, or there's no other one.” And they're such a community, and I felt a very, very big calling in me to start something for the Muslim community after that, realizing that the change and the blessings that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala had given me, the education and the understanding, I couldn't keep to myself and I needed to share that. So it was last year in October 2019 that I went to The Muslim Vibe and I said, “I have something I need to speak to the Muslim community about.”

Waheed  09:08
MashaAllah, that's wonderful. So, you're giving back to the community, because you feel that it's a duty and a responsibility, because you have all this knowledge and wisdom that you've gained throughout the years. And you really want to make a difference in a community where you feel that there's no voice that speaks on behalf of individuals experiencing and struggling with SSA. That's wonderful, MashaAllah. So, if I were to ask you, with regards to Strong Support, what is the mission and the vision of this organization? What do you hope to achieve from this organization that you have started? 

Ali  09:41
So, Strong Support is a peer support organization for Muslims around the world who struggle with same sex lust, but they don't identify with a label. So, they won't identify with a particular, like LGBT or label, but instead they choose to embrace themselves as Mu’mineen (believers), as people who have taqwa (God-consciousness), people who want to live a God-centric life. So, our vision is a world where we can self-determine our sexual identities as God-centric, instead of using another identity. So, we envision a place where we can freely express our feelings, beliefs, and aspirations in a safe environment without judgment or shame. And that's the mission and vision, to create safe spaces for these Muslims.

Waheed  10:49
MashaAllah. What are the services that you provide? So, if anyone gets in contact with you, what do they expect in terms of support? What are some activities that you do?

Ali  10:59
Like I said before, we are a peer support organization, so we're entirely volunteer led. So, for example, one volunteer stepped up, and he said that he wants to do more support groups. So, we've got a support group, which we have in London, and then another one that we've recently started for the folks out in the US. There's another volunteer who has stepped up and said, “We need more research around this, we need more articles that are published.” So we have recently published this article on a study in which we investigated the barriers SSA Muslims face in accessing support. So, our activities are driven by the wants and aspirations of our volunteers. The other part is the stuff which I manage, which is, we have a support form. So, you fill that in, you get a free consultation call with us, and we speak, we've had about 50 people use our service so far, and we recommend books or counselors or even groups, podcasts like yours, or Straight Struggle Discord platform, whatever is there. It's like an orientation call, so they know what's available. We also have “Support Circle”, which meets on Wednesday evenings by Zoom. And in that, we take both, an Islamic perspective as well as a psychological perspective, looking into SSA. And that's what I recommend to people, because that's what I did, four years of group work, and it really helped me, so that's what I'm giving out. We also have one-to-one coaching. So, we have some people who say, okay, they want one-to-one, they can't really do the group thing, it's too much for them. We also have webinars. So, in webinars our aim is not just the SSA community, but the wider communities, the wider community that doesn't know what SSA is, or how can we best help that, the webinars are targeted to that. And then we have groups, private Facebook groups as well, so people can join and find likeminded individuals.

Waheed  13:48
That’s wonderful. One question that comes to mind as you were describing those services and events, if someone wants to remain anonymous, like you said, there are Facebook groups and there are Zoom calls. So, I assume some people wouldn't want to show their faces or to use their real names. Is this an option? 

Ali  14:04
Yes, on Facebook, for example, a lot of people have accounts which they created anonymously. The Facebook group itself is private. And with Support Circles, what we have is we have a group contract, which everyone signs, in that everything is confidential. So, anything which is said in the group remains confidential. In terms of anonymity, you can be anonymous, but what I do encourage people is to come with their true authentic selves. So, I think there's a level of shame still in our communities that if I'm sitting in a support group, and everybody's in the same boat, and I still can't authentically say who I am and where I'm coming from and let other people see me in a support group, which is bound by confidentiality, then that means that that person may have still more work to do with shame about SSA. But at the same time, we're not prescriptive, we're not directive. So, if people want to stay anonymous, they can. We do encourage people in a closed group, in a private setting, to be authentic and drop the shame off, in terms of the identity and others. You'll find that in our groups that, at the start, people are very unsure, so they won't put video on or they'll use a pseudonym, and towards the end, after two, three, or four sessions, they’re turning the video on, they're using their audio, they're using their real name, and that really shows progression of where they are.

Waheed  16:09
Absolutely. Yeah, that's wonderful, MashaAllah. And you spoke about webinars, so can you give us examples of some of the webinars that you have already done? What is the scope of the content, for example?

Ali  16:21
The webinars are really information pieces. We started with psychotherapist Andrew Rodriguez, and he did this brilliant piece on the different types of therapy and therapeutic models which are available. We had speakers like religious speakers, like Sh. Fadel Suleiman, who's been a great support, a tremendous support for many Muslims in terms of religious support and support from the ‘Ulama (scholars). We have other speakers lined up, like, we have Christopher Doyle, inshaAllah, who will talk about the political climate which is surrounding this issue, and, inshaAllah, we have more planned up. I try to do one every month in which not just the SSA community but all people, you know, I've had Muslim psychotherapists who have contacted me afterwards saying, “Oh, this is brilliant, we need more information about this.” They're free, so anyone can join, and they can ask questions, as well as kind of unravel this community which seems to be forgotten in the Muslim community. 

Waheed  17:53
Absolutely. And if someone wants to get in touch with you and know all about the Support Circles, events and the webinars, everything is posted on your website, correct?

Ali  18:04
That's right. Yeah, so you can find our website at www.strongsupport.co.uk, and you can find all the information, our webinars and Facebook groups. 

Waheed  18:18
Everything is in there. I will, inshaAllah, put a link to the website in the episode description so everyone can access that. And as you were talking about the different services, I know that some of those services people pay for, others are free. So, can you give us just a quick overview of which services are for free, others are paid, and how do you go about that? 

Ali  18:42
So, the service which is for free is the consultation call. So, the initial consultation call is where people call in and say, “We're struggling, we don't know what to do.” That initial call is absolutely free. In our Support Circle, the first session is free, so people get a taste of what it is. And the services that we provide, we’re a not-for-profit organization. So, the income which I'm getting is just to support the costs, say the cost of Zoom or the cost of the website, or going forward if we do events and so on, the costs of that. So we're not-for-profit, so we're not here to kind of, you know, if you see our rates, they're like 10 pounds a session, which is a lot cheaper. Even our one-to-one is 50 pounds, which is nowhere near the $200 or $100 you'd be paying for a therapy session, at least. So, the prices are just there really for us to sustain the cost, and as well then to promote the organization further. So, when you're supporting Strong Support, you’re supporting the organization as such.

Waheed  20:12
Absolutely, wonderful. One of the things that came to mind, which is when we access the website, we see that it's for “Muslims who experience same-sex lust”. Why did you choose the term “lust” instead of “same-sex attractions” or other terms? Some of us kind of find this word a little bit rather off putting. So how do you respond to this?

Ali  20:38
Well, Strong Support, even in its name is taken from the Qur’an. So, verse 80 in chapter 11, where Lut (PBUH) says: “He said, "If only I had against you some power or could take refuge in a strong support"” (11:80). Similarly, from the Qur’an, we take, “Indeed, you approach men with desire, instead of women. Rather, you are a transgressing people” (7:81), or “Rather, you are a people behaving ignorantly” (27:55), depending on the verse you're reading. So, we wanted the terminology to come from the Qur’an, and the Qur’an is very clear on calling the attraction lustful, so it calls it “shahwa”. And you know, SSA, in terms of an attraction, in English, an attraction can still be a good thing. You know, I may be attracted to a male which is a role model for me. The attraction is halal (permissible), you can still say the attraction is good, I'm attracted for the right reasons. With the word “lust”, there is no ifs and buts, we're really pinpointing what the actual issue is. So, from a Qur’anic perspective, that's why I decided to use the word “same-sex lust”. 

Waheed  22:31
That’s actually very interesting. So, you take it to the next level, which is differentiating between what is negative and what is positive, attractions in and of themselves are neutral, but the lust is the aspect that needs to be worked on, because it's frowned upon in our religion, right? 

Ali  22:50
Yes, I mean, I say to so many people, like I have attractions, and I say, “Well, that's fine. What is behind those attractions?” If I had an upbringing and a childhood where I yearned for male affection, affirmation and approval, then those attractions are halal, because that's a legitimate need which needs to be fulfilled. So that's not problematic. People without SSA will also say, “I have attractions towards other men who I deem to be better than myself,” because we're all attracted to something which is good or something which we perceive to be good. So that's not problematic. What's problematic is like, in Islam, we say the “second look” or something which we then delve on, which then becomes into lust. That's what the issue is. The initial attraction is not an issue.

Waheed  23:56
100%, beautifully said, mashaAllah. So, if I were to ask you, how has the reception been so far to Strong Support and the services that you have been offering? How is it, how is the feedback coming to you from the people who are benefiting from the services on one hand, and from the Muslim community as well in the UK, because you are based in the UK?

Ali  24:19
That's right. Yeah. And, you know, a lot of people asked me that, and I had a huge amount of fear that, if I'd go public, people will see me differently. You know, my family, my friends, my circle. And I was speaking to one of the brothers in our community in the Manchester community, and he said, “Ali, before you did really good things, and I really respected you, and I saw you like here,” and he pointed his hand [to a certain level], and then he said, “when you came out with Strong Support and what you are doing, I have so much more respect for you and I now see you here,” and he lifted his hand higher. And I was like, “Wow, subhan Allah,” because it took so much strength for me to be vulnerable, and for me to really pour my heart out. I remember leaving The Muslim Vibe studio and just feeling drained, because I felt like, “Oh my God! I've just given everything out!” But the response has been amazing. You know, I've barely seen, maybe I've been very lucky, maybe I've been protected by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, I've barely seen negativity or any hostility. You know, if anything, we've had about 200 interactions with Strong Support, with people all over the globe saying they really connected with the story, they really connected with the work. In terms of the populace, which I'm helping, directly helping, we recently asked the people in Support Circle, because that's a weekly thing, so they see me weekly, to review, and I posted those reviews on the website without any editing, so that was exactly what they said. And as people said, it was life changing, it was really helpful. And, you know, the biggest thing for me is, at the end of the session, when people feel like, “Oh my God, wow, I feel so much better!” You know, and that's what I do it for, that feeling that someone at the end says, “I feel lighter. I feel like I've been heard.” That's what really makes everything, all the effort that we're doing worth it. 

Waheed  26:52
Absolutely. Absolutely. May Allah increase you and bless you and protect you, mashaAllah. This is wonderful. So, if I were to ask you to give the audience who are listening to us right now a general overview of the demographics of your audience so far. So, you've said that, since October 2019, you've established this foundation. So, in terms of, for example, the countries that the members come from, is it just men, or men and women are also involved? What are the age groups? How many are married, unmarried, and so on?

Ali  27:29
So, I can kind of give you a rough estimate on these. So, in terms of our mailing list, our mailing list is about 150 individuals. We have in our Facebook page, our men's group has over 50 or just over 50 men. In terms of women, there is about three or four women, and it's one of the things which I've kind of like struggled with, are we marketing correctly to women? Because that's one of the populaces I feel that we don't really cater to, or maybe we’re not marketing in terms of coming forward. But there have been women who have approached us. We've also had parents, like we've had, I would say about five instances of parents coming forward asking for support. We've also had scholars or psychotherapists, Muslim psychotherapists coming forward. In terms of the demographics. we've had a lot of people from outside of the UK, a lot from the Middle East, so places like Egypt, Kuwait and places where they require me to speak Arabic but I can't. Largely due to Sh. Fadel’s work, we got people from Egypt, for example, a lot of people from Egypt contact us. But it has been literally all over the world. I mean, if you look in the survey that we did recently, we did the demographics in there, and it was literally so many different countries, like Trinidad and places that you would just not think about. So, it's been both from the US and the UK. And the funny thing is, in Support Circle at the moment, there is no one from the UK!

Waheed  29:54
Oh, wow!

Ali  29:55
Yeah. So, all the individuals are in different countries. We're kind of like an international global organization, partly because of that fact that there doesn't seem to be efforts in other places for this issue.

Waheed  30:18
Absolutely. Yeah. And some of the members are married, I would presume, and others are not, right?

Ali  30:26
Yes. So, we have, I would say, most are unmarried, but I would say a very small population, maybe like 5% are married.

Waheed  30:43
Yeah. And in terms of the age groups, I would assume there are young and old people across the spectrum, most members are in what age group you would say, an estimate? 

Ali  30:57
I would say half of them are between 20 to 30. And then the other half might be slightly older than that. We've seen that the people who've engaged with us more are people in that first 20 to 25 age brackets, the early sector when you're just kind of identifying who you are, where you fit in, and things like that. And it's been that populace that perhaps has engaged us more than any other demographic. 

Waheed  31:42
Right. MashaAllah. And you said that, as we know, Strong Support is mainly for Muslims who experience same-sex lust. But do you have non-Muslims also on the forum, or are non-Muslims in general welcome to join and benefit from your services?

Ali  32:01
Oh, absolutely. You know, we had, I know in our Facebook groups, I had one Christian brother who joined, and I said to him, “You're absolutely welcome to join.” Anyone is welcome to join, as long as they're not offended by us posting Islamic material, and he said, “Of course not.” So, absolutely, it's tailored for Muslims, just because Muslims need that additional support that they feel comfortable, that it's halal, it's God-focused, it's God-centric. But, realistically, the work that we do and that we provide is open to all, and anyone, absolutely anyone, can contact us and ask for help. And actually, in our webinars, we don't just see Muslims, we see people of faith, people of no faith, Christians, etc. So yeah, it's definitely open for everyone. 

Waheed  33:15
MashaAllah, that’s great. And you said that, Alhamdulillah, the reception to Strong Support and to the work that you're doing has been positive from the community, and you've been getting a lot of support and positive messages. But given that you live in the UK, and the current socio-political climate, have you had any, let's say, challenges or negative experiences when it comes to the media or the community, with regards to the work that you're doing?

Ali  33:45
Well, I mean, perhaps we haven't been as vocal, and we know through the media, at that moment, there is a bill which is being passed on the Gender Recognition Act in the UK, which is looking to ban what they call “conversion therapy”. I would say partner groups who are doing similar things like the Core Issues Trust, they have faced incredible discrimination, with their bank accounts being pulled away, services from MailChimp and PayPal being taken away from them. And they've experienced threats, death threats, hate and abuse on their page. And it is frightening, it's almost like a mob attack which has happened to them. But we know that we have this concept in Islam that, when you speak truth, you do face difficulty, you will face difficulty, as the Prophet (PBUH) did when he did his mission. I mean, I personally, perhaps, because we've not been as public or as vocal, we haven't received that type. We've received messages here and there on our Facebook pages, but nothing which has been of that level. It is, unfortunately, something which is very misunderstood in the UK at the moment. Like I say, Strong Support is not there to be anti-LGBT, we're not there to promote hatred towards the LGBT community. All we're saying is, “This is our truth. This is our story. And we're a populace who chooses not to identify with ‘gay’ or ‘straight’, with a sexual identity. Instead, we're people who are moving towards taqwa, moving towards Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, and moving towards our life goals.” And sometimes that's difficult for people to understand, but we're open to discussion. And we've contacted Liz Truss, who is the MP who is dealing with this, and they replied, and their response was that the government will not stop faith organizations in seeking the support that they need. So, I'm hopeful that this continues, and that we have the freedom to live our lives as we wish to live them. 

Waheed  37:00
Mashallah, that's wonderful to hear, alhamdulilah. If I were to ask you, what has Strong Support given you as Ali so far? How has it benefited you as a person?

Ali  37:16
Wow, that's a big question! I remember we had a session with a scholar, and it was a vision document. So, basically, we had an exercise in which everyone had to draw up what they would change in the world, if they were to change something. And I remember at the time, I couldn't really say, “This is what I want to change.” This was like maybe six or seven years ago, I drew this vision in which I wrote, “I want a safe space for Muslims, I'd like more research in this issue, I'd like more people to explore the Islamic literature for healing and support for this issue.” I had all of this, and I was like, “This is my vision.” And for now, for me to be living that vision, for me to connect with so many Muslims around the world and recognizing that we're not alone, we aren't alone in this, and recognizing that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has a plan. He's changed my life, He’s had an active change in the work which I've done. From the work which I'm doing now, and the little which I'm doing, even if that's helping a little, one person, even if it's helping a few people, that's amazing for me, because I know what it feels like, I know the shame and the fear and the sadness, it's excruciating. Going back to my darkest moments in SSA and not having any hope. I recognize how painful that situation was. So, for me now to do something, which can help alleviate that or bring the issues to light on a public platform in a sphere, that's hugely satisfying for me. Even the volunteers come in, and they do fantastic work. It really touches me, because it feels like it's coming from within. The desire to help is coming from within.

Waheed  40:13
MashaAllah. This is so heartwarming; may Allah bless you. MashaAllah. You touched upon earlier in this interview about Brother's Road. Can you tell us a little bit about your experience with that? In the next episodes, inshaAllah, we're going to be talking in detail about this, but just as a teaser to the audience, maybe you could share with us a little bit about your experience and how that has helped you. Can you tell us about that?

Ali  40:40
Yeah, absolutely. So, they were called “People Can Change”, and then they changed their name to “Brothers Road”. So, they offer a weekend which is called “Journey into Manhood”. Journey into Manhood is a peer-led, experiential weekend. What I mean by “experiential weekend” is that it's all about experience. So, I remember being emotionally triggered, you know, I was crying, I was scared, I was angry, I was happy. So, it's designed to basically get you in touch with your body, with your emotions and what you're feeling, as so much of us in SSA are disconnected from our emotions and our feelings and our body. And the weekend is designed to be experienced. So, if I tell you things from there, you'd think that this doesn’t make sense. But when you experience the weekend, when you experience that, and a lot of brothers have, they can testify that it's been immensely helpful. It's coming from an understanding of the body rather than understanding of the mind. Sometimes we're so stuck in the mind that we don't understand what our bodies and what our emotions are telling us. I attended the weekend in April 2013, it was actually the last weekend they had in England. And the biggest thing that I got from the weekend was that I could finally see a way out. I saw individuals, for the first time in my life, who had left SSA, or they had overcome it, or they are in a better place now. And it brought immense hope in me, that I could see individuals who were there helping, who had gone past that. And actually, the week after, it was the first time in my life I felt I didn't have any SSA. I was on like a spiritual high, and they warn you about that, they're like, “Don't make any decisions after the weekend because you're in a different state now.” I've helped staff weekends in Poland, and I can really vouch for the work that Brothers Road is doing. And I argue that, and I say this to Rich Wyler, that his work is better, because he's treating people regardless of religion, viewpoint or any distinction. It was so difficult for me, as a Muslim, to find a safe space, as a Muslim, for this issue, and Brothers Road is one organization which helps you. They don't care about your religion, where you're from, any other distinction, and they're there to help you. But the biggest thing, because the weekend is only a weekend, it was the follow-up from the weekend, which is their Journey Together groups, which is what Support Circles based off of. Support Circle is tailored especially for Muslims, but it was the realization that I finally found likeminded people, I found likeminded individuals who were going on the same journey that I was going through. So, that's the biggest thing which I got from Brothers Road, and I'm still involved with the community and the amazing work that they do. 

Waheed  44:28
MashaAllah, that's wonderful. And the last question for today is, any last words that you would like to give to the listeners? 

Ali  44:40
I think the biggest thing which I got from my journey was the understanding that Allah subhanhu wa ta’ala has tested you with SSA, because He knows you have the ability to see it, to understand it and to overcome it. Because Allah does not trial a soul with more than it can bear. So, if He's gifted you with that, then He has gifted you, because you are a special individual who has a difficult trial. You know, our Prophets had immense trials which we cannot fathom, but that showed their stature, that showed what they were capable of. So, if Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given you this trial, then know that He also is there to help you get out of it. And, you know that's very important. 

Waheed  45:57
Absolutely. Thank you so much for your words. And thank you for your time, jazak Allah khairan. This has been a wonderful interview. I really appreciate you joining me today, it's been a huge honor for me. We are definitely looking forward to seeing how Strong Support, inshaAllah, flourishes and has a more long-lasting impact on the Muslim community, inshaAllah, throughout the world. May Allah bless your efforts and continue to increase you and, insha Allah, you will find the links for brother Ali's interview on The Muslim Vibe as well as Strong Support and all of the relevant links that he has spoken about in the episode description below. Jazak Allah khairan, Ali, once again, thank you for your time. 

Ali  46:41
Thank you, brother Waheed. 

Waheed  46:51
And with this, we have come to the end of today's episode. I hope that you have benefited from it, inshaAllah. In the next episode, inshaAllah, I will interview my friend Yousef Salam who is the main administrator of the Straight Struggle group, which has recently moved to the Discord platform. Until then, please stay safe and healthy. As always, you can listen to our episodes on awaybeyondtherainbow.buzzsprout.com, where you will also find all the transcripts and the links to any external resources, and you can also listen to us on your favorite podcast apps. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions at any time, you can always email me on [email protected] Until next episode, take care of yourselves, assalamu alaikom wa rahmatullahi ta’ala wa barakatuh.

Episode Introduction
Intro of Br. Ali
The Start, Mission and Vision
Services Provided
On Same-Sex Lust
Feedback to Strong Support
Members' Demographics
Current Challenges
Benefits of Healing Work and Final Words
Ending Remarks