For more details on Suhail coming out to Ulema in Johannesburg go to:
|I reproduce here one recent background article from the Voice of The Cape, a Radio Station that had the courage and the vision to discuss this issue in public and graciously invite us to be on their show. (I reproduce directly from their website, without punctuation changes)|
Gay Muslim film raises CTN temperature
|Posted on: 16/11/2007 14:56:35|
|The Muslim Judicial Council has raised fierce objection to a program done on VOC on Friday morning which focused on the documentary film Jihad for Love, which runs in Cape Town until Saturday, saying that the program gave exposure to controversial figures in the community on an explosive issue. The film which was made over almost six years documents the lives of gay Muslims in 12 countries -- to tell the story of Islam by the most unlikely storytellers: lesbian and gay Muslims".|
The MJC charged that the coverage on the film had "helped to propagate an ideology and ideas which are very much resented in any Islamic community". Since the program was aired, our telephone lines have been inundated with calls from people objecting to the exposure given to homosexual activity amongst certain individuals. "We strongly object to this kind of presentation of a lifestyle which is foreign to Islam and Muslims. We do not look upon this as a broadminded view since it encourages homosexualism," said MJC secretary general, Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie.
"On behalf of every right-minded Muslim at the Cape and South Africa, we demand that this type of attitude of VOC shall end immediately and they should not try to be 'with it'. Moreover, to air such a program without a rebuttal from the ulema's side to reject such views is not only professional at all. Lastly, we object to VOC propagating and advertising the film on homosexualism," Ml Allie concluded.
In response, VOC denied that the ulema had not been given an opportunity to state the opposing view, adding that the station had taken care to presents all sides to the program. This was most strongly demonstrated by the views of Mufti Abdul Kader Hoosain which aired on Thursday evening and was repeated on Friday on the Open Line @ 9am, to show the different perspectives the documentary tried to reflect.
The Quran is replete with the incident of Lut's people in so many verses. In one verse Allah SWA said that Allah 'picked up the earth and smashed it to the ground'. Even today if you go to that part of Palestine, you will find that it is the lowest portion in altitude on this earth. That is a relic and remnant for people to take heed of what had happened to the people of Sodom and Gomorra. Not only Islam -- every religion, whether Christianity or Judaism -- have abhorred it, outlawed it," Mufti AK said.
He also quoted the hadith which stating that if two consenting adults engaged in a homosexual act, it would be punishable by death. "The only difference among the jurists is the method of capital punishment. Some say we must take them to the apex, or the mountain, otherse say throw them down and put a wall over them. If any person with a Muslims name considers it permissible and calls himself and imam, he is a murtad and outside of the fold of Islam. There are no two opinions on this issue. It is absolutely haraam. What we see on the internet and in films today is a reminder of what the Nabi SAW had said centuries ago -- that one of the things he feared most for his people was that they would become involved in homosexuality and the gay business."
Asked why he had allowed himself to be filmed as part of the documentary film, Mufti Hoosain explained that he had first engaged in debate a few years ago with Imam Muhsin Hendricks, the local gay imam who came out of the closet and subsequently started a support group for queer Muslims in Cape Town. This had raised the ire of the Muslim community around the country with many ready to take strong action against him. Hendricks is one of the people gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma focused on in the documentary.
"I was in Makkah at the time when CII called me to say there was an imam in Cape Town who was challenging the ulema and no one wanted to take him on. I later found out that other ulema in the Cape had spoken out against him. I was in the Haram at the time and I agreed to participate in the debate, which he lost very badly. Then after a few years they contacted me again to say they wanted to record the debate again for the foreign audience who had not heard the first debate.
I then met with him in my home, but I told Muhsin that there is unanimity from the ulema on his position as a murtad and as such, I was not even willing to take his hand, because he was still trying to justify his position. My interaction with him was only so that he comes back into the fold of Islam and don't try to please the Shaytan. I told him that if he was to die at that point, not one imam would perform salah on him. I also asked him to realise how many people he was leading astray because he carried the title of Imam in front of his name."
Asked if this meant that Muslims could engage with the gay Muslim community on how to deal with homosexuality, Mufti said: "In Islam we don't say that we must engage with them to the extent that we socialise with them. But history tells us that we are able to engage in intellectual debate with those whom we have difference. For example, Musa AS had the debate with the Sahireen and those involved in witchcraft. So we have to try our level best to bring them best to Islam. But if the person has made up his mind and they adamantly hold onto their views, then you must ex-communicate them totally. This applies as much to the murtad as it does for those who wish to justify and legalise homosexuality."
However, he added that Muslims could not sweep the existence of homosexuality under the carpet. The best way to deal with it, he said, was to face reality. "To push everything under the carpet and live in denial that it is not happening, is a lie. If there is a problem -- whether it is drugs or homosexuality -- then we must address it in the light of Quran and Sunnah, as we will address this issue too. But any person who tries to justify it, that we will condemn at all platforms at all times because it can never ever be allowed in Islam.
Asked if documentaries like these help Muslims to deal with the reality of homosexuality in their midst, Mufti said: "Definitely. Allah forbid but there are so many respected people whom we interact with who would like to think that their sons of daughters do not become involved in drugs for example. Yet it happens. Allah forbid, homosexuality can also creep into our ummah. The constitution in this country is so lax that everything -- Adam and Eve, Adam and Steve, Madam and Eve, all of it goes. Legally you can't even take action.
"Therefore the only way you and I as Muslims can win this battle is to show them the beauty of Islam, interact with them in the form of debate and not just tell them they will go straight to hell without pardon. If we can bring back one of them, because we must never lose faith in the mercy of Allah, then we must try to do so. But they must know what they are doing can never be justified. And if they do justify it, they are murtad and out of the fold of Islam," he said.
VOC said knowing that the matter was a sensitive one, it ran opinion polls ahead of the program which conveyed the sentiment also expressed by most of the on air callers on Friday morning. The online poll conducted on Wednesday posed the question if films of this nature served a purpose in helping Muslims to deal with the reality of homosexual phenomenon. Only 22.9% thought the film did serve this purpose, but even so, 2.4% said they would still not see it while 20.5% said they would see it. However, the majority (77.1%) echoed the sentiments of on air callers who said they could not approve of the documentary under any circumstances since it pushed for gay acceptance.
The station stressed that it had not done the program to debate whether homosexuality was accepted within Islam or not since this matter had repeatedly and vociferously been debated over the last four years on air with the majority opinion holding true to those of Mufti Hoosain's. "The intention of the program was to find out if the film helped Muslims deal better with the issue if it was your son or daughter that was conflicted by the battle to reconcile Islam with their sexuality. This is why a social welfare organisation like ISWA -- who also featured in the documentary - was included in the program, since they do not have a gay agenda, but could speak as social workers on how Muslims are dealing with the issue," the station said.
Rushdi Sears of ISWA confirmed that homosexuality had always been part of the community, which had been tolerated as something that secretly took place, as long as no one was flaunting that lifestyle in the community's face. However post 1994, gays began to assert themselves more and this assertiveness led to increasing intolerance against homosexuals, more so than in previous years. "The issue was not as assertive today as it was 15 - 25 years ago and by assertive I mean there is an agenda now. People are now saying I am a Muslim, but I am also a homosexual. Does that make me wrong? We are saying that does not make you wrong, but we may differ with you on the actions you take."
Understand not Accept
"At ISWA we believe that when people present a problem, they are not the problem themselves. Homosexuality is a reality we cannot wish away. But in our society there are many misconceptions about homosexuals. People believe if you are gay you sleep around. Yet we don't make the same assumption of heterosexuals. It is a terrible distortion made of homosexuality. ISWA is about trying to understand people and in that process, give them options and guidance on how to better to come to terms with the situation they find themselves in. But while we may understand it, that does not necessarily mean we agree with their position. This is how we believe Muslims should behave."
To further add balance to the program, callers were allowed to raise their opinion. Two of whom who had seen the film had distinctly different opinions. One said he had been expected Islam to be bashed in the film and had gone to watch it for educational purposes, but he had been surprised by the fact that the film did not depict anything negative about Islam. "There was nothing disparaging about it Islam, it was in fact a very human movie. It dealt with the internal jihad these people had (as they tried to deal with their homosexuality and Islam). I in fact apologise unreservedly for my attitude towards gays before I saw this film."
However, a second person who saw the film had the exact opposite view, saying that while the film "had some Islamic aspects"he still could not accept the gay agenda of the film. "Will we accept child pornography or bestiality? Of course not. Homosexuality is the same thing," he said, confirming that his opinion had not been changed after seeing the film.
All the other callers share similar sentiments. Some said the film's attempt to create a different understanding about Jihad as "an inner struggle", rather than a terrorist activity -- which had won over most non-Muslim audiences -- was used as a "strategic and emotional seduction" to gain acceptance for the gay agenda. Another caller said: "We have been taught if something was wrong, you stay away from it. It is as simple as that. Discussing it just helps to create a platform to promote it."
VOC added that the film had been widely discussed on most mainstream radio station in the Cape in the last week. "The minute our listeners heard it on the commercial stations this week, they called us to ask if we were also going to cover it because they wanted to hear a different perspective on it. We felt that since it was a film that dealt with Muslims and Islam -- homosexual or otherwise -- it was unacceptable for it to be dealt with by everyone except the Muslim community.
"VOC took every care to cover all sides to this debate, because we believe that we cannot shy away from challenging issues, rather we should seek the opportunity to deal with it responsibly, which we believe we have done with our best intentions. The maturity with which our listeners responded on air, which showed dignity to all parties despite the vast chasm between the two sides, we believe is a credit to our listenership for which we are grateful." VOC
Matthieu Tancrede writes in from Montreal
Thank you for your film, I was at the Montreal's screening and the documentary really moved me. Hope the recovery is doing well, in french we have an expression that says: le repos du guerrier, I guess the Jihadi's rest is well deserved. I was wondering if you have news from the two Iranian men who were still waiting in Turkey at the end of the movie. What happened to them ?
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The Islamic Republic of Iran has been doing a brisk business in harassing, entrapping, lashing, imprisoning and executing homosexuals since nearly the moment it came to power in 1979, with little notice in the West beyond the occasional human-rights report. So when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made the startling claim at Columbia University last week that "we do not have homosexuals in Iran like you do in your country," it offered what could have been a learning opportunity to those who think Iran is just another misunderstood regime with an equally misunderstood president.
Such wishful thinking. The Democratic Party's presidential hopefuls spent a fair bit of time Wednesday night debating what to do about Iran, without once mentioning Ahmadinejad's peculiar world view. These are the same debaters who in August went before a gay audience to denounce Bush administration policies as "demeaning" and "degrading" toward gays. In the Nation -- a magazine that excoriated Ronald Reagan upon his passing for his "inaction and bigotry against gays" -- editor Katrina vanden Heuvel has nothing to say about the subject either. Instead, she devotes her latest column to denouncing last week's symbolic Senate vote to designate Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps as a terrorist organization.
In the Guardian, another crusading voice from the left on gay rights, foreign-affairs columnist Martin Woollacott lambastes Columbia's president Lee Bollinger for his "mean-spirited" remarks to the Iranian president, which he takes as an indication that "it is still difficult to suggest that Iran has arguments and interests worth considering on their merits." But again, no mention of Mr. Ahmadinejad's attitude toward gays, much less its "merits." And on "progressive" Web sites like Democratic Underground, there are earnest debates about exactly what Mr. Ahmadinejad meant by the word "like," as if he were merely making an academic cultural comparison rather than denying the existence of an entire category of his own citizens.
Long gone are the days when people spoke of the love that dare not speak its name. We are now living in the era of the hate-that-dare-not-be-spoken-about -- lest disingenuous neocons use Mr. Ahmadinejad's unfortunate pronouncements to cut off dialogue and beat the drums for war. But if one side of the political spectrum is not to be trusted to discuss the subject, and the other side simply won't, who will?
For that, turn to a revealing and moving documentary by Indian-born journalist Parvez Sharma called "A Jihad for Love," which he describes as a "discussion about Islam through its most unlikely storytellers." Mr. Sharma (who is very far from being a conservative of any kind) spent six years filming his subjects on four continents: They include a gay imam in South Africa, a lesbian couple in Istanbul, an Egyptian who spent a year in prison for being gay before fleeing to Paris, and four young men who fled Iran for their lives and now live as political refugees in Canada.
The documentary is notable for its depiction of the tenacity with which its subjects hold on to their faith despite the wall of bigotry, often homicidal, that confronts them. Nowhere is that seen more vividly than in the plight of the Iranians. Take Arsham Parsi, 27, a subject of Mr. Sharma's who now runs the Iranian Queer Organization (irqo.net) from Toronto. In 2001, he says in a phone interview, "two of my close friends committed suicide because of the bad situation for queer people." Their deaths galvanized him to begin a gay and lesbian support group, conducted furtively and electronically, consisting largely of articles on gay-related subjects from English language sources. The enterprise grew to include six separate electronic magazines. "We used to think we were alone in the world," Mr. Parsi says. "With these magazines, we knew we were not."
In fact, homosexuality has a particularly rich history in Iran -- the Qajar dynasty's Nasseruddin Shah, a contemporary of Queen Victoria and ruler of Iran for nearly 50 years, took a Kurdish boy named Malijak as his lifelong lover. It is hardly less present in contemporary Iran, not just in the parks of Tehran but the seminaries of Qom. But Mr. Parsi's activism put him at particular risk. "The police use the Internet to make undercover arrests," he says. "They'll write to say 'I am looking for a partner,' entrap someone, and use their correspondence as evidence." That was the fate of friends of Mr. Parsi, who in 2003 were sentenced to 100 lashes in the space of an hour, and it would have been his, too, had he not fled Iran on word he was about to be arrested.
From Toronto, Mr. Parsi works on asylum cases and continues to publish a newsletter called Cheraq ("Light"), which reaches about 3,000 readers in Iran. Yesterday, it published a selection of letters to Mr. Ahmadinejad by gay Iranians.
"I pray that some false note in the divine composition has you fathering a gay offspring so that the hammer that you've raised over our heads comes down on your very own," writes one. "I recommend you partake in the first Iranian gay Pride parade so you can see for yourself that it will be more glorious and more populated than your Quds day or annual revolution commemoration day parades," writes another, adding that a gay parade would be attended voluntarily, in contrast to "a bunch of schoolchildren and innocent peasants who have been forced to show up to punch the 'world oppressors' in the mouth."
All of this ought to be evidence that, when it comes to the Iranian regime, the gap between bad neocons and pure-of-heart progressives ought to be no more than tactical: This is, ultimately, a regime that needs to go. Not so. Mr. Sharma, for instance, rails in the Huffington Post against the "the Good-vs.-Evil caricature" that he says prevails in Western attitudes toward Iran.
Mr. Sharma is a gifted filmmaker, but his politics remind me of the Socratic observation that poets are poor judges of their own work. Or how else is one supposed to view the scene he captures of Mr. Parsi at last arriving in Toronto and weeping both for the freedom he has gained and his friends still trapped in Islamist captivity? Is it a testament that there is no meaningful difference between free and unfree, Bushworld and Ahmadinejadland? Take that view seriously, and you wind up taking the notion of gay rights, and human rights, too lightly for anyone's good.