Suhail's Jihad

A dear friend Suhail Abu al-Sameed has been thrown right into the storm generated by the MJC's Hukum in South Africa-that follows showings of the film there. Suhail became a part of the debate raging around Islam and Homosexuality in that country, from the time we went on The Voice of the Cape. I have known Suhail for years and he is a remarkable and courageous activist who deserves all of our support.

For more details on Suhail coming out to Ulema in Johannesburg go to:

Gay Muslim Outs Himself to Muslim Scholars at Conference


MJC Hukum and its repercussions

MJC's (Muslim Judicial Council, South Africa) Hukum and A Jihad for Love were discussed in the majority of mosques in the Western Cape over the last week. Amongst many liberal Muslims in the Western Cape, the response has been that the MJC has been reactionary. Many have spoken to Imam Muhsin Hendricks and many have emailed me. We look at the MJC's Hukum as an opportunity to work with the community and with the MJC and we seek to invite Maulana Abdul Khaliq Allie and Maulana Ahsaan Hendricks from the MJC to see the film when we open in theaters in South Africa over the next few months. We look forward to positive engagement with the Muslim Judicial Council in South Africa and I use this opportunity once again to invite the venerable Mufti Abdul Kader Hoosen to see the film as well.
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.

Ulema position

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 ?


Nina's Heavenly Delights

Please watch my friend Pratibha Parmar's first feature-Ninas's Heavenly Delights now in its first week of theatrical in New York and opening in San Francisco. Pratibha is an accomplished filmmaker who first captured our hearts with "Khush" and now brings us this urban fairy tale about Garam Masala, Curry, Korma TV and Indians with Scottish accents ; )
Also comments are pouring in from around the world for Jihad. I can hardly keep up. This from Montreal (someone who actually saw the film as opposed to those who condemn (see MJC below) without seeing the film).
Hi Parvez, i want to thank you for producing this documentary. it was touching and inspiring. it renews faith in love and humanity!
Thank you.
Marius Wolfe
In addition to all those comments from Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Doha and Bangladesh-the hunger for 'Jihad' is widespread-we need to find ways to spread the movement within the Ummah and beyond. 'Datu' writes in from the Phillipines.

i just wanted to ask if your film will ever be screened here in our country. i'm a 20-year-old closet mtf tran, and i'd be very glad if there would ever be an opportunity for me--as well as every silent queer muslim out here--to watch it."


South Africa's MJC Issues a Hukum (Judgement) against "Gay Justifiers." We are now Murtads (Apostates)

It is official. The powerful Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) of South Africa has issued a hukum or judgement, much like a fatwa, calling people like myself and Muhsin murtads, or apostates. The sin of apostasy carries the death penalty in many schools of Islamic jurisprudence. Muhsin has just told me that as he attended Friday prayers at a local mosque in Cape Town, the entire Khutbah (or Friday sermon) was against the film and him, in particular. Muhsin is a hero for so many of us: to sit and listen to a sermon that denounces you is an act of courage that has few parallels. Muhsin sat through the entire sermon and did his prayers, as he always does. I reproduce below the Report from The Voice of the Cape Website posted on the 26th of November, 2007 about the rising controversy in South Africa. I request that you all post comments here so that we can compile them and send them to the MJC and invite those who pass judgment to come and see the film in large numbers when we screen theatrically in South Africa in 2008.

Support for murtad hukum on gay justifiers
Posted on: 26/11/2007 09:13:41
Following a hukum read out on Friday in most Western Cape mosques by the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC), 80% of those polled by VOC agreed that people who justified homosexuality as being acceptable were out of the fold of Islam. 7% agreed to some extent while 13% disagreed with this ruling. The hukum followed after the MJC liaised with other ulema in the country to reach consensus on the issue.

In the statement, the MJC declared that any Muslim who �rejects the clear injunction of Islam on the homosexuality and believes it to be right, acceptable or correct, is regarded as out of the fold of Islam and such a person is decreed to be at murtad (an apostate). In conformity with centuries of unambiguous and clear evidence from the Glorious Quran, the Sunnah and the consensus of the scholars of Islam, the MJC condemns the practise of homosexuality, the inclination towards it and its lifestyle. The meeting unanimously reaffirmed the decision of its Fatwa Committee that the practise of homosexuality is haraam (forbidden and abominable).

The announcement comes after a gay Muslim documentary film,Parvez Sharma's Jihad for love showed earlier this month at the Gay and Lesbian Film Festival drew a wide response. The outrage was irked on especially after VOC raised it on air 10 days ago to question whether films of this nature helped the Muslim community to deal with the repercussions of homosexuality.

It was the second time this year that VOC looked at homosexuality and comes after a debate on VOCs Pichara where the focus was on what the Quran and hadith said on homosexuality. The point that most outraged Muslims was a claim made Imam Muhsin Hendricks of the local gay lobby group, Inner-Circle, one of the gay Muslims featured in the documentary, who said that the traditional texts had to be reinterpreted in terms of homosexuality.

According to the MJC who had distanced itself from the Open Line @ 9 show on 16 November, it had been flooded with complaints from the public after the broadcast. But the broadcast had also provided the ulema body with an opportunity to address the prevalence of homosexuality in its midst. While the South Africa's liberal constitution assured homosexuals the right to exist and even marry, the ulema body said it was still within its right to offer Muslims guidance on the Shariah perspective on the matter.

However, not everyone agreed the hukum. It is a very, very dangerous thing to do to issue a hukum of murtad on someone. We must take care not to cast people with whom we differ from the fold of Islam. We are only now beginning to learn how to debate with dignity, thanks in part to the issues that our media like VOC are raising. If we are not careful, we run the risk of returning to the bad old days when we were too quick to call someone who held different views a mushriq or kafir,� one concerned member of the public said.

But comments have also come from other side of the fence. "I would like to commend VOC as a community radio station for living up to its name - being a platform for debate to the community. Yes, LGBTQ people are a part of this community. I ask of my fellow Muslims what is it that makes them so uncomfortable about this topic that they want to resort to violence and threats. I would also like to know what is so offensive about the documentary that it can evoke this type of a response from my fellow Muslims. I am a gay Muslim woman and have been living this lifestyle for the past 28 years. I have experienced the pain of being a gay Muslim and I have seen the pain of others trying to deal with their sexual orientation homophobia from family, friends and the community.

Believe me, this is not a life anyone would want to choose. I have come to terms with who I am but I have always prayed to be normal, but you know this was not meant for me. I know of people who thought they had a choice; their choice was to hide their sexual persuasion, live a life of deceit. As far as the community is concerned they probably made the right choice. I ask right for who? We are not asking for the world to be gay; we are only asking for our human rights and to be allowed to practice our religion as we are all spiritual beings. Shukran to VOC for starting this debate. I feel as community we can only grow by listening and debating dissenting views. We are not strangers we are your family and sisters and brothers in Islam"
she concluded. VOC

Karan Singh from Montreal writes in on FaceBook:
"Hi Parvez,
I was at a screening of your film in Montreal...I just wanted to say what a great effort it was.....it was both courageous and inspiring.
Best with this and all your future efforts.

CR Davies writes in here:
"Is Islam really so fragile that things like homosexuality and "provocatively" named teddy bears threaten to destroy the religion's very core? Whatever happened to the tradition of debate and reasoned inquiry, not to mention the concept of compassion and the appreciation of all God's creatures? Condemnations fly from every direction, and one could scarcely be blamed nowadays for thinking Islam is the religion of the intolerant. Congratulations, Mr. Sharma, on making a courageous, beautiful, and necessary film. My prayers and support are with you, with Muhsin Hendricks, and with all the subjects in your film, as you chip away at the walls of ignorance, hatred, and bigotry. "

And the last word belongs to Faheem from Cape Town :
"Hello to all and Salam to all Muslim people. I would like to express my disgust in the growth of this sinful and demoralising activity - homosexuality.
I have read the interview by Hassan Mirza to yourself Parvez and although this conversation is intelectually and homosexually appetizing to all your gay readers and fans, its definitely not applaud-able to any sensible muslim or non-muslim.
You claim to be the first person to break the walls of silence in defense of gays when the gay issue has not been silent at all. The stench of its gaping hole has long been opposed in the Holy Quran. When you say that you dont have a choice to be muslim, you actually have made a concious choice not to obey Islam publically. Islam means to submit to Allahs laws and will.
Just rememebr that our Prophet muhammad SAW has left for us a complete religion and what you are doing is nothing but distorting and corrupting the minds of many young people who choose to be misguided by you willingly or through their vulnerability.
You should take some time off and really make a conscious decision as to what you really want to happen to you once the two Angels appear in your grave.
Allah is Most Forgiving and he forgives all sins except Shirk (making partners with Him). I dont know if these words wil ever reach your heart but please take not of the following...
If gays assume that Islam has a place for homosexuality then why do the laws of Mahram and non-Mahram apply to women and men relationships? If you have to cover your Auwrah (portion of your body between navel and knees) from other strange women and males, and women in turn have to cover their whole body except hands and face from strange men, then how would these laws apply to gay or lesbian people? If the Quran or hadeeth does not advise us on these issues then who will be brave/ignorant enough to add to the pure wording and guidance from the Quran?
If gay people say that people shouldnt assume that they have anal intercourse, then what is it that they desire in same gender relationships, as all humans have the natural tendencies of carnal desires. So what leads to Haraam is Haraam and inhibiting or encouraging homosexuality will only encourage anal sexual intercourse isnt it? This type of intercourse is strictly forbidden in Islam between unmarried / married heterosexual couples. Needless to say that if this is Haraam for heterosexuals, then what is there left for gay 'muslims' to deny/justify?
You need to make ghusl, and then make Toubah (return to Allah in forgiveness) and say your Kalimah again and start immediately promoting the correct beliefs which Allah has instructed us with.
No man or woman is born gay/lesbian. It is a conscious decision you have made and do not blame Allah for your shortcomings.
Allah knows best. May He guide and protect us from our infallibility."

There is always a difference between how Muslims who see the film respond, and those who condemn the film's very existence without seeing it. Seiraj from Cape Town writes:
Saw the film in Johannesburg, what an achievement - Parvez, Sandi, Muhsin and everyone else involved: thankyou for an important film that will divide opinion but generate much-needed debate.
My mom is in Cape Town and would like to see the film. I see I've missed the Out in Africa film festival dates in CT, will the film be shown again soon in CT?
best wishes

And then this from Rashid, who I am not sure has seen the film:

Dear "Faheem from Cape Town":
As a gay man, (yes, openly proud, too) I take very strong offense to your statement that being gay is a conscious, morally outrageous decision, and that no one is born gay or lesbian. As if anyone would choose to receive such condemnation as you provide! If you're not gay yourself, how dare you get into the minds of and speak on behalf of those who are? How would you know anything about what it is to be gay? Furthermore, if, as you say so confidently, "Allah knows best," then STOP usurping His authority and making judgments on His behalf. Are you not being blasphemous yourself by assuming His role here on Earth as His designated spokesperson? For shame!


72 Hours, Two Best Documentary Awards

Last night in Montreal- was profound and amazing.
One sold out screening here at Image+Nation Festival. The Festival decides to do a second screening and that sells out as well within minutes. People queue up in large numbers. An Egyptian man, who was almost on the Queen Boat, sobs and says the film is about his life. A young Muslim man finds affirmation in the fact that at fifteen a Sheikh told him he could not be gay and Muslim, and that now in his twenties, watching the film, he finally finds some answers in the faith he had almost rejected. A Malaysian Muslim commits to helping us when we bring the film to Malaysia.
And finally, less than 72 hours after our Best Documentary Award in Sao Paulo, the Jury here in Montreal votes and decides that 'A Jihad for Love' is the Best Documentary at the Festival.
After last night's screening, Rony writes:
"Hi Parvez,
I really was touched by your movie tonight, very well made.
I hope it will inspire the community and start a kind of revolution to change things and help the others who dont have the chance to live in a free country.
So many are in pain and at risk of death, and not much we can do about it, but it takes sometimes a "small" start like that for a big change.
Good luck and hope to see you in Montreal soon.

Faheem from South Africa writes again:

I have been working with a few gay people for a couple of months. Them being good people to work does not justify the fact that they still are sinning.
Homosexuality is sinful, and anal sex is Haraam and punishable in Islam.
Regards - Faheem

And then another comment from The Mother City (Cape Town), clearly Ground Zero for the film, atleast in the ten weeks since the film was born.

Hi Mr Sharma
I truly commend you for the beautiful film you have made.I am fortunate to live in Cape Town which does protect the rights of our gay and lesbian citizens.I know many gay muslim men and it is quite sad to see how they are treated by misguided members of their muslim brother and sisters.At the end of day, we are children of God and from what i know, Islam is a religion of peace and love so the hatred directed at the gay community is alarming. We are not here to judge anybody irrespective of creed, race or sexual orientation.


Montreal Tomorrow, Some More Comments

Our 5 pm screening in Montreal tomorrow is sold out, so an additional one has been added at 7 and hopefully many of you can make it.
Here is how the festival describes the film and you can buy tickets here
A Jihad for Love
Parvez Sharma | USA/ UK/ FR/ GER/ AU | 2007 | video | 81 min | multilingual | s-t.a_en
“If the One above forgives you, then the world has no right to judge you.” Parvez Sharma’s A Jihad of Love is the first full-length documentary about devout gay and lesbian Muslims. From the Cairo 52 trial to the relatively liberal Islamic Republic of Turkey, he explodes myths and stereotypes about Islam perpetuated by a Western media focused on fundamentalists. Sharma challenges historically-driven interpretations of the stories of Lut, Gomorrah and Sodom, and clarifies the meaning of the frequently misinterpreted word jihad. From a lesbian couple living in Paris to a gay father and imam in South Africa, Sharma depicts Islam’s diversity and richness, and the moving struggles of our courageous Muslim LGBT brothers and sisters worldwide. Produced by Sandi Dubowski (Trembling Before G-D), Sharma’s astonishing debut was 6 years in the making and shot in 9 languages and 12 countries. A haunting, timely documentary that resonates with our current preoccupations with accommodements raisonnables and Islamophobia, Sharma’s film perhaps represents his own jihad ul-nafs. Sharma reminds us that Islam means submission unto a law of mercy, and that there is no substitute for love, be it that of a same-sex partner – or Allah. – BP
sunday 25 nov_17:00 | PGM67 | J.A. de Seve
Également dans ce programme : Aly M

Meanwhile, this from Mr Fahim Jackson who I assume is in South Africa:
"Hello to all and Salam to all Muslim people. I would like to express my disgust in the growth of this sinful and demoralising activity - homosexuality.
I have read the interview by Hassan Mirza to yourself Parvez and although this conversation is intelectually and homosexually appetizing to all your gay readers and fans, its definitely not applaud-able to any sensible muslim or non-muslim.
You claim to be the first person to break the walls of silence in defense of gays when the gay issue has not been silent at all. The stench of its gaping hole has long been opposed in the Holy Quran. When you say that you dont have a choice to be muslim, you actually have made a concious choice not to obey Islam publically. Islam means to submit to Allahs laws and will.
Just rememebr that our Prophet muhammad SAW has left for us a complete religion and what you are doing is nothing but distorting and corrupting the minds of many young people who choose to be misguided by you willingly or through their vulnerability.
You should take some time off and really make a conscious decision as to what you really want to happen to you once the two Angels appear in your grave.
Allah is Most Forgiving and he forgives all sins except Shirk (making partners with Him). I dont know if these words wil ever reach your heart but please take not of the following...
If gays assume that Islam has a place for homosexuality then why do the laws of Mahram and non-Mahram apply to women and men relationships? If you have to cover your Auwrah (portion of your body between navel and knees) from other strange women and males, and women in turn have to cover their whole body except hands and face from strange men, then how would these laws apply to gay or lesbian people? If the Quran or hadeeth does not advise us on these issues then who will be brave/ignorant enough to add to the pure wording and guidance from the Quran?
If gay people say that people shouldnt assume that they have anal intercourse, then what is it that they desire in same gender relationships, as all humans have the natural tendencies of carnal desires. So what leads to Haraam is Haraam and inhibiting or encouraging homosexuality will only encourage anal sexual intercourse isnt it? This type of intercourse is strictly forbidden in Islam between unmarried / married heterosexual couples. Needless to say that if this is Haraam for heterosexuals, then what is there left for gay 'muslims' to deny/justify?
You need to make ghusl, and then make Toubah (return to Allah in forgiveness) and say your Kalimah again and start immediately promoting the correct beliefs which Allah has instructed us with.
No man or woman is born gay/lesbian. It is a conscious decision you have made and do not blame Allah for your shortcomings.
Allah knows best. May He guide and protect us from our infallibility. "

My response to Brother Faheem:
How can we meet Inshaallah and give you the opportunity to see the film?


Best Documentary Award

A Jihad for Love was awarded the Best Documentary and People's Jury Award last night, here in So Paulo at the MIX BRASIL Festival. We will be adding pictures soon.


The Hour Cover, International Herald Tribune and some more love

We are here in Sao Paulo. First screening tonight.
Meanwhile, The Hour in Montreal has done a COVER Feature on the film here
And The International Herald Tribune is running a story here.
The Montreal Gazette is running a story here
And Planet Out's Hassan Mirza interviews me here

Both screenings in Sao Paulo were very well received and yes, packed with audiences again, who in that very Brazilian way, asked long and thoughtful questions.

More comments have been coming in and as always, I post them below:

"thereis nothing unusual in being Gay Muslim and ARAB. there are plenty of evils like murder, INCEST, rape, homosexuality, pornography etc many many evils are existing among muslims as well as non-muslims. KORAN deplores and condemns these evils. surely you will meet many propagaters of SATAN under the garb of human rights and civil liberties but if you believe in hell and heaven in the life hereafter then what will you do to protect yourself from ALLAH's wrath. IN CASE IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN LIFE HEREAFTER THEN nothing to worry about. KORAN is not for non-muslims, ex-muslims like salman rushdie or imposter muslims "

"This is an insane initiative to try and incorporate homosexuality into Islam. Dont you read the Quran? If you decide to interperate the pure and flawless Quran according to your own beliefs..then u only ask Allahs curse twofold. You talk about Jihad,but did u make Ijtihad over the matter. You wil find that no place exists in Islam for Ijtihad on matters which are explicitly clear in the Quran. May Allah guide u to accept Islam as it came to us."


MJC Protests and The Nation Feature

The MJC has sent a fax of protest over our Friday featured interview on The Voice of the Cape here in Cape Town.
Meanwhile this radio station has been asking its listeners this on the front page of their website, which gets more than a million hits.
"VOC came in for flack from the MJC and some callers who believed discussing whether or not documentaries like the gay film Jihad for Love helped Muslims deal with homosexuality was creating a platform for something most Muslims would never accept. Do you believe VOC should not be covering controversial issues like homosexuality and the two Eids?"
The results are surprising.
Yesterday we finished our South Africa tour, only for the moment. Yet again, we had a packed audience and a very special guest in our Q&A: Imam Muhsin Hendricks' daughter, who joined him on stage to thunderous applause.
Also, in the US, "The Nation" has this feature on the film.
Please go to The Nation's website to comment.


"this is Cape Town and I anticipated that the MJC would have some rather vitriolic comments about you, Muhsin and the film.Not to worry, we are all so proud of you"
"Yes u are right! This is Cape Town and the sunni Muslims here wil not and never tolerate this kind of propogation. We are all disgusted that Muslims are openly proud of their sins. Do not try to make us feel guilty for not accepting satanic behaviour. If a gay/homosexual man gives R1000000 in charity,it doesnt justify the fact that he is sinning. If he fasts all his life,and doesnt control his sexual orientation then he is living a lie. So please dont try to impress the gay community by doing this 'brave' act of expressing these sinful ways in the name of Islam. Impress Allah instead! And uphold his Name in the face of false impression. Be the man that you are and fight your inner Satan. Not even satan is gay! Im saying this out of concern.. Allah guide us all to the 'STRAIGHT' path. Aameen!"


"Good-day Parvez,

I just came out of the packed Cinema in The Waterfront, Cape Town and can truly say I am taken in by the movie even me not being Muslim. I cannot really say I have experienced the same things that these courageous men and women have, and can only fear the outcome within their own country should they have remained there.

I am very concerned vis-à-vis the things revealed to us within the movie, and yes, you are right when you continually confirm that we must and should be lucky to live in a country that brings hope and remains to encourage those who feel threatened currently, despite the many problems we face daily.

I read with discontent the responses on other sites, others opinions and reactions of the documentary, yet them not really aware of the issues facing these man and women. I’m sure we echo the same sentiments as gays(GLBTI), when I say, to be normal is to be who you are truly comfortable with internally, and so the struggle would continue whether you are gay or straight, the battles don’t end because you define yourself as heterosexual? What the Imam’s daughter said tonight is true, whether you are black, white or dyslectic (as she put it), we accept the person in that form as they are (given to us by Gods Love), and so why is it so hard to accept someone who’s gay?

The documentary endeavors to open the can that has expired and been placed in storage. It reveals to us that awareness of the subject will spark debate and will lead to greater understanding and acceptance in the end.

The documentary being 8 weeks old since its debut in Toronto has still got many paths to venture, and by tonight’s response, I’m sure the road will become easier and smoother as it progresses to fulfill its desire for unity and acceptance within the broader Muslim community.

I feel honored to have watched it and can applaud you on a job well done and pray that your mission may be a success as you continue on your journey ahead.

Many thanks for a well informed and great documentary with brilliant answers that followed through the Q&A.



MJC Attacks Voice of the Cape for interviewing us

Muhsin and I were on the remarkable Muslim radio station in Cape Town-the Voice of the Cape today. Mufti AK Hoosen was interviewed as was Rushdy Sears of the Islamic Social Welfare Association. South Africa's MJC (Muslim Judicial Council) has criticized the station for interviewing us. A detailed report will follow. Meanwhile for more information go here

And yes comments have been pouring in as the second screening in Cape Town gets underway tomorrow to a packed audience again. I reproduce just some of the love below.

"You must realize that you are sinners like all of us.What you are doing or want to do is totally against the law of Allah SWT.The way out of this, as is for all sinners is to follow the prophet SAW as he said when he returned from the Battle of Badr.Akbar Jihad,Jihadunafs.Do u really think that the beloved Rasool of Allah would condone your type of lifestyle.Shaytaan is whisperiing to your heart and you allowing shytaan to take over your heart.So fight the nafs and if you refuse to do so then dont proclaim to be Muslim,or even try to change the words of His prophet SAW,or change the interpretation of the Holy Quran to suit your lifestyles as this will only be to your own downfall. May the curse of Allah and his beloved prophet be upon you if you continue with this lifestyle. "

" ALLAH's Curse on you All...i.e Soddom "

" Salam to all muslim readers and Hi to all others. Bismillah! I begin in the name of Allah. These are my personal opinions/views/concerns etc. Firstly what people need to understand is that as in the case with any faith, you will have those who follow and abide by the laws which are interpreted by the religious leaders, scriptures and prophets. In this case, Islam has many types of believers. We are not placed on this earth to judge, but some way or another we will be judged by th One and Only Creator Allah. If we claim to be Muslim, then we accept whatever our Prophet muhammad (peace be upon Him) has left for us. Any matters of concern which are not clearly understood are to be interpreted by the Appointed Religious Legal Authorities in a specific town, country etc. The majority viewpoint of the religious leaders (Ulama) has to be followed. Muslims are not sweeping things under the carpet by NOT tackling the Gay/homosexual issue. It just remains a sin which needs to be dealt with by the persons who have fallen into this Satanic trap. As in the case with any other known sin in religion, we dont find people going around saying that they are attracted to stealing, have an unnatural urge to cohabit with animals, or tell lies. Its time for all sinners to come out of their trapped closets as they feel they no longer need to be demoralised and disriminated against. So homosexuality is a known sin in the Abrahamic faiths and there is no need for any muslim to redefine the scriptures and accepted beliefs for hundreds/thousands of years. There is no place in this argument for shuffling around the Mercy of Allah in saying that Allah is most forgiving and that he understands His creation and wont punish these transgressors and innovators. Allah will forgive, If the conditions of forgiveness are met by the slave. Admit, repent, succeed! I think all those Muslims who believe correctly should claim to be discriminated against for following the correct information and laws stipulated by Allah (most High). "


South Africa, Sheffield, Recent Press

I write from the road.
We had two packed screenings in Blighty-The Sheffield Documentary Film Festival. Will write an updated report on that. Britain's, 'The Independent' ran a full page story which can be seen here
Sheffield is an amazing festival but suffers from a lack of audiences off the street-the majority in the theater comprise industry 'types'.

In South Africa, where the faultlines of prejudice and an apartheid that is not quite yet gone, run deep we have had two screenings-in Johannesburg and in Cape Town. Last night's Q and A went on for almost an hour and most of the packed audience stayed with profound questions. This is the Mother City and full of hope for the future. We have already been on the radio with Dr. Eve, on 702 /567 Cape Talk with Redi Direko and with Lisa Chiat of Cape Talk. Muhsin and I do a one hour special on the Muslim station- Voice of the Cape tomorrow morning (SA time) between 9 and 10 am, with live callers.
Janet Smith's article and Interview for 'Tonight' is on here

Filmmaker South Africa is on here

Arja Salafranca writes in the Culture Pages of ' The Sunday Independent'(October 28, 2007)-"...this is surely going to be a highlight of this years festival-astonishing to see in today's world' (if you see a link to this please send it to me).

There is a lot of press, a lot of warmth and engaged and large audiences. I will be updating as we prepare for Saturday's screening in Cape Town and get ready to head to Sao Paulo in Brazil.

Meanwhile do also read the comments thread for my Oh! England post-rather interesting, I feel.

From the Mother City

Ryan Jones from last night's screening at the V and A Waterfront, here in Capetown writes:

Dear Mr. Sharma
How are you doing? I trust all is well.
I attended the screening of "A Jihad for Love" at the V&A Waterfront last night. The reason for the mail is just to congratulate you on a film that I must confess touched me very deeply. From opening scene to closing credits my eyes, mind and heart were firmly fixated on the film. The topic was portrayed with much sensitivity and the peoples fervent love for their religion and God was almost tangible.
I myself am not Muslim, but I could also identify with the peoples struggle to come to terms with homosexuality and their love for God. I was also captivated by how the people not only coped with their internal struggle but also external struggles in how they are persecuted. It struck home when one of the cast spoke about how he could not fathom being free when so many are not.
I realised how caught up I became as seeing God as unapproachable and punishing. I have forgotten that God loves and is merciful and it is by His will that I am here and still alive. Just like some of the cast I have asked God to cure me from being gay. Sometimes in my mind I think that if God did not like me he would not have seen it fit for me to be here. But here I am an He has been with me from the start.
I hope that your work continues to touch and bring hope to the lives of many people and will open up a lot of avenues for discourse. Your work is truly a blessing.
Ryan Jones


Oh! England

We are here in Sheffield
More to come. Oh! England, gorgeous and decrepit-Britannia, having colonized so many of our souls.Britannia ofcourse has had no choice but to jump head first into the battle for the soul of Islam. The discussions around Islam in Britian today remain at the forefront of how these debates will unfold in years to come.
Come one, come all to the screenings and the link is here

Hassan Mirza of Gay.Com has done an excellent feature on the film and that can be found when you click here-please post your comments to the feature interview and article.

Fascism is alive and well, in the words and actions of the likes of David Horowitz. The ignorance of these people is immense and many lobbies prevent us from correcting their ill informed actions in the United States. For more look here


BBC News Report on 'A Jihad for Love'

Tom Brook, one of the best film reporters in broadcast television does an excellent feature. It seems like he did take my suggestion to visit the Islamic Center at 96th Street in New York-to see what he found see the link below.

Tom Brook reports on 'A Jihad for Love' for BBC.

Mr. Brook does a good job in encapsulating the struggle. All I would want the respectable Imam to do-is to come and be an honoured guest at a screening. We will be in touch soon, Inshaallah.

All there is a 365 Gay.Com interview is here

" 365gay talked to Sharma about the myth of the Muslim monolith, how he found his "unlikely storytellers," and the jihad - the struggle - to reconcile who you are with what you believe. "


Daily News Egypt Article

The Daily News in Egypt, has published an excellent feature on the film today. I agreed to do the interview because I feel it is critical to begin discussions in the nations where this film comes from.

The feature is located at Film director explores homosexuality in the Muslim world

I know the paper has a readership-but how much it penetrates the Egyptian masses is debatable. For the expats in Egypt and the English newspaper reading elite it is always found in the lobbies of five star hotels, where entry is only gained after passing metal detectors thoughtfully supplied by Mubarak and Friends.


This is how The Daily News describes itself on their website.
"Daily News Egypt (which launched in May 2005 under the brand name The Daily Star Egypt) is the country's only independent English-language daily.
It carries local business, political and cultural, news and analysis, from an Egyptian perspective.
Daily News Egypt is distributed with the International Herald Tribune (IHT) the world's foremost global newspaper. The IHT is the only English-language international paper printed in Egypt and available the same day. Together with the IHT's first-class international news service, Daily News Egypt provides readers with a complete bouquet of all the news they will need.
Please feel free to contact us in Cairo at:
International Herald Tribune / Daily News Egypt
37 Amman Street
Tel : +20 (2) 3335-2561 / 2
Fax : +20 (2) 3335-2615 "


Mazen and 'A Jihad For Love' on Oprah

The Oprah Winfrey Show does a special segment TODAY on Gay Around the World.
Mazen, from 'A Jihad for Love' who was imprisoned and tortured during the Cairo 51 arrests in 2001 is headlined on the show. Watch Mazen speak with the honesty and integrity, I know so well, about this painful past and his struggle for acceptance and a new life as a refugee on the show. Also included will be clips from 'A Jihad for Love'. Please tune in and look for further information including a mention of the film at Oprah.com

You can email us at parvezsharma@gmail.com and ajihadforlove@gmail.com


Eid Mubarak from Parvez

Dear Friends:
Eid Mubarak to all of you.
Simply put-I have been overwhelmed since after Toronto and many amazing things are happening around the film.
The press coverage has overall been extremely positive and reactions to the film itself (and its very existence) are pouring in from across the world.
I have been very successful so far, in setting the agenda for positive discussions and having a blog here and being invited to write for The Huffington Post, have been remarkable opportunities.
Through all of the noise, a picture of clarity also seems to be emerging. It is clear that through these initial festival screenings in Toronto and then Brazil-we are at the beginning of a movement that will shape and inform millions of lives for years to come.
I am committed to responding to all of you individually and in the meantime urge you all to visit some of the links below and post your own comments.
We need to increase traffic to this blog and to our FaceBook Profile, so please visit, join and circulate widely.
Forthcoming updates will include the festival schedule and details on The Muslim Dialogue Project. (regular updates are available at this page, always).
What is important at this point is that the latest article about the film- on Al-Arabiya posted two days ago has been imploding with many negative comments (and recently positive ones as well). We need to go to that website and counter the homophobia (and rush to judgement) by posting our own comments on this film (for those of you who have seen it) and on how we perceive the rights of individuals in the context of Islam and homosexuality. At the end of this post I include recent press breaks around the film and just some of the comments (translated from the original Arabic) that have appeared on the Al-Arabiya website.
Eid Mubarak once again and Salams

(The interview is also on YouTube at http://youtube.com/watch?v=dZ3X8LKrHgQ)

The Hour with George Stromboulopoulos


The Huffington Post

The Wall Street Journal

The Guardian

NPR: Talk of the Nation


And all of the Updates, Comments and Press are just a mouse click away here on our Blog.

Comments on the Al-Arabiya Website

"The Toronto film festival…well Toronto is known for its large Jewish community."

"The Arab World is full of them but they are afraid to speak out."

"A Muslim is someone who obeys the laws of Islam, someone who obeys god. Are gays Muslims? No, they are following the devil who directs them as he pleases. Real Muslims do not accept or deal with or acknowledge these homosexuals."

"May God disappoint you unclean people. Islam and homosexuality do not go together. Homosexuals must be executed now because they are scum."

"What's clear is that this movie is not a documentary, it's a bunch of people acting for the director who seeks to please the western audience; an audience that applauds anything that sheds a bad light on Islam and shows corruption as normal. Many of them defend homosexuality and try affect youth with their ideas; the movie did win an award after all."

"Why are we surprised? This kind of asylum is available in Europe for gays who are said to be oppressed in their countries. There are Muslims from all around the Arab and Muslim world who use this excuse, even if it's a lie, to obtain asylum."

"Homosexuality is not a choice, rather a calamity from god. The person who has this kind of affliction has to try and fight it by mentioning God's name and praying and fasting and staying away from those people who encourage him to do what maddens god. God will be the savior. This news that Arabiya publishes is real and it is presented to the readers for discussion and not for the site to be attacked by people using foul language."

"There will come a day in the Arab world when gays will be respected. It's enough to know that they exist in great numbers in countries that consider themselves conservative like the gulf and Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco , Libya and others."

"I personally consider homosexuality disgusting but at the same time I can't sentence every homosexual to death. That would be cruel. I do not think that god has authorized anyone to kill humans because they are gay. I am sure there is a natural or psychological remedy to this ailment."

"It's clear from the comments here that we are a nation that has lost its way. Everyone has appointed himself a judge, executioner and ruler and started giving out fatwas, from those who demand killing homosexuals, to those who demand imprisoning them. These people speak as if they live in communities of angels. Homosexuality has existed since god created the earth and humans and is not a transient issue, and is not part of a conspiracy as some uneducated people here think. When will we start leaving others alone? Homosexuals and other humans and like us regardless of how different their lifestyles are. God created us all and he is the judge, not humans. Enough bloodshed and closed mindedness. God will judge them and their actions and he is merciful and forgiving."


We are on the Front Page of Al-Arabiya TV-The Digital Jihad has Begun

Through the night, responses on Al-Arabiya have steadily increased with more than 230 comments right now, a more nuanced view emerging and this is one of the most highly commented stories on that site right now (other than Qaddafi's claims of all Arabs being Shia!)-we need you to go in large numbers to the website and post your comments as well.

We are on the front page of Al-Arabiya TV and more than 140 readers have responded in a matter of a few hours. The majority of the comments as expected, are not positive. As I always knew, the film will have a polarizing influence but in the long run and also immediately (as we are seeing with many audiences)-it will benefit large communities of Muslims. I continue this 'Jihad' with the intention of making sure that those who respond (on Al-Arabiya and elsewhere) will form informed opinions based on their experience of seeing the film.

We are monitoring the response on the Al-Arabiya website and urge all of you to log in and comment as well.

Abderrahman, who identifies himself as a 'gay man' from Saudi Arabia writes (in response to the mostly negative comments on the website)- "You are all backward and foolish".

Click on the link below (and the title is a rough translation of the feature on Al-Arabiya)

" Documentary about homosexual Muslims wins award at Toronto"

Also, more interviews are popping up on YouTube including this one from Reuters Television.

New Delhi Television in India has this news story.


Recent News

The responses to The Huffington Post Feature are still coming in (a week after it went online)
'On the edge in Sumas' writes:
" Even more compelling and important to me than highlighting the lives
of gay people in Iran--this Muslim man's ability to focus on the
censorship, bigotry, and mass over-simplification of American media
with regard to Iran is brilliant. Don't miss his blog--"

You Tube has the featured television interview from The Hour here

The Wall Street Journal op-ed/ article can be read here

Kilian Melloy interviews me for The Edge (Boston) here

Bombs, Burqas and Burqinis is living here

Please continue to join us at FaceBook. Keep those emails coming in and I shall be posting more as soon as I have responded to all your messages (now down to about 900!)

Ali writes from Toronto:
" You were in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I saw you on CBC, while I was at the gym. I am so happy for you that finally someone is writing and working for gays and lesbians. You are strong. You are courageous. You are so strong and I am so proud of you. I am 27. I am gay too. I am a Muslim. However, I do not practice Islam anymore because I was in depression for many years due to being gay. Now, I do not care. Anyway, keep the good work and I hope that Allah will reward you. Do not listen to screwed up Muslims...they do not know any better. They love denying and repressing and suppressing."

Finally, "Lean Mean Mujahideen" (I admire the construction of that screen name) writes on our FaceBook page from Saudi Arabia (This is what you are missing if you are not already a member of 'A Jihad for Love' Group on FaceBook):

Astaghfirallah...A'uthu Billah...
Allah, after giving the people of Lut Alayhi Salam so much time, destroyed the people of that community because they would not stop transgressing against what He has FORBIDDEN. The return of homosexuality is one of the signs of Yawmil Qiyamah, as stated by the Beloved Muhammad Salallahu Alayhi Wasallam.

Muhammad (SAW) said:
"When two homosexuals mount each other, the Throne of Allah shakes."

This is how major of a sin you are taking part in. I Pray that Allah SWT guides all of you to the Straight Path (no pun intended), for whoever Allah guides, no one can misguide, and whoever Allah leads astray, none can guide him.


Bombs, Burqas, Burqinis

For this and other pontifications today-as I guest blog-please visit my posts on Why Democracy? RIGHT NOW!

My New Home, for the Day

The world's best bloggers and writers are donating a day of their time to our site. This page will host their views and thoughts about politics, democracy and more. This week's roster:

This is where I am all day today, donating time to this remarkable global project (www.whydemocracy.net)


NPR Talk of The Nation, The Wall Street Journal and The Hour with George Stromboulopoulos

Its been an exciting day.

NPR's premier 'Talk of the Nation' with 2.7 million listeners weekly did a live interview with me about 'A Jihad for Love', President Ahmadi Nejad and Islam and homosexuality. We went over the fourty minutes assigned and some really interesting callers phoned in with their comments.
Please listen at
Parvez Sharma on Talk of the Nation

The charismatic and hugely popular George Stroumboulopoulos of the CBC in Canada has me on tonight at 10 pm Eastern and also playing right now on the show's website. I wish CBC was available to viewers in the US (but then neither is al-Arabiya-not easily anyway)-but George is an extremely engaging man with a profound intellect.
Please watch at
Parvez Sharma: A Gay Indian Muslim exploring Islam and Homosexuality

or just go to http://www.cbc.ca/thehour/

There is a BBC Radio Interview with me from yesterday here

Negar Josephi's interview from Swedish National Radio is on here

I have also just been interviewed by a rather interesting gentleman in Palm Springs, Bill Feingold, "Bulldog" where he presented me with his show's 'Hero' award ; ) Bulldog is at
K News 970 AM and 1140 AM

And please keep your comments coming in here, on Huff and on our FaceBook Group

Meanwhile I am trying to make sure that I post atleast some of your email comments on here as we get them-and there are way too many emails that I still need to wade through. (We are still trying to get the live comment- component up live). These are some recent comments:

News travels fast-Farhan has just watched The Hour in Canada and writes:

Dear Mr. Pervez,
I want to congratulate you on your movie a Jihad for Love. I have just seen your interview on the Hour on CBC and it is through this show that I have become aware of this film. I'm quite anxious to view it and I hope that it will be released in theatres here in Toronto soon. I understand that it was premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. You must be very proud to have made a movie about such a topic. Being muslim and gay myself I must say that you have shown tremendous courage by producing such a film and I am inspired by you. I feel as though I am at a lost for words. This is an exciting time for gay muslims all over the world. I wish you continued success. I salaam you.
God bless!


Dena writes:
I heard your interview today on NPR and thought this is the next big step towards making the world safe for mankind. Thank you for using your talents to do accomplish such compelling tasks: first, for homosexuals, also for Muslims and for all of us who need to appreciate the diversity in all groups. Anyone who studies history knows the damage done by narrow minds, and by disturbed people who use religion as their cover. As a Jew, I add my voice to support the important work you are doing. Thank you."

Hoopoe writes on Huff:
" what a brilliant post.
'...we as Muslims not allow the mediators in the Western media and, indeed, our Islamic extremist brothers... to define our Islams for us.'
the same goes for non-muslims - we all have an obligation - if we lack the curiosity - to learn the truth and separate reality from media hype and misinformation. the reward is getting to know a diversity of wonderful peoples, cultures and spiritualities we might otherwise be ignorant of - or worse, antagonistic toward.
i hope mr. sharma gets his card and finds it worth his efforts - imo, he's more 'american' in values, openness and critical thought than many of my fellow citizens could ever claim to be. his insight is a rare thing these days; we need more americans like him!"

And finally, this from Dennis:

"I while I understand that Ahmenidejad seems to want to deny that homosexuality exists in Iran, that is not exactly what he said. He said that homosexuality does not exist in Iran "like it does in your country (the United States)." On the radio today, you seemed to agree with the other interviewee that open homosexuality with a cultural component of free expression does not exist in the Muslim world generally. Thus, technically, Ahmedinejad would be correct. The question obviously is whether or not he was trying to say this or not--which I really have no way of knowing since the US media and the audience did not seem to allow him to talk once he made the aforementioned comment which could have more than one meaning.
In any event, your book and film are certainly welcome. Your desire to create a more nuanced view for people in the west regarding the Islamic world and homosexuality are much needed. Thank you....."

Finally an excellent, nuanced column on the Editorial Page of the Wall Street Journal today. Bret Stephens who recently watched and loved the film (and disagrees with my 'politics') wrote this timely and much-needed column today, in what is arguably one of the West's most influential media sources:

The Queerest Denial
October 2, 2007

By Bret Stephens, Wall Street Journal

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.


The Huffington Post again-NPR, The Hour, Wall Street Journal

Yes I am back on the front page of The Huffington Post, at this moment-with what I feel is a much more nuanced feature on how I am looking at the world through my Jihadi lens right now-as the movement of this film amplifies and gathers strength. Please read, forward, comment and debate in large numbers.

My Jihad, in America and Beyond

At 2:00 pm Eastern today please tune in to NPR's Talk of the Nation for my exhaustive and live interview with Tony Brooks.

I am on Canada's most popular TV news hour right now-The Hour with George Stromboulopoulos

Bret Stephens from The Wall Street Journal has an excellent column about the film and Ahmadi Nejad with an interview that includes my dear friend Arsham, right now.


Huffington Post, Why Democracy? and some interesting emails

The response to the Huffington Post feature has been overwhelming. I will be writing there again. Watch this space.

I have been invited to blog all day on October 2nd at Why Democracy?

This is the global news and analysis blog of Why Democracy House, part of the largest factual multimedia event in the world-where 10 of the world's best writers and bloggers have been invited to donate a day of their time to the site-and yes I am honoured to be one of them.

I reproduce below, the invitation from the amazing people over at this project.

" Greetings from Cape Town. I'm the media project manager for a project called Why Democracy? -- the largest global documentary broadcast in history, which will see 10 films made by 10 top directors shown in over 200 countries to hundreds of millions of people in October.

We've enjoyed Parvez Sharma's blog and we'd like to involve him in one blog component of this project. Several of our filmmakers, including Alex Gibney and Kazuhiro Soda are taking part, as well as an Indian economist, a popular Norwegian blogger, an underground activist from
Zimbabwe and a former US secretary of labor.

Our project's goal is to engage people in conversations about democracy (what works, what doesn't, how it can be improved, where it's needed, where it's abused, how it relates to other issues like the environment, human rights, etc.). The films are excellent, hard-hitting, critical and challenging -- some have already won festival awards in the past few months.

We're inviting a small number of smart, interesting bloggers and writers from around the world to act as guest news bloggers on a specific day leading up to and during the broadcasts of the films (from Sept. 24 through Oct. 18). We've got some of the best and brightest people on the planet, all effectively donating a day of blogging to the project.

Our site has a news page at http://www.whydemocracy.net/house/news . Parvez's role would be to blog about democracy-related and politicalevents in the News of the Day space for one day. He will have complete freedom to choose his topics and links and focus on issues and events he thinks are important. His posts will be archived, RSSed and readers will be able to comment on them.

In return, we'll include a short profile (if you wish), link back to his own site for the duration of the project, and connect him to a group of prominent, intelligent bloggers and filmmakers as well as expose his site to the large global audience we will gain as this event is covered by the media.

This project is going to be quite massive -- it's backed by the BBC, CBC, SBS, SABC and many other networks. But it's also being run on a shoestring (there's always more money for reality TV than for civic engagement.)

I'm donating my time to this project and I hope Parvez will see the value and potential of this effort and be eager to donate a day of blogging as well. "

This is a remarkable opportunity, and not being one to turn it down-I am donating a day of my time to what is already a huge broadcast event that will resonate from Cairo, to Tehran, to Delhi, to Tokyo, to LA and Rio de Janeiro.

And finally-in these times of virtual Jihad-the love arrives in different ways, usually email.

Wajih Choudhury, definitely a fellow Muslim, in an email title GO TO HELL (subject line) writes (the punctuation and caps lock key on his keyboard dont seem to work as fast as his emotion)

" you guys contribute nothing to helping the world. you only focus on
yourselves. i hope more and more of your faggots are persecuted."

I invite you all, dear readers to react to Mr. Choudhury's comments and then we can email him.

On another note, I met two Muslims (yes all of two) in Brazil and Yasmin from Rio writes this beautiful email. (Words like hers are the ones I choose to remain focussed on).

" Assalamu Aleikum.

Mr. Parvez Sharma,

I hope you're fine and in best health when you read this, inshallah. I met you yesterday, september 26, after i saw your movie at Botafogo, Rio de Janeiro.

I'd like to pay my complements to you and your team for the documentary "A Jihad for Love". I really liked it, wallah! Specially because it shows the conservative perspective in a respectiful way, the reality of those who live this difficult situation in Islam, and also shows how people are learning to deal with it together with Islam. I liked that it shows the need to review the muslim societies in a better way for the human being - as it is the greatest creation of Allah, but as we know that's not a problem only with the homosexuality, it's a problem with all the marginalized people in the muslim society, including women in general. It's interesting that the movie shows that the homosexuality isn't accepted by any divine religion, but I felt it makes an urgent request for the muslim society to become more tolerate with their brothers and sisters who have a different sexual peference.

In Brazil, although we are a secular country and we have a huge gay community - and gay tourism is growing widely specially in Rio de Janeiro - we have a very patriarchal social system. Most muslims here are converted and others came here running away from the wars in the Middle-East. Without prejudice, but I believe the converted muslim are more tough, intolerate - or may be, even, fundamentalists. And, because of our particular culture where man is the head of the family, etc, the prejudice against homosexuals is really big in the muslim brazilian society. Inshallah, this will change one day, and people will learn to be more tolerant with the other. But untill a straight man or woman keep seeing a gay or lesbian as someone different from him/her, tehre will still be prejudice and violence against those discriminated people.

My father's father side of the family come from Lebanon and my father's mother family is catholic, originated from Portugal. My mom's entire family is catholic, originated from Italy and Brazil. As you can see, brazilians are a very diversified, LOL. As my dad passed away when my mom was pregnant, she raised me in the catholic believes (and way), but I always had many questions that only Islam was able to answer me. Anyway...God is only one and "There is no god but Allah and Mohammad is his messenger".

Inshallah this movie will be a great success! I wish you the best!


On my last day in Brazil-surrounded by teeming crowds near Santa Teresa, two men approached me at a cafe. This is as city of almost twenty million people and they recognized me from the previous night's screening ! They said:

"Parvez, thank you for making this film. We are not Muslim and know very little about Islam, but this film was about our lives".

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