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.

Breaking News from Mohandessin in Cairo

I have another friend Yousry. (Different from the other amazing Yousry I just interviewed for a Mondoweiss exclusive) I have blogged about h...