Parvez Sharma is not a Muslim he is an apostate.

A new Facebook group called the above has just been started.

This is how the group describes itself:

This group is for anyone who believes that Parvez Sharma does not represent the beliefs of the Muslim faith or the Holy Quran, and for everyone who is aware that homosexuality does not exist in Islam.

Parvez Sharma has insulted Islam and the Holy Quran. He claims to be a Muslim while he is an openly gay filmaker who directed and produced a film called A Jihad for Love which is about gays and lesbians.

Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam and the Holy Quaran, ayone who is a homosexual and calls themself a Muslim is an apostate. Parvez Shamra needs to stop calling himself a Muslim because he is an apostate. Given the fact that homosexuality is a capital offense in Islam.

Right now, it has only two members.

Mohamad Rasheed who is he founder of this group also has posted this on my wall-
"Homosexuality does not exist in Islam, it is strictly forbidden in the Holy Quran and a capital offense in Islam. You are not a Muslim, you are an apostate."

Question of the day: What should I do?


Comments on Bullets in Bollywood


Why is it that Muslim majority countries have such a hard time accepting democracy, pluraism and secular courts? Even somewhat moderate countries like Malaysia have a two tiered legal system with non-Muslims placed second class (Dhimmis). Saudi Arabia is an extreme example where even owning a non Islamic scripture can get you a very harsh penalty. Most others including Pakistan have versions of Sharia and hudood ordinances to include thought crimes like apostasy, blasphemy etc. all with very harsh punishments. The treatment of minorities by official law is apalling to say the least. Even non mainstream Muslims (Ahmadis) feel the heat. Women have half a vote, worth half a witness etc., all part of the law. Non-Muslims cannot hold any Government job etc. etc. Even in India, clerics managed to get a Muslim personal law. I am sure you remember the Shah Bano case where the secular court ruling for alimony was reversed by Muslim politicians. The loser was a poor Muslim woman. I feel your pain, but as many scholars have written there needs to a fundamental overhaul (reformation) much like every other religious group has done, to generate a massive majority liberal base. Only then will the influence of the Maulanas (clerics) on young minds reduce, and true democracy prosper. And these constant "Fatwas" are irritating......

# 2

Sometimes it seems like the most amazing miracle of all is that there are any people anywhere living in peace. But there are. At any given moment, somewhere someone is serene, healthy, secure, happy. It's hard to believe but it's true.

# 3

Parvez, You are thoughtful and meaningful as always. Not too many people can articulate their feelings and thoughts so honestly. Shukriya.

# 4

As an ex-Christian, ex-Catholic, permit me to observe that the inherent barbarism of many religions has turned many people off. Beyond that, their irrationalism and lack of evidence for all their gods and spiritual assertions makes rational people turn away.

Science produces verifiable knowledge, at best, religion produces unverifiable assertions, at worst, rationales for murder.

You might want to consider separating yourself from al of this nonsense. Personally, I find the picture of the vast and apparently purposeless universe that science produces much more emotionally rewarding than religion.

And it has the virtue of producing measurable, real results and encourages rationality.

# 5
You must be kidding! The worst barbarisms have been committed by Atheists who rationalizations permit them to kill millions of innocent people. God is not responsible for the ignorance of man. You obviously are a scientific illiterate to think science is anything more than convention. Even you must realize that the "apparently purposeless Universe" is your own illusionary construct.

# 6
Heh. I'm in a similar boat as you, in point of fact. I've decided, weighing the evidence for myself, that organized religion serves no purpose, and my personal code that I've cultivated compels me to reject the worship of any god that would create a world such as the one we live in.That said, I think there's a danger of being fundamentalist even as an atheist. There are a lot of atheists who seem intent on evangelizing their view aggressively -- not you though, arvay, just to be clear -- your post demonstrates a reasonable expression of your viewpoint. I've observed a number of avowed atheists who, on closer examination, seem to be disguising prejudice and ignorance in the cloak of their self-declared "supreme rationalism."Me? I'm an atheist because of my personal experiences, but I can't, as a rational man, completely discount the notion that other people may have had genuine religious experiences that I'm not privy to. In short, if I assume that my own perception must be the extent of the defined universe, that would make me as guilty of bigotry as a Christian who despises Muslims or a Muslim who demonizes Jews.That said, while we have our fundamentalist problems (thank you, Christopher Hitchens), atheists on the whole tend to be a reasonable, peaceable lot, I think. :)

# 7
I agree that atheist "fundamentalists" can be as insane as the religious kinds. The USSR actively persecuted religion and probably strengthened it. Altho I've seen programs about formerly Soviet Central Asia that show Muslim men happily sipping vodka :-)Basically, it makes sense for all of us to be tolerant and accepting of each other, even if we don't share the same views. We all inhabit the same planet and need to learn to live together peaceably

Problems created by organized religions...

I think, I must watch Bill Maher's "Religulous."

Don't bother, it's crap. And I'm saying that as an atheist. If you want someone who gives a decent, rational and even-handed case against organized religion, go find something by Richard Dawkins

# 10
Anybody who opts NOT to kill animals has made an advancement.

I met 2 good and decent people involved in the sacrifices today. One had a wounded finger. Although they are friends, part of me felt some revulsion. They may never make the same step you have. It isn't easy to perceive past what we have been taught since childhood.

# 11
Very thought-provoking article, Mr. Sharma. I think what we were all horrified to see in Mumbai was the product of the extreme politicization of religion, fueled in large part by governments in the West, like "with us or against us" Bush, for example. India has long been, with a few tragic exceptions, a place where lots of different kinds of people could coexist, and where it didn't matter so much who/how you worshiped. How will India, with the second largest population of Muslims in the world, fit into this Muslim nation vs. other dilemma?I don't read your piece as pro-vegetarian, but rather as frustration with Islam's glorification of violence and submission.

# 12
I thought "the West" and Bush were probably involved in the Mumbai attacks. Are you sure the vessels the terrorists used weren't supplied by Haliburton

# 13
What I meant by the West's promotion of the politicization of religion was that the vague and ultimately meaningless "War on Terror" has inevitably come to be seen as a War on Islam. I feel like this has seeped into countries with a Muslim population, where us. vs. them battles are being waged where inter-religious relations had previously been tolerable. Of course, throughout history, there have been significant and terribly bloody conflicts in India and all over the world--I'm not naive--due to religion, but this neocon good/evil, red state/blue state dichotomy has a monstrously infantalizing and regressive effect and is doing pluralistic societies no favors

Really, now. What kind of response is that? If you categorize a whole religion as bad or evil, you only create LESS peace. No, you do not triumph in "enlightening" people. When denigrating a religion that is that old, that is so entrenched in one's ancestral "background" , it is not greeted with kindness. Mind you, religion is not always about theology. It is often about geography, history, and one's ethnicity. Of course not always. However, even hundreds of years before us, Sir Francis Bacon found that one's religion is determined in large part to where they were born and to whom they were born. So, please, your statement is not only so flawed, it is MEANT to divide. This is an archaic practice. Do I need to point out the violence in other "acceptable", PC religions? The slaughtering of animals? I'm also a hardcore animal rights advocate, so get ready to go toe-to-toe in backing up your arguments.

# 15
"I think what we were all horrified to see in Mumbai was the product of the extreme politicization of religion, fueled in large part by governments in the West."Then why are you contributing to the polarization by pushing this rather tunneled-vision opinion? The West is to blame that Pakistan is trying to detach Kashmir from India? Oh, really. Pakistani people and government have nothing to do with it, of course. Looking for culprits everywhere, but in your own neighborhood, will not advance the cause of reconciliation

"The West is to blame that Pakistan is trying to detach Kashmir from India? Oh, really. Pakistani people and government have nothing to do with it, of course."Note the word "fueled" and phrase "in large part" in his statement. Where is he reassigning blame from Pakistan to the West exclusively or even mostly? "Large part" doesn't seem to mean "ALL" to me

I believe he said "fueled in LARGE PART" by the West. Note the word "fueled". This doesn't completely reassign blame. Relax.

Great article, Parvez. On my Pakistani-muslim side of the family, we are all vegetarian. I'm a vegetarian and I'm disgusted with this archaic practice. Please, those in no need to hunt anymore, people. This should be out of complete necessity only, not ritualised.

# 19

Parvez the great thing about be American is you can be Parvez Sharma, and anything and anybody you want to be, you can invent yourself and just be you...

Isn't that enough..?

Mr. Parvez Sharma, I bow to you for such a clear and honest explanation of your feelings. Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis are of the same history, ethos, and culture, with variations and differences of course, but within the same space of Mother India (Bharat Mata). Music, food, folklore, etc. I believe this feeling you describe is the best way to fix the conflicts facings us with the dangerous divide between Hindu and Muslim. Why India cannot unite? That is the solution, a lose federalism. Bring back the Panchayat. Let everyone's religion worship God as they see fit without interfering with another, that has been the root of Hinduism. But right now India is a giant that cannot walk, as she is missing a part of each leg. India's Dharma is always in peril, as Sri Aurobindo asserted on 15 August 1947, until partition is reversed. This must go. And with India's Dharma in peril, the world's future looks bleak.Yes, vegetarianism is of the essence. Let Sattwic food decrease the animosity and respect for animals - Ahimsa - propel respect for men. Several critical concessions are a must, no religion should believed called to convert the other.

The answer in not in going backwards but integrating the NOW. Change in a constant. What you are proposing is regressing to a past...you can never go home. How do you escape the time warp of your own conditioning, and shape those of others? Sorry, I am only good at posing questions...

"What you are proposing is regressing to a past...you can never go home. "Only difference is, they ARE home. We're not talking about Dorothy or a band of gypsies. There is an artificial border between these countries and that is a VERY LARGE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Hello? Kashmir, anyone? Al Qeada in Kashmir? Yoo-hoo. I cannot understand why someone would so flippantly dismiss the idea of unity, as if it is silly and because it is of the past (something the British enforced), it's no good and anything already done, is no good. Does it just sound too idealistic? Sometimes what seems peaceful can actually be. Sometimes it isn't just pink fluffy clouds and hearts. There is actually reason behind it. We're not speaking about a nomadic tribe that wants to return "home" and reclaim land. It isn't such a far-out-there idea. I fear some are insisting on a system that is obviously not working and has no reason to exist. Why should these countries be seperate? Any reason for that? Please tell me? Just religion, huh?

I was born and raised in Pakistan and I'm one of the (few) Pakistanis who thinks that uniting the South Asian subcontinent is something that will happen, possibly within the next 20 to 30 years. Pakistan is a hollow state that cannot provide peace and prosperity to its own people and can not control the extreme elements within it. Most of the culture, food, music, lifestyle etc of Pakistanis is based on our Indian heritage. We were all Indians not too long ago, and some of us realize that we still are. But due to blind nationalism, extreme defensiveness, and the bloody history between the two nations, Pakistanis have a hard time accepting this simple fact. Extremism on the part of Hindu nationalists doesn't help relations either. But overall, Muslims of Pakistan need to stop acting like victims and start looking at the world differently than they have since 1947. Pakistan is a failed state and it's best for the younger generations there to work towards a more united South Asian region rather than keep fighting over the differences.


Yes, Bharat Mata is an organism, a whole that can only be partitioned by violence. Because of missing integral parts, it cannot function properly or fulfill her destiny (Dharma).One of the greatest Indians, Sri Aurobindo (his birthday was on August 15, coincidence?) wrote on August 15, 1947 India Independence from British Raj: "India is free, but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom...The whole communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that the Congress and the Nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled, or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled; civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. The partition of the country must go...For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and frustrated. That must not be." Finally, Union is the only real solution.


Bullets in Bollywood: No Eid for me

This is the text of my recent op-ed on Huffington Post about the Bombay attacks.
You can post comments directly on Huff here

On this Eid-al-Adha, the Muslim festival of the sacrifice, I wonder what aspect of my identity troubles me more: the Indian, the Muslim, or both. And is there more to those troublesome questions as well--perhaps willingly being away from the homeland?

For at least a year now, I have very loudly proclaimed the virtues of my religion, which I know are many. I have spoken about a Jihad, for love. I have even made a film called just that. I am profoundly aware that Hindus AND Muslims AND Christians AND Jews AND Sikhs died in Bombay. But I also know that today, Eid-al-Adha, is an annual event that I will not celebrate.

Ever since I became a "prominent Muslim living in America" (quoted from some recent journalistic queries) I get all kinds of email alerts and messages, often unsolicited. So today, in the 1429th year of Islam on this planet with another Hajj ending, the emails continue. One informs me that the (until recently, Hindu) kingdom of Nepal now has its own Quran in Nepalese to be widely distributed in Nepal, Bhutan and Burma! Another informs me that Indian Muslims have been marching in protest of November 26th. I am asked again to join yet another new group called "Muslims for Peace," this time in India informing me that they were the group that pushed the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to support the idea of not burying the "terrorists" on Indian soil. Yet another tells me that a teenage Muslim student in a Delhi school was asked if she is Pakistani when she arrived at school wearing a head scarf, something she had always done. Meanwhile the Facebook group entitled "Can u please take Barkha off air," formed in reaction to a particularly melodramatic and histrionics-prone Indian television journalist, now has more than 3,000 members and, yes, I am invited to join, once again. A new group called "Ratan Tata should be India's Obama" now has more than 700 members. Mr. Tata is one of India's richest men--a prominent industrialist who, in addition to a lot else, also owns the beleaguered Taj Hotel. I have been invited to join both groups repeatedly and until I do so, it seems I will get reminders about their increasing popularity. In addition, during the last two weeks, I have seriously been on the verge of becoming a self-hating Muslim--perhaps a new New York "-ism" to join the ranks of all those self-hating Jews. And then, there are way too many "Eid Mubarak" messages. The butter on my almost burnt toast is a detailed message from a group that calls itself "Serenity Fountain" and sends me daily missives on how to be a better Muslim. This email detailing the right way for the ritual sacrifice of "smaller animals" on this Eid ul Adha seems like the final straw. The message is anything but serene and I wonder if I should add them to my spam box. They explain thoughtfully:

"First a knee-deep hole is dug. The animal to be killed for qurban (sacrifice) is blindfolded with a piece of cloth. It is made to lie on its left side with its face and throat towards the qibla. Its throat is brought near the hole. The ankles of its front legs are fastened together with one of its hind legs. The takbir of 'Iyd is said three times. Next the following words are said: 'Bismillahi Allahu akbar.' Then, if the animal is not a camel, its throat is cut at any place. While saying 'Bismillahi,' the 'h' must be articulated with due stress and aspiration. In this case it is not necessary to bear in mind that it is Allah's name. If one does not pronounce the "h" clearly enough, one has to bear in mind that one is saying Allah's name. If one does not do this either, the animal becomes as unclean as a carrion. It is not halal to eat it. For this reason, we should not say, 'Allah ta'ala,' but should accustom ourselves to articulating the 'h' always clearly by saying, 'Allahu ta'ala."

In the Quran, this Eid, mostly known as "Bakr Eid" in the majority Muslim Indian sub-continent--if you count Muslim numbers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh together--comes from Bakra, the goat, the animal of choice for slaughter. The Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to the Jews and Christians) was about to slaughter his son to God (against the wishes of Shaitan or Satan) when God in very timely fashion intervened and provided him a lamb instead.

I have been a proud, meat-eating Muslim all my life but the details of the slaughter spelt out in the English language make my stomach churn and I think of some of my Muslim friends who have turned vegetarian. I read the message again and wonder, "What about the 'h' in "hate?" For me the last two weeks have not been particularly good to be a Muslim. Even as the closing rituals of the Hajj are being performed in Mecca, a few twenty-something Muslim extremists imported, presumably from Pakistan, with cutesy, clean-shaven faces have shattered my identity to its very core. I know that today, rivers of animal blood will flow down streets in Muslim communities around the world.

As a child I remember seeing this blood both fascinated and horrified. On moving to the "free world" it was clear, though, that slaughtering animals was not just the prerogative of the poor of the "third world," but was equally celebrated in an annual animal slaughtering ritual made even more miserable for some, by being the one Thursday when escape from "family" was inescapable. Most recently I was reminded about the slaughter elements of the annual American Thanksgiving ritual, when Sarah Palin decided to use it as a backdrop for a press conference. Eid-al- Adha was never my favorite Muslim festival, Thanksgiving is not my favorite American one either.

Ironically, this Thanksgiving, as their turkeys basted, Americans learnt about the bloodbath in Bombay as some kind of Breaking News non-stop holiday special. And now almost two weeks later, this other Eid of Islam for me, as an Indian Muslim, is only about blood.

The city formerly known as Bombay amongst its 19 million inhabitants, also counts the world's largest film industry and stars of mega proportions mostly unknown to the ordinary American but instantly recognizable in Jakarta, Kabul, Marrakesh and Nairobi. For many years this particular film industry was ruled by three muscle-bound Muslims all sharing the last name Khan. At least two of them (Shahrukh and Amir) still carry the dreams of millions on their shoulders. On this Eid, many of Bollywood's Muslim stars, as India's frenetic and recently reviled media are reporting, will not celebrate the annual slaughter fest but wear black armbands instead. The two aforementioned Khans have already spoken out to the media machine--one talking of the real Jihad (and I feel momentary but proud vindication for the title of my recent film A Jihad for Love, coming from one of them). Not to be outdone, the third Khan in Bollywood (Salman) has now also spoken out against "Islamic terrorism." I guess they have to watch their backs, as India is no stranger to retribution towards what the media always used to call "the minority community."

The blasts in the city, which I refuse to call Mumbai have shaken up the very core of my Muslim and my Hindu identities. Schizophrenic at the best of times, these identities could not, I feel, find an easy home in the India that now seems to be reacting to its own 9-11. As a child I was ashamed of my mixed parentage. As an adult, having made some peace with my own Islam, I now feel despair. As an adult, I chose to not succumb to what I believe was the Hindu nationalist agenda of stripping names of cities to reflect a false, pan-Hindu national identity, when Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai, and Calcutta became Kolkata. I was also acutely aware of the desire to wipe away the last vestiges of colonialism in this frantic renaming process that seemed to have political sanction. I now wonder if I was and am right in choosing to do so.

Watching India's booming (and "boom" they do, with some of the journalists screaming into their microphones) news networks on YouTube over the last two weeks, I have felt that melodrama may be the central defining aspect of Indian identity, probably fueled by entire childhoods framed by the dream machines in Bollywood. Many of the new stars of television--some with whom I worked in a former life as a television journalist, when the concept of the 24-hour news cycle was still fresh and clean--seem to have taken great joy in accosting hapless people with family members trapped inside burning hotels, always asking them how they felt. Many explained the movements of the "terrorists" and those sent in to conquer them in great detail as the "operations" continued and allegedly as "the terrorists" watched while planning their next moves within the hotels. The same journalist who now has so many Facebookers starting a cult of hating her, in her reportage "even put her arm around a conservative Muslim man" (quote from FaceBook) during the sixty-hour media circus.

The bloodbath in Bombay thus led to unprecedented media mayhem in India and certainly in the US as well. It was certainly enjoyable to see Indian New Yorkers of every shape, size and political opinion pontificating on India's 9-11 on the networks here. And as frantic American shoppers trampled a Walmart worker to death, we got a brief respite from the bombs in Bombay. I felt ashamed that my country had never before elicited such attention in the American media. Most Americans were certainly not informed in such detail about the train bombings in Bombay in July that killed more than 200. And the Gujarat riots of 2002, where more than 2000 people, the majority of them Muslim, were killed also did not occupy the Breaking News cycle on American television with such intensity. But as millions of turkeys were slaughtered and then roasted and basted in America a couple Thursdays ago, the media in this country were obsessed with the live television intensity of reporters from their "sister networks in India," standing and screaming into their microphones outside the Taj. I watched horrified as CNN did a breaking news phoner with a man in Istanbul who said, "My parents went into the hotel corridor and identified themselves as Muslims to the terrorists... My father even did the prayer...and they are now safe. I know, because the terrorists just asked them to lock themselves up in their room." That for me was a defining moment in feeling the Muslim shame I feel today.

As we in the US entered the "holidays" and the endless holiday parties, I listened in horror to a diamond- and daiquiri-dripping Indian socialite opine on how the blasts in Bombay would improve box office numbers for everybody's new favorite movie, Slumdog Millionaire. She was just one of the many "deeply concerned" Indians and Pakistanis in the room that night pledging to hold marches and benefits.

In the two weeks that have followed, much has been made of India's own 9-11 now uniformly being called 26-11 by the Indian media. Much blogging angst has also been spilt over the fact that India's elite who haunted plush five-star hotels were the target and therefore the media hysteria. And in fact, the presence of Americans, British and Israelis in the middle of the mayhem certainly can be seen as contributing factors to the media blitz here in the States. Watching the carnage unfold on YouTube and the websites of the 24-hour television networks in India--now too many to name--I have also been horrified by the quality, or rather lack of it, in the reportage. Friends in the media here point out that it is "immature." I wonder what they think of cable television in this country. This I know: Sixty hours of Breaking News madness on Indian television has been enough to get millions of young Indians to collectively vomit on social networking groups and in public protests. The signs at these protests have been emailed to me and leave little doubt in my mind that the world's largest democracy is going to have to seriously shake up its political and media elite if it is to survive.

As I write this, another email "alert" tells me that in New Delhi this Friday some prominent journalists and filmmakers will gather to debate in a discussion entitled "Who is to blame for media hysteria on terror? Journalists or viewers?"

This, perhaps, is reason to cheer and perhaps, indeed, also is the fact that the "Bomb! Bomb! Pakistan" rhetoric has been somewhat muted. But as an Indian Muslim, why should I celebrate at all?

I also realize that the sense of shame that overcomes me may have a lot to do with being Indian and choosing to live far away from it all, somehow "protected" in New York. As my mailbox continues to flow over with Eid blessings and wishes, I wonder how many Muslims it is going to take to end this bloodbath in the name of the Quran. I wonder how many of us indeed are going back to the Quran and back to the Imams that define right and wrong for us with the questions that we need to ask more urgently than ever before.

In India, many years ago, I knew that the line was drawn in blood from 1947 on with the hurried and horrific re-mapping of the sub-continent. The line, amongst other things, was between the cow-worshiping Hindus and the cow-eating Muslims. On this festival of sacrifice, which I, like those hot Bollywood superstars, am choosing not to celebrate, I wonder how much more blood it will take.

It remains easy, of course, to pontificate from thousands of miles away.


Obamaran! Iran and Obama

Following Obamas election and all the Obamamania and the Obamanation and Barack the Vote and the Obamafuture...two recent blog entries from Ava in Tehran...(my own thoughts on all the recent crazy travels will follow soon)...
# 1

Last night I stayed up till late. I was following the news and after getting confused with the political mess in the country I started reading a book by a Dutch writer whom I met last week in Dubai: “Communication and Management”

Even though this new law that forbids smoking in public might have affected the nice mood of cafes, it could actually be the cause of such pleasant coincidences and offer unexpected chances to different people to meet and chat while standing next to an ashtray under the burning sun. Though this burning could be dangerous.

I wonder why I keep following the news. Does it make any difference if I know what’s going on in the country or how we manage our international relations and communications?

After all how authentic and reliable our news is? We must be happy with what we are supposed to know and more interesting is that most of the people prefer to be unaware of state of affairs. As long as the economy goes well, they feel happy in their own imaginary Island. And a few small groups have got the chance to be aware of the necessary news: “When to buy, what to buy and where to invest”. And these news cannot be found in the media or in our daily papers; where you just read how soon America is going to be demolished or follow the American presidential campaign instead of our own presidential so-called campaign.

So basically there is no need to follow the news; even our Minister of Culture has realized that and has warned BBC channel for launching a new Farsi satellite channel for Iranian audience. We all remember this unforgettable phrase of Khomeini: Britain is worse that Russia, Russia is worse than Britain and America is worse that both of them towards Iran.

We don’t even need the management skills. This is a city where one manager decides to renew the asphalt of an area and the day after the other manger decides to dig it out to put in a new gas pipe.

Therefore in this society that tiny group is happy, the managers are happy and the majority of people who are not counted in the public and have not been taken seriously, can read the daily papers and books and improve their “Communication and Management” skills.

How incredible is when the majority is considered as minority and the minority is considered as no body!

This morning while I was working on my computer I received a phone call from my manager and was called for a short meeting in his office. On my way to his office while I was waiting for the traffic light to turn green, a number of young boys and girls and small kids ran into the cars to sell their stuff: window shades, kitchen knifes, socks, screw driver, Rayban sunglasses and flowers.

They were carrying all those unnecessary stuff and were begging people to buy them. One of them with a very dark skin; probably from the southern parts of the country, looked like a potable shop. His white teeth shone behind the roses and daffodils.

“Next time…. I really don’t need any of them.” I said. But he was insisting to sell and kept telling the drivers that how useful and practical his stuff were.

A young man with huge mussels whose car was next to me shouted: “Hey Obama, come over here! How much do you want for the daffodils?”

The black guy immediately ran into him as if he had been called by this name many times before. The guy bought the flowers and gave it to the girl who was sitting in the passenger seat.

Before the light turns green, the young boy was happy, the girl was happy and Obama was happy too.

Even I was happy, I have decided to improve my communication skills and to meet the Dutch writer again. Communication is an inseparable part of the living!

# 2

Obama's name associates with change everywhere as well as in Iran. Everyone in Iran is hoping for a big change for better, including ordinary people, reformists, liberals, hardliners and even the morose anchor woman who is always covered in black chador. When she was announcing Obama’s victory from channel 6, her eyes were shining and she was not able to hide her big smile from ear to ear. So she was not frowning for the first time and we were honored to be the first to see her teeth. Actually I felt that she was even ready to take out her black Chador in front of the live camera and jump over her desk and shout out the victory of Barak Hussein Obama.

I started to think about the changes she is hoping for and I’m sure it cannot be just connected to economy. I compared that with the changes I desired or did my religious neighbor or my gay friend or the kids who sell flowers in the street or my depressed friend in her bed. Today, we all have something in common: we all woke up with hope!

And because of this fact I feel closer to the people I know and I can share more with the people I don’t know and I pray that our hopes meet somewhere at the end.

Immediately after announcing the news SMSes started. Everybody congratulated Obama’s victory. After half an hour my father called me to say that his mobile phone is making noises non-stop. I’m just wondering why my father is not willing to learn how to open and send SMS at the age of 70, while our anchor woman has learnt to smile at the age of 35!

“Hey daddy, please put your glasses on, you need to take part in the changes, Obama is not going to do it all alone!” This is what I told my father.

All the reformist papers covered this news on their front page with huge headlines as if they are Washington Post or NewYork Times. Keyhan Farsi, the hardliner wrote: “A falcon in pigeon’s grab”

The day after everyone at work was talking about the reaction of our media on this news and I noticed that this was the first time we didn’t discuss the news on VOA (Voice of America) or other American based Iranian channels. We all had followed the news from Iranian based news channel and this change felt great.

After speaking all day long on the movies and in the studio with Colleagues, on my way back home I stopped at a small supermarket to buy a juice. The fat guy who is working in Daryani supermarket close to my home offered me to buy a new canned coffee.

“This is wonderful. It’s both delicious and fat-burning coffee too. If you take it you cannot eat anything for the rest of the day. It helps lose weight." The fat guy said and I looked at my tight Mantua and the buttons which were ready to jump out any second and then looked at the fat guy’s belly and said: “Did you lose weight with the help of this?” And everybody in the supermarket burst into laughter.

Mr.Daryani, the owner said: “He lost weight after he got married because his wife calls him every 5 minutes and he continued to say: “but things are going to change a lot after Obama takes power!”

I paid for the drink and the canned coffee and got into my car. I was thinking of a diet and hoping to lose weight but at the same moment I received a SMS: “friends are coming over for dinner, please be here at 8:00”

And that was from my father.


ओबामा जीतेगा आज !



We all wait for American history, and a great deal of the future to change....

Also, I have been named one of the OUT 100, an annual compilation of "The Men and Women who made 2008 a year to remember" (OUT magazine) (their most influential, interesting and newsworthy LGBT people)
Here is the video
Here is a link
Here is their description:A Jihad for Love is the heartfelt debut film from Muslim Indian-born director Parvez Sharma (far left), tackling a subject never previously addressed in a feature documentary: the complex intersection of homosexuality and Islam. Traveling to 12 countries—including India, Iran, Pakistan, South Africa, and Turkey—writer and gay rights activist Sharma’s dispatches from the very edges of Islam portrayed and sought to change the plight of gay Muslims.
And finally, I include the photo...
O for Obama...(and also OUT)
No going back into the closet now ; (
Photographed by Greg Lotus at Gramercy by Starck in New York City


The "Race"

The race...these last breathless hours. I have just returned from Charlottesville in "red" Virginia. On Halloween night, amongst other encounters in this quaint little town, I also met a Sarah Palin, walking right by the Barack Obama headquarters...she winked and was happy to pose for photographs with her dress covered in pricey Neiman Marcus tags. (picture will follow soon). Across from the Obama office also stood a young man on a chair holding up a sign with the ten commandments and asking all sinners to repent. A pubescent young man in the small crowd, asked me if I had repented-and when I told him I was a Muslim-he just stared.In a few hours Americans will probably choose a man who would be Muslim- according to the Islamic laws of patriarchy- as their President. History will be made, or not. Here are a few comments that came in after I wrote about "race" in this race on Huff. These comments may offer some clues on how post-racial this country really is (or perhaps not-given the demographic that reads Huff).

As an Asian-American who grew up largely in the East Coast and Midwest, I can definitely attest to the truth of Sharma's words. Unfortunately, whatever lip service is given to "equal rights," is also belied by action. Remember, evidence of racism does not exist merely in the form of slurs or lynching. Nor is it confined to any one socio-economic group, even if it's mostly associated with the lower middles. There are still far too many assumptions made about race: if you are X, you must be talented at this and bad at that. And there are far too many assumptions that many of us will settle for substandard treatment (driving or shopping while "black" or non-white, period). In my own experience, I have found racism most pronounced amongst upper middle and upper class whites. Many of them resent minorities moving into their neighborhoods. Many, particularly older white women, resent the presence of well- bred, well-read, and well-dressed minority women. (Which helps us understand why they hate Michelle Obama with a passion.) Like how dare a non-white be anything other than "the help!" But of course, what is most disturbing to upper middle and upper class whites is the mere mention of prejudice. (Again, which explains why they resent Michelle's thesis on race.) Jim Crow may never have existed in the North, but that mentality is as present here as it is in the South, even if less overt.

thank you, Parvez, for sparking this conversation. It seems clear to me that the concept of 'white' in the United States is always changing, and should change. as an oft-cited example, we're at least 150 years past a time when German immigrants were thought of as foreigners outside the pale of the accepted and conventional, and our definitions of what is now the cultural mainstream are radically different from the days of the Puritans and even from twenty years ago. that's the case for innate characteristics such as ethnic or national origin, native language, social or economic class, sexuality, and gender, and also for the standards on more malleable characteristics such as style of speech, dress, or gender roles. As a country, we have a long way to go - Tim Wise in his Sept 13 "This is Your Nation on White Privilege" captured a lot of the double-standards still existing in this country. But our definitions of what anyone has to conform to are opening up a lot. And that's good for everyone. I'm inescapably white - descendent of John Alden, multiple generations in the same town, the whole thing. I personally want a broader societal definition of who I can be and how I can act. I'm inescapably white, but fighting against being unbearably white. I'm voting for Obama and for change. And I've got a Obama bumpersticker on my truck, and among my neighbors in rural Pennsylvania, I'm not the only one.

This is smart, thought-provoking and broad-ranging. I come from Italian Americans and many of them are isolationaist, anti-immigration, socially conservative Republicans. They are always shocked when I tell them that when my grandparents were born (here in the States) they were not considered white. But they can't accept -- digest -- the thought because now they're on the other side of that very dangerous, malleable and culturally relative line. It's just too threatening, and of course, the price for not having to look at the constructed color line is that you have to perpetuate and shore up the color line like a dike in New Orleans. Infuriating.

It does work both ways, however--i.e., it is equally sad to me when a person of color makes a snap judgment of a white person without bothering to get to know that person's individual humanity. If this sickness is going to be cured, it will require ALL of us to look beyond surface-level appearances and to be willing to engage in deep conversations with each other. With regard to A Jihad For Love--a brilliant film that is thought-provoking on many levels--my first thought was one of profound joy that a brown Muslin and a white Jew were able to come together to engage in this collaboration in this time of such deep mistrust and divisions.

And while I certainly understand the frustration behind the comment that "there were too many White names in the credits", I think this can be turned around to look at the beauty and the hope that come from differing peoples coming together to address a certain cause (in this case, homosexuality in the Muslim religion).

In my view, questions such as "who is White" and "who is Black" do absolutely nothing to address this deeper level upon which we must all begin to communicate and connect if we hope to survive into the future.

Thanks so much for the very thoughtful article on a topic that is in serious need of deep discussion. As a white woman who is originally from the U.S. but has lived abroad (in Japan) for ten years, it still jolts me every time I return to the U.S. (or often when I am around other Americans) how much importance is given to the issue of someone's outer appearance (i.e., skin color). There is nothing sadder to me then when a person is standing face to face with someone else for the first time, and rather than being open to what this individual's particular humanity and spirit might have to offer, someone else immediately makes generalizations based upon stereotypes of that person's race. This is indicative of a deep sickness that must be cured from its roots--and yes, since White racism against people of the color is pervasive throughout history, white people bear special responsibility to take steps to correct this reality.

White Supremacy is tightly woven into the fabric of America and I am afraid, that even after Barack Obama gets elected, that fabric is unlikely to unravel, at least in my lifetime. Much like
the apartheid of caste and class in Indian society, racism in the US
breaths freely and unchecked, under the surface of supposed integration
of the races into the imaginary melting pot.

I am originally from India and have lived in the Pacific Northwest for
over 40 years. Much has changed in my lifetime. Racism that was very
overt when I first got here is now below the surface. The most
profound sea change that I have seen is the rapid increase in the
non-white population and the change in the master narrative
of what being an American means.

The world has changed. The homogenous has now been replaced by
heterogonous flavors (no pun intended here). White Supremacy will
persist, but we will have an option to build communities where class and
color are happily embraced. How do we as individuals, aid and abet the furtherance of
that deceit? Many in our own immigrant Indian communities have carried
our bigotries from the birth country and transmogrified them into a
license to practice unfettered discrimination against African Americans
in this country? Many of us like to be trophy friends in a room full of
well heeled white power brokers. When we are the only people of color
in this room, we need to question our own motives.

The stupidity of the American voters is what gave the world Bush TWICE! It's a terrible embarrassment to educated Americans to have a country run by such dolts as our electorate. Let's hope that a small percentage of them have wised up after eight years of the Bush fiasco they are responsible for, and will now want to throw the rascals they elected OUT. But I'm not holding my breath. The ignorance of the American mob truly is a wonder to behold.

I don't feel "white," although my government is now classifying me as such. North African people are now specified in the U.S. government's definition of "white," which I noticed recently. My North African ancestry was part of why I have long felt as you describe. Ever since I converted to Islam, I have not identified as white--it doesn't feel accurate, since white in this country means by default blue-eyed blonde, not olive-skinned Mediterraneans. Especially for women, the beauty and fashion industries have a default bias in favor of blondes, I never got any useful beauty advice until I found the book Latina Beauty. People who meet me see a Middle Easterner, I've been asked if I speak English, I've been told to go back where I came from, I'm frequently told "You don't look American." My official "white" classification has not shielded me from this alienation by color.

I converted to Islam many years ago after reading the Autobiography of Malcolm X, in particular where Malcolm says Islam has the only solution to America's race problem. He said of the white Muslims he met during the Hajj: "The 'white' attitude was removed from their minds by the religion of Islam." This made me an enthusiastic convert, since ending racism had been a major concern of mine since my formative years growing up during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s. Malcolm, bless his heart, was sort of misogynist, but he lived before feminism...

Oops in my haste to respond to foolery, I meant to type, BLACK PEOPLE DO NOT HAVE TO TAN TO BECOME BLACK. Americans are some funny, shallow, insecure creatures who will NEVEr see the error in their ways. Never.

During this election cycle, my eyes have really been opened to the amount of racism, overt and covert, that still exists in America. However, I find the characterization of fear of certain neighborhoods at 3 am as racist rather simplistic. I wouldn't feel comfortable walking through many black urban neighborhoods for two reasons: 1) statistically, urban blacks have a high poverty rate, and areas of concentrated poverty have statistically higher violent crime rates; 2) I'm Pasty McWhitey, so if someone who, following reason number one, is looking for a target, I stick out like a Yankees fan at a Red Sox game. I don't stand in fields during lightning storms either. Does that make me paranoid? No, it makes me not a complete idiot.

It"s an embarrassment and a disgrace that Obama may lose some otherwise Democratic voters because of the color of his skin. I don"t think he will lose many but as we all know from the last two elections; a candidate can lose by the slimmest margin (remarkably even after getting more votes).

Race is an issue in this country but is not the simple racism most people think it is. Most of white America is not part of the elite but rather the ordinary middle class. They don"t particularly feel they have enjoyed advantages or preferential treatment because of the color of their skin. They believe in equality; they just fear it will come at their expense (resulting in a lower standard of living for them). In a society that rewards failing CEO"s incompetence with obscene severances while the middle class gets to shoulder the burden, this fear is not unfounded. The politicians and in particular the Republicans exploit this fear. By addressing this fear the Democrats can gain far more Republican voters than they potentially would lose. Convince the white middle class that it doesn"t need to lose for disadvantaged minorities to gain and the Republican party will no longer enjoy the majority support of white middle class voters.

I agree it's sad when some refuse to vote for Obama merely because of his color. I've always been attuned to double standards since I'm a minority myself, but this election has truly hit home. There is something deeply wrong with our nation when Obama, who is much better qualified in terms of education and experience, is considered weaker than Palin. There is something wrong when the average American criticizes black teenage pregnancy but tolerates it in Palin's white teenaged daughter. And of course there's nothing wrong when the owner of a gun is a white hunter, but God forbid when it finds its way to a black person!

I thought Obama stated it well on "60 Minutes". He said that he knows some people will not vote for him because he is black, but he knows some people are voting for him only because he is black. He said it's a wash.

The two quoted sayings from the top of your post scared me - do people like these really think like this? My personal "prejudice" is that the only people thinking like this are people with practically no education and little experience with the world, narrowminded bigots having never seen enough to have their prejudices challenged. Bitter losers, in other words. Def. not human-rights-working people. (And the "prescribed medicine" against such prejudice, I've always thought, is meeting other people, getting an education, seeing the world - realizing as one goes that people are people, we're all individuals, and our personalities aren't defined by our physical features, but our psychological features.) Oh, my. Good post, though, thought-provoking.

As for Obama as a hope for the world - my impression is that huge parts of the world, black or white or brown or yellow, see him as the best candidate. Whether that means the rest of the world is better at looking beyond hues than the US is, or whether it's a sign the rest of the world can be politically correct and pretend to look beyond hues (the rest of the world can't vote in the US anyway, and so what one says in the rest of the world doesn't really matter), I can't say.

Whoa! Having a half-Irish greatgrandmother means I can call myself white, in spite of my clearly cappuchino skin color, foam not withstanding? Oops, of course, back when her mother and her father got together, Irish weren't full-count Americans either (refer to Constitutional section on how to count the Census for verification!).
How times have changed! (Hollow laugh time, folks) Well, we've had a president of Irish descent..... it's high time some of my other demographics were represented, like the black one or the Native American one. I'll save the female one for when Mrs. Obama decides to throw her Chanel hat into the ring, should she have one.

I think it is really sad. Racism is playing a small role in the election. I hope it isn't big enough to swing the election.

It seems that the economy and foreign policy has to reach total disaster before some people decide they are willing to put aside their racial fears and take a chance on moving forward.

That McCain makes so many gaffes and runs such a dishonorable campaign and that the race is still close just boggles the mind. McCain has no ideas or solutions, just pandering to whoever he can pander to in his desperate quest to win at all costs.

I think there are some people who are willfully looking for reasons not to support Obama, and will ignore anything negative campaign to do so. There might be a few Hillary holdouts who will cut off their nose to spite their face, but I think there is more racism in this country that I dared admit. I think living in a mutlicultural metropolis in a blue state has kind of blinded me to the way too many people still feel in other parts of the country.

I hope I am wrong. I wish I were wrong. But we would be naive to think that race wouldn't at least be turning away some votes that would have gone to Obama if he had been white.

Mr. Sharma--thanks for a thoughtful and thought-provoking post. You write as a citizen of the world--there are some Americans who also think this way. They are few, but I hope their numbers are growing. Generally, they are not Republican-leaning.
Here's a link to an interesting discussion of social psychology "What Makes People Vote Republican?".
I kept thinking about it as I read your post. While conservatives may come in all shades (in their own countries)round the world, in the US they are mainly white. It comes down to three notions favoured by social conservatives according to Prof. Haidt:ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect and purity/sanctity. It's the last one that Republicans have particularly taken to heart.

This is what the more worldly, more secular Democrats don't particularly understand. It may be the source of the divide in America.

The Republican Party gets shunned by minorities because of an agenda that is anti-anything that is not reflective of its base.

It's the White Supremacist Party running on the Southern Strategy of race-baiting as its principle tool of keeping poor, low-information white voters on the Republican plantation. It's no secret. If you watched the Democratic Convention and the Republican Convention it should have left no doubt which party clearly mirrors the diversity that is American society.

Generally, there are a couple of token blacks at each GOP event, and they always are situated purposefully directly behind the candidate (Bush in 2000 and '04 and McCain this election cycle) so that the viewers see them. Otherwise, the crowds are as pasty-white as they come.


"Does the Republican Party now represent primarily a demographic of one skin colour only?" Aside from a very few minority members, who all seem to be spokesmodels for the party, nearly everybody on it is white, despite the fact that a century asgo, the Republican Party was known as 'the party of Lincoln. Since 1964 and the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the Republican Party has received the majority of the white vote, and has won the Southern states in every election except when white Southern males receive the Democratic Party's presidential nomination. Republicans have led the counter-attack against equal pay for minorities, equal housing, raising the minimum wage and have called for the abolition of the Department of Education and welfare. All these policies put them up against the interests of most minority voters, which has very often been a winning strategy. So to answer your question succinctly, I will adopt a Palinesque response: Yup.


George Clooney winks in Tehran...and Ava gets her US visa ; )

Ava writes again, and thanks everyone for making her entries so popular.

Post # 1

During the last weekend when I spent in Dubai, I realized that walking under the sun in 45 Celsius degree can be even pleasant when the wind is blowing your hair and you know that you are the only one to select your own outfit.

How limited this sense of freedom is, but it’s still enough to drag minimum 2000 Iranian nationals to Dubai per day.

The dominant culture in Dubai is defined in shining shopping malls and plastic luxury and it meets the needs of the neighbors who are deprived of any means of entertainment in the best way.

There were staying quiet a few bearded business men in our hotel who were staring at young Russian girls with their greedy eyes and were running to discotheques and night clubs every night, though they would prefer not to be seen and judged by other Iranians.

An old lady who had come to Dubai to apply for US visa to visit her children looked at those guys at breakfast table and said: “You already are the owner of our country, isn’t that enough?” The bearded guys stared at the old lady but didn’t dare to say anything.

I thought elderly people are braver than youngsters. They have nothing to lose and no one dares to punish them. So they might make a change in the world in future!

There were also a group of young religious Iranian girls staying in the hotel. They had kept their Hijab the whole time and were behaving the same as if they were in Iran.

They had received admission from American universities for PHD studies and had come to Dubai to apply for US visa. I was wondering whether they appear veiled in US consulate or they would give us a surprise by their double standard too.

The next morning I got really happy to see them with the same appearance. They were wearing the same hijab at the US consulate but I was ahead of them and couldn’t wait to see if visa was issued to them or not.

After two days all of us who had a reason to be in Dubai said good-bye to those golden castles and Ali baba villas and headed for Tehran.

After 2 hour delay, we arrived in Imam Khomeini airport at 2 am. Three flights had landed almost at the same time and it was a chaos at the airport. People were tired and had become aggressive. After we succeeded to get our luggage we faced 10 long queues to go through customs. We spent 2 more hours waiting for costume officers to search our luggage. Regardless of the big crowd, timing and overtiredness of the passengers, the costumes officers took their sweet time to search all baggages one by one and charge those whose shopping value had exceeded 80$. I could see the satisfaction in their frowning faces.

I saw that old lady standing ahead of me in the queue; she was cursing everyone from head to toe and people around her were laughing.

Among all those heads suddenly I saw those girls. “Did you get the visa?” I asked.

“Yes, we got it.” She said and I got very happy.

Before we chat about the visa and relevant stories, one of the girls pointed at the bearded guys at the beginning of the queue and said: “Look, they didn’t open their luggage!” “Only God knows how many trips they have made with government’s money.” She added.

When finally I made to get out of the airport after having waited for hours, I jumped into a cab and headed for home.

It was quiet and dark and the whole city was asleep. We passed by Khomeini’s golden shrine and it reminded me of all the gold and shines I had seen in the last few days.

Then I saw George Clooney standing in his huge billboard offering a golden Omega wrist watch. He smiled at me.

“Hi George….umm... I don’t believe in gold, Stop this gold business!” I told him.

He winked at me.

Post # 2

The best card shops in Tehran are located in Armenian-populated areas: Villa or Sanaee streets. You can also find some food shops owned by Armenians in that area, where they sell good quality snacks which are the best appetizers to be served with vodka. Armenian car mechanics are known to be the honest mechanics in town, while most of shop keepers take advantage of this good name to sell their goods in double prices.

Christians are the only minority, after the Islamic revolution, which are allowed to drink or make alcohol for their own use, which has consequently resulted in many of them having a side job as a wine or vodka maker or seller. Therefore everyone in the town who hunts for alcoholic drinks knows a Monsieur Sergic or Georgic or Vachik who makes and delivers forbidden drinks at doors.

One of my girl friends and me got into a gift shop. We were browsing through cards and small gifts when 2 ladies covering in black chador from head to toe came in. The only part of their entire body which was not covered in that hijab was their noses. If I were one of them I would have covered that nose and revealed another part.

“Why are the cards so expensive? They now cost double what they did before.” I asked.

The old shop keeper said: “Armenians need to make a living too!”

My girlfriend said: “He is a cheater and rude, let’s go to another shop.” Before leaving the shop we got surprised by this question: “Why didn’t Monsieur Serjic show up last night?” Nose number 1 asked.

Me and my friend looked at each other; I could see 2 big exclamation marks in my friend’s eyes. “Have they ordered vodka?” And that was the big question of both of us.

“He will bring it tonight; the job was not done yet.” Monsieur said.

We couldn’t leave the shop anymore, so we pretended that we are still searching.

“Tomorrow is my eldest son’s birthday and I wanted to ask your wife to make a few nice dishes for us.” Nose number 2 said and our eyes were about to jump out of the socket. After Monsieur passed her message to his wife he said that his wife wanted to make an appointment with one of the ladies in Clinic.

At this moment Nose 2’s mobile rang and she answered: “That’s not an urgent case, I have 2 caesarian surgeries tomorrow morning; we’ll do that on Tuesday.” Nose 1 said: “Tuesday morning we are doing a hysterectomy, but the afternoon is free.”

I looked at them all over and noticed their simple dusty shoes. Gynecologist was the last profession I could have ever imagined for them.

Normally strict Muslims refrain from buying food from Non- Muslims but this deal was an exception.

Our big question was still not answered: “What Sergic was supposed to bring to her house?” My girlfriend said: “If I find out that the guy was supposed to get them alcoholic drinks, I’ll say it to their face and make them embarrassed of their black chador.” With a big smile, she went to the Nose 1 and said: “Hello ladies, how interesting to see you order food in a card shop!”

Nose 1 said: “Yes, we know this family for years; Monsieur Leon’s wife is a great cook.”

“Since when strict Muslims eat Christians' food?” My friend asked.

Both noses said: “purify your heart and it will be all right!”

Monsieur laughed and we left the shop.

I was thinking if you ever ask an Armenian “Where are you from?” They always say: I’m Armenian, even though their preceding ten generations have been born and raised in Iran and they know it the best how to integrate in the society. Kurds would give the same answer to the same question: “I am Kurdish.” None of the groups would ever say it is Iranian or from Iran.

I remember once after hearing that sentence, I said to a Kurdish: “Oh…I’ve been in your country, what a nice place!”

After half an hour window shopping, on the way back we faced the same ladies, Monsieur and another guy in the street. They were standing next to a car.

He was Sergic who had repaired and brought back their car. The ladies looked at us and smiled.

We got embarrassed.


The Kids Keep Writing!

I must say that after my experience at the High School in Chicago last week, I have a lot of hope for America. If these young men and women go on to have a stake in the future of this country and if they do not constitute an anomaly in the nationwide High School demographic...there is tremendous hope. And yes, they would make a group of very interesting pundits on cable news...on this, yet another debate night...And now that it is clear that Islam is one of the hottest topics in this election season, their comments on this film and indeed Islam are important to read.

From Maliha
Dear Mr. Sharma,
I would like to congratulate you on making such an outstanding documentary and I would like to thank you for presenting your years of hard work to Senn High School.
I was astonished when you stated that you were nervous to talk a room full of students because I thought you did a wonderful job and you did not look nervous at all. I was very much interested in the topic of your documentary and the thoughts the people had on homosexuality.
Ever since I was little, I was taught not to judge a person under any circumstances whether it is a persons skin color, race, gender etc. I feel that this documentary will help people not judge others. God has created everyone differently for a reason and I think that no one should question nor judge another person.
I hope the message that you are trying to deliver spreads throughout the world and creates a positive change. I wish you all the best with your documentary and I hope to see another work of yours in the upcoming years.

From Maab:
I want to begin by saying thank you for coming to our school and for creating such an inspiring film. You did an amazing job!
Being a Muslim myself, I’m aware of the controversies revolving the idea of homosexuality and the phobia that exists. However, I didn’t know about it being mentioned in the Quran and people using that to condemn it.
There’s a saying in Islam that I heard multiple times that says homosexual relationships shake the throne of god. I think that is quite ironic because if that is true, why would god create people that way? I personally believe that homosexuality is something you’re born with, which questions the validity of it being a sin. Well I guess what I’m trying to say is that I don’t really know whether homosexuality is a sin or not, but I know that at the end, it’s the person and their god and I have no right to judge that person.
Again, I’d like to thank you for coming to Senn and sharing your ideas. You’re a true inspiration because you stood up for what you believed in despite the opposing viewpoints and controversies that might have created for you. Great job!


The Best Little High School in the World

From the students:
Email 1
Hey Mr. Parvez!!
I just wanted to inform you that your visit to Senn was amazing! I'm glad that I got the opportunity to see your documentary because it informed me of an issue that I consider important. I admire your courage to stand up for what you believe and fight for what you think is right. I found A Jihad for Love a touching documentary that opened my eyes to the struggle of homosexual Muslims. I just wanted you to know that I respect you and that I believe that your film will spread courage to those who are still hidden and who think that they can “cure” themselves with prayer. I believe that your film has not only reached homosexual Muslims but also other people that don't accept themselves for who they are. I believe that in the end we are all humans, no matter what religion, ethnicity, or sexuality. Thank you for making such an inspiring movie.

Email 2

Hello Mr. Sharma.I was one of the students there at the film screening and I have to say that, as a film, it was incredibly engaging.As a documentary, the themes and issues it presented are mind boggling. I've never liked Islam because there are things in it that seem beyond demanding. I just find it intriguing, some of its rituals are fascinating, or the symbology is. However, I respect those who do believe in it.
It makes me wonder if these homosexual people will ever find a middle ground to their struggle. In the film one of the women said that she couldn't be like that because it is evil but then she still loves that other woman. So it makes me think if they will continue their lives like that, always aware that what they are is a sin, how will they reconcile themselves with their religion?
I am glad I got the chance to see this movie because that kind of dilemma happens in every religion just because every religion considers homosexuality a sin. I imagine that is a fine line not just muslim people have to walk.
Thank you for taking the opportunity and time to come to my school.

Email 3
That was quite an experience that I will never forget. It really did open my eyes to so many other things that are going on in this crazy world of ours. I understand that the whole idea of homosexuality is forbidden in any religion, but what is really complex for my mind to wrap around is the teachings of loving one another. I mean, isn't that what most religions teach to the thousands of years of generations? Why isn't that those who have created the written words think twice on not making such a contradiction with the message being told?Perhaps they weren't trying to find a contradiction and many scholars throughout the centuries have MADE it difficult for anyone to get a grasp and to fully understand what is being taught.Eh, I probably didn't make a lot of sense with my babbling but it was something I wanted to bring about.Once again, thank you so much for coming to Senn and showing us this remarkable film.
Paolina G.

From a teacher, after yesterdays event and talk:

Parvez, thank you...for visiting our High School, for making such an important film, and for sharing with us your insights on its creation and, more importantly, on its themes. This was an educational experience my students and I will not soon forget.
I cannot believe you were nervous to speak in front of high school students; there are many veteran teachers who are less engaging than you were yesterday. These students are used to 45-minute classes filled with a variety of instructional techniques; but after sitting silently through an 81-minute film, they remained engaged for nearly another hourwhile you responded to their questions - and not a single paper airplane adorned the skies :) You're a natural.
It is unrealistic, I think, to expect that our Muslim (and non-Muslim) students will all come to accept the reconciliation of homosexuality and Islam (or any religious orthodoxy), though some may do so. I am confident that all of the students, however, learned the more powerful lessons that we can disagree while still engaging in civil discourse, and that we must not fail to acknowledge the human consequences that accompany our beliefs. We saw those lessons applied in the respectful and engaging discussion that followed the screening.

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...