Most places in the so called 'East/ Third World/ Global South' (categories I disagree with) call this land where I live 'Amreeka'.

Many have asked why I continue living here. I do still believe in the hope of the American Dream. And I know so does Obama. If he gets the nomination, I cannot wait to see Republican Ad campaigns where the graphic will dissolve slowly from Osama to Obama. This is a very interesting year to be in Amreeka and for me, with a green card application pending-an interesting year to release this film.

So I came back on Friday from a seven nation tour that ended with winning the best documentary award at a gay film festival in Turin, Italy.
I went straight to Washington, DC where I was able to show the film to more than a hundred young and enthusiastic Amnesty International volunteers crowded into a screening room, where we projected on double screens. A 45 minute question and answer session followed and also in the audience was Ajaz Ahmed from Kashmir (he corrected me when I said he was from India). Ajaz was vocal with what we in the West would easily label his 'homophobia'. He looked at me in this packed room and said-'Parvez, now Islam is under attack-so people can say that Muslims are theives, liars, prostitutes, terrorists and gay and lesbian'. The audience giggled nervously. I chose to engage Ajaz in conversation and congratulated him on his courage of speaking out in a room where not one person would agree with him. His logic was exceptional because he was fundamentally aware of the Islamophobia of the times we live in. He was also exceptional in including the word 'terrorists' in the same old Adam and Steve like argument that the Christian Church spouts. I will always remember Ajaz, with his Wahabi style beard and his red t-shirt. I hope he takes back to India, a better understanding of our complicated Islamic universe.

I went on to a small liberal arts college of 1600 students near Austin, Texas. An amazing discussion followed and I was surprised with the intellectual curiosity of these young undergraduates after they saw the film. Many have written in and I will reproduce their comments. We spoke about Obama, about Islam, about the Media and Islam and indeed about the theology that I have fronted with humanity, in this film. Dr. Hina Azam, an Islamic Scholar at UT, Austin joined me. She loved the film but wondered how convincing Muhsin's theological revisionism would be in a roomful of Wahabi or Tabliqi scholars. I do not know the answer to that. I know I am hopeful and pessimistic at the same time.

Today I find myself 45 minutes from Lynchburg, Virginia-the infamous town that was home to that most famous homophobe of all-Jerry Falwell, RIP. I hope I will get invited to engage his students at Liberty in some kind of dialogue, in the near future.

Meanwhile I am preparing to speak at a small girls only college of 700. Hollins University nestles in the Roanoke valley in scenic surroundings. Maybe, nothing ever happens here. I may well be the only gay Muslim on this campus.

My friends-these are exciting times.

Now for some comments:
I just saw a Jihad for Love at the Southwestern University screening and I wanted to send you an e-mail to say that I was absolutely blown away by the stories of sadness, tragedy, guilt, anger, survival, acceptance, and love that were told on an incredibly personal level. I hope that American audiences can view this film and see the universality of the struggle that gay and lesbian individuals face in cultures that are pervaded by religion, regardless of what that religion happens to be and regardless of how overt or subtle the religious influence is in that culture. I also hope that Americans can see this film and understand that the vast majority of Muslim people are as ?normal? as any Westerner?they are simply people trying to carve out a life for themselves both inside and outside of the society that they happened to be born in to. The time has come for the West to stop blindly accepting the 'terrorist' image of Islam and this film will certainly be a huge step in that direction.

I wish you well on your endeavor to promote this film throughout the U.S. and the world. Im very excited for it to come out in theaters, and I would be absolutely thrilled if it were shown in Austin (or anywhere in Texas, really). Thank you for breaking some of the silence surrounding gay and lesbian experiences and for challenging preconceived notions of Islam. Ill be looking out for this film in theaters. I think Texans need to hear what you have to say and Austin is the perfect place to begin.


Jihad writes:

It was a pleasure meeting you both at Amnesty's previewing of Jihad for Love. It was a well done documentary, very respectful of the Islamic faith and the strivings of LGBT Muslims to find balance in their faith and sexual identities. I wish you much success with the movie's US tour.

There are hundreds of other emails and I promise to post them all on here. Many can be seen if you just click on comments at the end of every post. A significant amount of press has also been happening and here are a few links.

The Hour,
The Advocate (my own first person account of making the film)
A Momentous Muslim Debut (from FILM STEW)
GayCity News (Philadelphia)
PR Newswire
Daily Star Lebanon
Screen Daily (Singapore)
AHN Miami

Finally, we are opening on May 21st at the IFC Center in NYC. I will be giving all of you constant updates on the theatrical run of the film across the United States and Canada. Now IS the time to galvanize around this film and its Jihad. Everyone you know, needs to come and see and support the film and its remarkable subjects. We will need to fill up the theaters everywhere we go and in these difficult times for theatrical distribution of documentaries, all of you are going to make sure that this film is as successful here in North America, as it has been in 15 nations worldwide.


Anonymous said...

You're touring the U.S.? Where else will you be?

Anonymous said...

Where can I buy tickets?

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