Ashok Row Kavi and 'A Jihad for Love'

Ashok Row Kavi posted the following comments on the SAJA (South Asian Journalists Association) public listserve. I have edited the personal details out.
"Dear Aseem,
I decided to sit back for a day and take many deep breaths before I finally decided to reply to that posting of yours on Parvez Sharma’s “Jihad for Lover”. If I’m not mistaken it is a “Jihad for Love” and not a ‘Jihad for Lover”.
It’s better to say that except for the Indian part, the rest is a uniformly claustrophobic narration that made me suffocate and walk out to clear my head and get rid of its sheer exclusivist agenda.
What’s painful is that Parvez even does some rank revisionism in his depiction of the acceptance of homosexuality in Pakistan, for example. He mentions the famous dargah of Mado-Hussain and says “Madho converted to Islam” which he never did. The very fact that the name Mado (Madhav bastardized into Urdu pidgin) exists shows that Madhav never converted to Islam and the homosexual lovers buried in the Lahore Dargah were during the Islamic colonial period under duress against the Hindu practice of cremating their dead..
The legend is that Hussain harassed the family of Madhav Pandit so much that they finally parted with their son to the Muslim lover who pestered the parents to part with the boy. When I mention “boy’ it is obviously a trophe for the masculine; though one is not clear when the two got together and how big was the age-gap between the two.
The same goes for Babar’s lover Baburi, who the daughter Gulbadan bitterly states was the cause of the first Moghul neglecting his wife between his bouts of drinking and opium trances. The beautiful gardens at Agra were purportedly laid out by Babar to keep Baburi happy.
Trans-generational same-sex love was obviously quite a sexual construct in early Islamic societies in India and there is reason to believe that it was widespread. The Hindutva lobby obviously always uses it to bolster the”otherness” of the Islamic rulers (S.N.Oak’s book on the Islamic period has a cover of a naked boy being auctioned in the bazaars of Dilli). Allauddin Khilji’s famous love affair with the Gujarati Hijra Malik Kafur is again quoted quite widely as indicative of the “otherness” of the Muslim. Hindu gay activists need to be forewarned not to fall into this trap in our fight ti find a place within the Hindu Rainbow.
Strangely, the film refuses to look at the deep origins of homosexuality and same-sex love in India embedded in the Hindu matrix. His episode where he interviews the Imam in the fulcrum of Indo-Gangetic culture in Lucknow is so lack luster that one sympathizes with the Imam instead when he throws the ball into the modern medicalisiation of homosexuality as a “mental illness” and “deviation” which Islam treats as a religious sin and Hinduism as just another form of wasted sexuality.
I found the rollout of the modern Islamic position on homosexuality so much hogwash, something akin to John Boswell’s revisionism: that the real crime of Sodom and Gomorrah was the Tribal deity Yahweh’s antipathy to “inhospitality” and not to the crime of “same-sexuality”. Parvej and the Muslim American gay group Al-Fatah, make out a case that the real crime of the people of Sodom was “same-sex rape” which is sheer nonsense. Islamic scholars across the world seem to be in consensus that the tribal god Allah (or Yahweh) is really worried about homosexuality, as much as he is worried about the foreskin of the male Muslim.
Parvej, for example, refuses to talk about the minor punishments meted out to homosexuals in Muslim India because of the common law position on homosexual intercourse in the Manu Smriti canon, which were never really imposed anyway even in Panchayat law as noted in some of the hand written documents found in the Madurai temple.
The detailed chapters on oral sex between same-sex partners in Chapter six of the Kama Sutra were obviously well known in Muslim colonial India as translations have been found in Persian in the Mughal courts. No burning of Hindu scriptures on that score have been recorded though the Muslims did not hesitate to demolish and throw down temples all over the north for their “idolatry”.
Finally this piece of Islamic propaganda was too much to bother with. The least I would do is I will refuse to review the film.
When the film was shown at the Habitat in South Delhi early this year I was very much present listening to the prattle of the pseudo secularists throwing inconsequential questions to Parvez about the “bold theme”. The real probing ones were from Muslims of a particular fundamentalist preacher in India called Zakir Nayak who claims the Vedas have proof of Mohamed coming to save humanity on a white horse, obviously Kalki now co-opted to the Pan-Islamic Nizam-e-Mustapha.
When Parevz was attacked in loud terms by this group after the screening, I thought of going to his help. But then I turned around and walked out. He had made his bed and now he must lie down on it.
I had counseled him as a human being but he had made a decision that his religion was his first identity. And frankly I didn’t care for it.
Both he and his film are outside my world view of sexuality and I realized we lived on different planets.
Ashok Row Kavi.
Ashok Row Kavi


A common friend of ours from Bombay in India responded to Ashoks critique
Thank you for your erudite and analytical deconstruction of Parvez's film. Though I agree that the Indian part could have been dealt more sensitively and correctly (like avoiding the misinfo about Madho having converted), I found the overall film beautiful, evocative and that it sets one up thinking about the dilemmas faced by gay men vis a vis their religion - how they can reconcile the two, if at all they can. It is definitely a bold and pathbreaking film that needs to be applauded, not only for its in-depth coverage across many countries, but also for not sensationalizing the issue (which could've been very easy, considering how explosive a subject Islam and homosexuality could be).
Also I feel a film (unlike an essay or a book) cannot cover in detail every aspect and approach - so as long as the film evokes a feeling and sparks off a discussion around the issues in it, I think it is noteworthy. 'A Jihad for Love' surely does that admirably.

I have requested the SAJA listserve to post the following response from me
"I have read with great interest the 'critique' that Ashok Row Kavi
offers to this public list. I have known Ashok for all my adult life.
Infact he was instrumental in my coming out as a gay man in India, as
he has been for many others. And yes, I have stated that publicly for
years, as my own ay of acknowledging the regard I hold him in. For
some of us in India he is now an 'elder statesman' in our lives ; )
I have the deepest respect and fondness for Ashok and I think he knows
that. Infact I personally requested him to come and see the film in
Delhi and he honoured me by coming.
I only wish that Ashok and I had the opportunity to discuss this in
person while I was travelling with the film there. But given that I
have been on a whirlwind tour of 15 nations with this film, I never
called him back as I had promised him at the Delhi screening.
I do not agree with Ashok's critique as I feel he really is talking
about a film that is very different and perhaps a film he wishes
should be made. And that is legitimate. It is just not this film. The
Hindu matrix cannot be used in this film easily for one very obvious
reason-the film travels the Islamic 'universe'. A careful second look
reveals layers of complexity. However it is not my job to critique
this work. A point by point 'defense' would be possible only if I had
enough time, which right now, is a luxury.
The filmmakers agenda and prerogative for this particular work-'A
Jihad for Love' is very clear and I am always very excited to engage
with responses as I have done around the world already.
I have therefore chosen to publish Ashok's comments on my blog at
www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com and open up his critique for discussion
with others who may agree or disagree with him.
I am also choosing not to engage with Ashok's version of our
'personal' history. Because that is exactly what it should be:
But Dear Ashok: When we meet or talk again I hope we realise that we
do not live on 'different planets' afterall ; )
In the meantime please do come and support this amazing film that has
taken six years to make at the IFC beginning next Wednesday, the 21st.
There is nothing better than forming an opinion of a work after you
have seen it, as Ashok has done as well. And read more at www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com"


Anonymous said...

Hi, I read only half part, its interesting - I am stopping here because of the background green color - not in contrast - is it possible to change it, it would be easier for the readers.


Anonymous said...

I would like to respond to Ashok's comment that "the real crime of the people of Sodom was “same-sex rape” which is sheer nonsense".

If ever it interests you Ashok I would like you to read specific verses of the Quran regarding Sodom in which the words "khaziya, fodhaha and waraadoo" appears which clearly spells out humiliation through molestation and rape in which case the subjects are males. The issue of inhospitality to guests is also very clear in the story where Prophet Lot specifically requests his people to honor his guests.

Scholars of Quran would all agree that God carefully chooses Her words to convey a specific meaning. What scholars over the years have failed to do was to examine the words used by God in conveying this particular story as it has never been a huge concern for patriarchs of the past or even a cause worthy of their support.

To dismiss the issue by stating that "Islamic scholars across the world seem to be in consensus that the tribal god Allah (or Yahweh) is really worried about homosexuality, as much as he is worried about the foreskin of the male Muslim", is really stating that there is no need to intervene and one has to just follow what these scholars are saying without question.

This goes contrary to the spirit of ijtihad "independent reasoning" through which Quranic principles and values are kept alive through centuries.

I also worried about your concept of Allah making it out to be a tribal God. When tribes due to their limited understanding of Allah forms a particular concept of Her, does not necessary mean that Allah is what they understand Her to be. The Muslim's testimony of faith that there is No God but God means that God (Allah) in all her majesty cannot be defined through all the imagery and definitions known to humans. Hence, Allah is not a name given to a particular God, it means, to give but one expression, "The orgin of everything imaginable"

Much love
Imam Muhsin Hendricks

Ashok said...

Honourable Imam Muhsin Hendricks,
I read your comments to my posting which first appeared on the SAJA list. I am a bit surprised that you insist on calling Allah by the female gender. The word Allah is the male version of Lat, one of the three Holy Virgins of Arabia, Al-Lah being the male term of her name LAT. The three Holy Virgins being Lat, Ozza and Mannat.
The Prophet usurped their temples in Makka six centuries after the Jewish myth figure of Yesuha bin Yusef (Jesus, son of Joseph). So if you wish to use the female gender please use the correct one by saying LAT.
However, the Prophet DID try and revert to the cult of the Holy Virgins of Arabia in what are called the Satanic Verses, mentioning which got the Islamic apostate Salman Rushdie into trouble.
I recommend you read Al-Kindy to know about the damage caused by Islam to the cults of the Three Holy Virgins of Arabia....
I am preparing a bigger version of my retort to you on my blog 'Gileri Uvacha', which means 'The Squirrel Speaks', after the legend of the blessed animal which contributed little pebbles in building the great Bridge Maryada Purshottam Sri Ram built from India to Sri Lanka in 3000 BCE to cross over and rescue his wife Sita from the demon Ravana.
There I will give you the historical context of the hatred for homosexuality that is a cultural indicator of the Semitic tribal cults of the Judaic group of Abrahamic theogonies.
I will not go further in talking to you on this blog as my friend Parvez Sharma calls it the Islamic "Universe" which I deny as there is more to humanity besides Islam -- or Hinduism!.
In the name of the Three Holy Virgins of Arabia, I bless you with the symbol of their mukut (crown) the Crescent and Star, which has been appropriated on the pendant of Islam.
-- Ashadevi Saundatti, devotee of Her Holiness Renuka Devi in South India, where the Dharma of Holy Temple Prostitution is still followed as in pre-Islamic Arabia (Ashok Row Kavi)

Anonymous said...

Who knows where to download XRumer 5.0 Palladium?
Help, please. All recommend this program to effectively advertise on the Internet, this is the best program!

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...