The Bangladeshi Hindu and the Professor who cannot see

What an amazing discussion unfolded on the campus of Hollins in Roanoke, Virginia yesterday. This all-girls' college of 700 would seem like an unlikely place for an informed debate around this work-but that is exactly what happened. The Professor who organized the event came with her guide dog and had a friend sit and read the subtitles of the film to her. Our discussions last night were remarkable. Here in the heart of so-called 'conservative' country we were able to freely talk about Islam's perception in the West, Obama and Clinton, theology, the suffering of the Palestinian people and certainly all of the heated debates that this film can generate. Another professor had grown up in Lebanon and had a great deal to say about the resilience of the Lebanese and the Israeli occupation and wars.
I am overwhelmed with these discussions and pleasantly surprised of the reach this film is having and the debate it is fostering in the unlikeliest places.
Writtika, a young Bangladeshi Hindu spoke with me last night about my experiences filming in her increasingly 'talibanized' country. She writes:

Dear Mr. Sharma,

You might still remember me, because I had just asked you about your Bangladesh experience earlier this evening, after your documentary screening.
I just wanted to let you know something more. I'm a Hindu Bangladeshi, and to me Islam has always seemed very reform-resistant. Even the moderates are orthodox!! Because I have Muslim friends, I know the Wester stereotypes are not true, and Muslims' lives are much more complicated (and normal of course) than media portrayals. At the same time, I think Islam is more orthodox than both Judaism and Christianity. Maybe this is because Bangladeshi Islam has given me a very bad impression.

Anyways, I think you and the people in the documentary are extremely brave to wage this jihad. Even some of my "moderate" Muslim friends cannot imagine speaking out about something "unIslamic," even when it is true in their lives. I hope your tolerance and loving interpretations of Islam will influence progressive thoughts in many other areas. You may know this, but recently the Bangladeshi temporary government had tried to pass a "recommendation" that women get equal inheritance, and many extremists protested with demonstrations and some violence. So the government had to consult a group of all-male "Islamic Scholars" on the issue and assure the extremists that nothings was going to be against Islam or Sharia law.

I hope your work inspires like minded Muslims to acknowledge "ijtihad" and promote the amazing thoughts in Islam.

I will now speak tonight in Philadelphia. It should be interesting. More press is at hand.
Tough Love (Great Review in the Philadelphia Weekly)
Philadelphia Inquirer

Finally we all need to galvanize around the theatrical release of this film in New York and beyond on May 21st. We need a lot of volunteers and help. Please email me or us at info@ajihadforlove.com immediately if you are willing and able !

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. Sharma,

I was one of the students at the Hollins screening, and I wanted to thank you for bringing your film to us! I know that our size and location might make us an unlikely candidate for such a showing, but my friends who viewed the film and I were very moved by it. We especially enjoyed the discussion after, and appreciated your openness to all of our comments and questions. Again, thank you so much for coming to Hollins. I hope that your film gets the recognition and audience that it deserves, and can help to change views about and within Islam.
Abbie Fisher

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