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26.5.08

"Something really BIG is happening in this room"

These were the words of a woman who came with her partner last night to see the film. Once again, we had record numbers. She was deeply touched by the level and intensity of discussion, debate and dialogue that happened during the question and answer session that followed. She went on to say, "In the year of Barack Obama, this kind of film and its dialogue is critical".

I need some time off-I have known that for a long time. The last six years have been emotionally and physically exhausting. But every night at the theater, as I spend time with Muhsin, Mazen and the team discussing the Islamic contexts of the film and its potential-I feel a tremendous wave of love and support. Clearly, the film has the potential to be tranformational in Americas post September 11 Islamic debates (if we can actually call them that).

Here is an email from "L" who saw the film last night.

"Hey Parvez,
I want to thank you for your film. I attended the screening at IFC last night, and was delighted that you and others were there, and loved the opportunity to witness the discussion afterwards. My profession is international public health, and I have spent most of my professional life working and living in Africa, where I work on HIV programs and research. I have spent a lot of time living in conservative Muslim societies (in particular the island of Pemba in Tanzania) and the issue of homosexuality and Islam has really interested me. Though I haven't formally "studied" Islam, while living on Pemba, my life revolved around the religion. I spent a virtually all of my time discussing the religion with everyone I interacted with. I also spent some time informally studying with a teacher to learn more about what the Koran and Hadith say. From my experiences, I came to understand that homosexuality was unilaterally unacceptable form the Islamic perspective. Everything everyone told me was unequivocal. And this is one of the things that has disappointed me about the religion, because I don't believe discrimination should be a part of any religion. So when I learned about your film, I was truly excited to see it, but also skeptical - would it be able to convince me that from an Islamic perspective you could actually speak about homosexuality not being haram? I am happy to say that this film totally changed my perspective. I now do believe there is room to discuss this issue, and feel that the film's emphasis on what the actual texts say is an important reason why the film is so effective. As was pointed out in the discussion last night, another key reason why this film is so compelling is because you portray the individuals first as Muslims.

This film is powerful, and I see it as having the potential to be an important tool to share with many people all over the world, in places where they don't have "movie theaters." In particular I think this film would be an asset for health care workers (and other community workers) who have to counsel so many types of people, but hold many discriminatory views themselves.

You have done important work here. Really important. Know that all of your efforts are going to make a difference in this world.

Congratulations, L"

And here is another email from a member of the Progressive Muslims Group that did a MeetUp at the theater on Friday night.

"Your film is generating interest and anticipation in the hopes of mobilizing some portion of the Muslim community around this issue - once again, great work!
Peace, S"

Aman writes:

"I most say I was completely overwhelmed and over come w/ emotion after watching your documentary. You are truly an exceptional human being and a revolutionary of our time. Thank you, you have given my homosexual Muslim friends a glimpse of light at the end of the tunnel, letting them know that they are not alone in their struggle."


Finally I think it is time to reproduce this email I got a little while ago. I read it all the time to remind myself why I made this film. This is a man we will call Ilyas and he is Iraqi. He lives in a Western country which is why this story is even more resonant, since so many of us just assume that 'claustrophobia; is the norm everywhere else but the West (which is not realy the case after you see the film). I have changed his name and his details to protect his fragile identity. He and I are in constant touch.

"Dear Parvez,

I am writing to you with no prior contact because you are my last destination of hope. The moral dilemma that you convey in your new documentary is eating my from within. I am 17 years old and the youngest of five children, of whom two are mentally disabled. My parents are very religious, and after having lived 17 years in France, they have still not integrated themselves, due to lack of language and difference of religion and culture. I simply need your help because I am alone in the struggle against my parents. I do not know whether they have the upper hand because they know the truth about whether homosexuality is a major sin, but what I do know is that they use it against me all the time. Personally, I am very much certain that I have not consciously made the decision to be a homosexual. I think all my misfortune began when I was raped at the age of six by a teenage friend to the family. I suffered many years of guilt and lonelines, and on top of that, today I am gay. Coming from my family and having my background that is the worst a person can be. So in Nov 07 my parents found out about my homosexuality and my third world war started. I was kept isolated during a month, very much confined to my home with no means of communication with the outside world whatsoever. I was given the ultimatum to either cure my self right away or be murdered and eliminated by my 30 year old brother/stoned to death by my father. Part of the cure would be going to Mecca with my mother in Dec 07, but I refused due to my school committments. They forbade me from seeing my one and only true friend, because he is a Christian transexual boy, and if I would have seen him without their approval, my brother and his wife would hire someone to eliminate my friend too. So I submitted to the atrocities hoping that I would find my way out of them soon. When school started in Jan 08, the social services were contaced, which further infuriated my family. Since then matters have shrunk almost to natural size and today I am no longer bothered by my brother and his wife thanks to an arrangement by the social services.

Please Parvez, I must see your documentary for I can no longer live and love with the knowledge that I am displeasing Allah. Please help me!"

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This JIHAD IS ON FIRE

September 2007 is when I started (with a finished film, my first) and now some 49 countries and 8 million people later, the whole world is talking. The movement around this work has begun worldwide. We will be screening next year around the world and yes in Muslim countries as well.

For more updates email me at parvezsharmaATgmailDOTcom and post your comments here as well.


Imam Muhsin Hendricks and his website for the Inner Circle

Director/Producer Parvez Sharma

Director/Producer Parvez Sharma
All the Breaking News around 'A Jihad for Love' is at this blog address. You can email Parvez directly at parvezsharmaATgmailDOTcom

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