Well...someone also just told me that I should be a "social satirist"...when I was traveling over the weekend.
Given all of that, here's the deal...
Ok Fellow Muslims and soon to be Muslims!
A Muslim professor friend of mine canceled her class tomorrow after talking to a Jewish professor who was doing the same for Yom Kippur! Enough of us not having our holy days! More Power to her! If "the Jews"can have their holidays and eat them too, so can "the Muslims"! (and then once the whole world has been 'converted' to Islam according to plans afoot for that infamous "caliphate", it will of course be a different story!) ; ) Because, if, we allow that to happen then everybody will be a Muslim, right?
I think Sarah Palin and Mr. Ten Percent (the randy husband of the slain Dukhtar-e-Mashriq-Mr Asif Zardari, now calling himself the President of Pakistan!) had an early Eid, when he almost wanted to "hug" her! Only Allah swt knows what was going on in his dirty little mind (always in the gutter?) May Allah swt bless Sarah Palin and her "ideal "Muslim" family" in these times of the tremendous hardship she faces...
Also amid the annual confusion about when Eid actually is, the Fiqh Council of North Amreeka says it is tomorrow!
Now I am an out, loud and proud servant of the Fiqh Council, so I feel my Eid will be tomorrow. When is your Eid, my friends?
Check out this latest email from Eric:
Hi Parvez -- enjoyed your film "A Jihad of Love" over the weekend in Seattle at the South Asian Film Festival! Well done! The film introduces the subject with compelling narratives from the individuals you met and interviewed... , and offers audiences a rare glimpse into their lives experiencing personal and religious change, and reveals the politics of identity, culture, nationality, and place. Thanks, again, for sharing your film.
And this from Atlanta:
Thanks for stopping in Atlanta with the film. It was both painful and beautiful to look in on those lives. I appreciate your work, man.
Andres writes about my op-ed on Huffington, last week
read your piece in the huffington post and have to say that one line reverberated with me: i too was at a fundraiser dinner for a statewide lgbt organization and was seated with 3 guys from the local chapter of the log cabin republicans. since i have light skin, i guess they felt free to talk about how they loved george w bush (this was during the 1st term) and a discussion on whether jeb bush would be the 3rd bush president. then they started talking about the brown one... his nephew george p. bush, and the thought of his children - or all those little brown feet - walking through the white house
So, please go there and comment if you agree and more importantly, if you disagree...
NOW LETS JUST PRAY TO ALLAH SWT THAT OBAMA IS NOT SECRETLY CELEBRATING EID TODAY!!!!
How do you put up with this Parvez? :( I feel sorry for you.
Don't you, at times, wish to sleep for a couple of centuries, and wake up in a world free of homophobia?
Peace, my friend. I admire you for your relentless courage. Love and regards.
More than 200 students and others showed up to debate the film with me last night at the swank new theater on the Syracuse campus.
After an afternoon talking to a class of documentary filmmakers about the challenges of making this, my first film, I expected the evening to be fiery.
And fiery it was. Members of the Muslim Students Association, who incidentally did not co-sponsor my visit to this campus showed up including a young African American Muslim man who made the comment above. He was quiet clear about how the Quran explicitly condemns homosexuality and we engaged in a compelling back and forth. A young Arab student who agreed with some of the principles of the film was extremely disturbed by the scene that depicts Mazen belly-dancing in Paris. (This is not the first time an Arab audience member has raised that concern).
A great deal of discussion ensued about 'hudud' (simply, boundaries) in Islam, about the different 'Madhabs' (schools of thought) and about the validity of a discussion on homosexuality taking place at all in these times of Islamophobia.
The young MSA students continued talking to me after and yes, it was a civil debate.
However an older Egyptian 'hijabi' woman and her husband intervened and said:
"You should give him (that would be me) a Break! Its Ramadan!"
They got drawn into the discussion as well-they live in the neighbourhood and did not hear about the film from the MSA but through 'American' friends. They came and they appreciated it tremendously, and disagreed as well. This couple in their fourties are one of many who were questioned (unfairly) by the FBI in the aftermath of September 11. Interestingly my discussion with the older lady moved into the idea of men and women being separated (with a separate section for women) in the mosques. This is a debate she is having with her husband. She believes there should not be a separate section for women. Her husband disagrees. I urged them to contact my Muslimah Love Jihadi friend, Asra Nomani who has written urgently and articulately about that very subject.
What an amazing night! As the Muslims debated furiously, some of the "Americans" watched in fascination and many pointed out similarities with the Christian Church!
And yes we even managed to discuss Sarah Palin and Obama ; )
More soon as I head to Seattle!
And here is an email from Thomas who also just saw the film:
I just returned home from watching A Jihad For Love.
I would like to take the time to thank you for your effort and determination in making this movie! It is extremely important. I was touched by what one of the ladies at the counselor workshop said, about the duty of every person to educate themselves and learn about their spiritual believes. This is so true for every religion, not just Islam!
Also, I would like to mention a thought, in the hope it might help you or any of the people you're in contact with: I find, that Allah, God, Jehova, the Universe - no matter how you call it - does not work by super-natural actions. Rather, divine intervention is always (at least in my experience) implemented by a human. I find we are equipped with our talents (and homo-sexuality, I feel is a special talent in this context) and placed in the environment we find ourselves, because there is divine intervention necessary. We are the change-agents that cause the change to the status quo. Some of us find ourselves in a very difficult, and dangerous position. I see that as an indication, that we are special, as we have to endure suffering to cause positive change. The lady in Saudi Arabia, who was raped on the beach, and then sentenced to lashes, is another example. Through her suffering, the rest of the world has learned about the grim legal situation in this country. Through her change has been initated - not yet completed, but started. I have a credo, that is helping me make it through difficult times:
It is not so important what happens TO me;
What matters is, what happens THROUGH me!
I am the tool of the Universe, through which the devlopment of this creation is continued... It doesn't matter what religious background one comes from. The essence of all religions is the same: love, respect of god's creation, of which all of us are part of.
Like one of the girls in Turkey said: God made us the way we are. I am sure, he wants us that way. He knows what he is doing. Just because I may not understand the reason, doesn't mean he didn't have one...
There is one more thing I would like to mention, in regards of the scholar in South Afrika, who said that one con not make an interpretation of the Qu'ran. Our langugae does not allow us to explain spiritual ideas and concepts clearly. We need to use analgoies, pictures, models. Any explanantion of a spiritual model is an interpretation. Just because that interpretation is centuries old, doesn't make it not be an interpretation. I find, it is time for us to follow the lead of the lady in South Afrika, and think for ourselves about what was meant with what is written in various spiritual texts. And it is time, that outdated, obviously human, non-divine content is slowly removed from our interpretations.
Again, thank your for your work! It is very important what you are doing - Allah depends on you to help break through the petrified misinterpretations, and bring the message to this world. All my best and much success!
Another email from Amina, after Muhsin responded citing some of the Quranic 'evidence'. I withhold comment at this point.
Hello muhsin and parves,
Sorry for the late reply, been busy. Yes I would like to continue talking about this issue. The following is my opinion based on my education thus far, I have derived some othe wording from an Islamic website.
First, I would like to appologise for calling you a non-Muslim or detesting your righteousness, I have no right to do so, however, when something that is undoubtedly prohibited in Islam is made permissible by someone on his own accord, then that person is deemed a kafir (non-Muslim). Homosexuality in all its dimensions is forbidden (will explain soon) and you as an imam are declaring it halal, you are a sympothiser and an advocate for it, and parves, you're adopting it! Hence strictly speaking, homosexual 'muslims' aren't really muslims, just because they believe in Allah or God means nothing because you have atheists and other non-Muslim homosexuals who also believe in God.
To this day, I have never heard of Prophet Mohamed asw sympothising with 'gay' people who upheld prayer. I do not know who Everett Rowson is but it doesn't sound very Islamic. On the contrary, the Prophet asw said that what he feared for his ummah after him, the most, was homosexuality. And I am sure you know some of the signs of the day of judgment is man immitating women and women immitating me, men going after men and women going after women.
Click here to get directly to that page
The Unbearable Whiteness of Being, by Parvez Sharma
But after one year-this, my first film in its first year has been seen in an estimated 25 nations and by atleast 700,000 people after also being broadcast in France and Germany (and beyond on Arte/ZDF) last week.
This is cause for celebration and finally the overwhelming success of a very Muslim film with a very Muslim voice!
That's discusting and false terminology. There is no such thing as gay and lesbeian 'Muslims' because a Muslim is one who submits to God, and God orders humans not to engage in sodomy. So if someone engages in sodomy, then they are NOT muslims hence cannot be called Muslim gay/les.
Secondly, I feel sorry for you parvez, I wonder what made you lead such a lifestyle. I hope you see the error in what you are doing and repent before it's too late. The people of Lut who were homosexuals were punished like the way a nation was never punished before, 3 folds of torment overtook them, their nation was turned upside down, the wind stopped blowing and furthermore stones from hell with their names on it were pelted at them. I think there is a lesson in that for us. I don't mean to scare you with punishment, rather to enlighten you about the gravity of your crime, yes it is a crime in Islam.
It's the month of Ramadan, can't you show some respect for it? And do turn to God, may He guide you before you misguide any more people.
And regarding the 'imam' Muhsin, dude, what have you got to say about all this? Are a fake imam or something? Be a man and stand up and speak out against this. If it is done in the name of Islam (i.e. Muslim gay/les) then we shall speak out against it, if you don't want us to speak out against it, then do your dirty thing in another name, don't try and seek popularity and fame in the name of Islam. I also fear for your safety.
Hope you see the sincerity in this email
This one below from CLEO in Atlanta who just saw the film there:
Just caught your movie here in Atlanta. I was deeply moved and found this incredibly enlightening. I have been following the problems of gays and lesbians in the middle east for some time, especially since problems in Iraq and Iran. Especially as the US has stepped into Iraq and turned a blind eye to this suffering. I even edited a poetry anthology of poets in the US writing on the subject "Outside the Green Zone", we even had fundraisers for some of the human rights groups to help with the safe houses and raise awareness. It's a very frustrating thing to see how easy it is for people to look away from this problem.
You may ask "why does any one from Atlanta - care so much about this" as I said in the forward of my book, I grew up in a very fundamentalist baptist household and conserative culture in rural North Carolilna. Home of Jessie Helms the very right-wing congressman. People (especially gays) in this country forget we are not so far from this situation ourselves. I grew up with the KKK, the Klu Klux Klan, they were a self-appointed cultural enforcement group that wore hoods to hide their true identities. But they charged themselves to enforce "cultural laws" that were becoming increasingly attacked by a liberalizing society in the 50s and 60s. They were often lawyers and judges, policeman, and politicians, they would drag anyone they felt threatened our society out of their home and lynch them or burn them alive, often leaving their bodies out as warnings. This included, particularly blacks, foreigners, gays, jews, and anyone that seemed to help or aid these groups. the first warning you would get would be a burning cross in your yard, a warning of the coming "wrath of god." When i was twelve I was actually taken to a KKK rally, this was seen as something any teenage boy in our area was expected to do. My parents looked the other way while my older friends took me, but they all knew what was going on. The whole rally was just pure hate, vitriol against all the people that were threatening society, and were not following god's word, all the misfits and deviants , made less than human - needing to be killed and made examples of.
So you can see, when I hear what is going on in the middle east under Islamic extremism I'm reminded of that rally with the burning crosses, and dozens of hooded men, meeting in secret deep in the woods, around a bonfire.
It's a battle we all face in religious communities. How do we fit in? And each commuinty must learn from each of these challenges. We suffer in the South from some of the same problems as seen in your film, Biblical literalist that pick and choose and interpret verses to reinforce their own prejudices.
But about your movie - I found the representation of all the different facets of Islam very interesting. That it's not one monolithic religion. Much as we here in the states have traditional Christianity, but we have fundamentalists, baptists, presbyterians, catholics, etc., etc. all reading from the same book, but comging away with different readings. Some taking each verse literally and looking for what makes people sinners, what punishement they should be given - then some looking for the underlying love of a compassionate loving power.
Some of the most promising words I heard were the older woman in the group discussion on homosexuality and Islam. That each person was challenged to grow and learn from birth, to always question, to always think for themselves - we need much more of that.
So many of the people featured in your movie are such brave heroes. Such unbelieveably brave and heroic figures. I fear sometimes that gays and lesbians here in the U.S. have it too easy. It's always a struggle, but compared to what so many of these characters of going through, we only suffer a small splinter, a small discomfort. I hope that Ameican audiences will realize when they see your film, that in this country, where our community is so blessed we owe it to our brothers and sisters everywhere in the world where they are oppressed to raise our voices and do what we can.
Thanks so much for you wonderful film. I will do what I can here in Atlanta to talk it up and insist my friends see it.
Today the film opens at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema in Atlanta. We need huge weekend numbers so please tell all your friends in Atlanta and buy your tickets at this link
There are so many reasons to see this film. One of them is right here in a message from Pierrick, a recent viewer:
A beautiful testimony of belief, strength, life & love! This movie can have meaningful & intense aftershocks ;)
ALSO I AM TAKING MY JIHAD (and NOW YOURS) across the US on a College Tour! Email me at email@example.com to get details on how to bring this film to YOUR campus.
Well as all of this happens and it becomes easier, always to connect the dots I ran into two interesting little articles about the film- (there are many more but I only post the ones people send me links to)...
One in the mostly pro-Zionist, Jewish Daily Forward, problematically (and hardly originally) titled 'Trembling Before Allah'-I had a few reservations talking to them initially primarily because of their editorial slant...read it here and decide for yourselves.
Another nice little feature runs in Williamette Week and that is here
Jihad continues doing strongly and opens in Atlanta this weekend-please tell all your friends!
There are hundreds of emails I continue getting and some I do reproduce here (not possible for all to fit in...and certainly not possible for me, right now to reply to all of these wonderful people...)
"I saw your film on Sunday @ 4 along w/discussion. I just wanted to let you know how moved and informed I was by your work. Thank you for making the film. For me, as a white American, I knew very little about the details of the gay struggle for Muslims in their home countries. I was very drawn into to all of the stories. Again, thank you."
" Keep going Parvez! The only way to open firmly closed minds is to keep drilling little holes in them. "
"To every one who is happy about this .. do you know what the sentence for this act is . "
"That's a necessty to work more on this subject.Thanks a lot Parvez Sharma for this work and this courage. We needed it in the muslim world."
"This is insane, just getting fame in the name of islam. huh!"
"There is NO CONCEPT of being gay or a lesbo in ISLAM, It prohibits such homo things and a muslim would never do this i repeat a MUSLIM WOULD NEVER DO THIS.
Just read the verses from Quran, where it mentions the whole nation i.e Kaum - Loot (of lesbian n gays) was destroyed since they didn't obey words of GOD (Quran).
I'd say only this is Bullshit!!!"
"You are a cunt and you are gay fuckin propagandist no propergaandoo"
(my footnote on this last one: "Gandoo" is the pejorative in Hindi/Urdu for someone who 'takes it up the ass", literally)
Sharma is right to keep his focus tight. He is interested in the faithful, and their conflicts, not the broader cultural issues surrounding sex and Islamic society -- though he can't help but show the second-class status that women generally suffer in many Islamic countries. His focus on religion -- and this particular religion's almost universal hostility to same-sex love -- means that there can be no answers to the spiritual searching of many of his characters. Which leads to a strange division of sympathy in the viewer. Sharma's characters want acceptance from people who refuse to give it, and at some point, you want to tell them: Leave. Get out. Be done with the madness that oppresses you.
The third day had two almost capacity shows at 4 40 and 7 20
Make sure that your local theater knows how much all of you love this film
This interesting email from a Muslim woman in the audience who gets it...
Parvez-As Salaamu Alaikum Ramadan Mubarak:
I saw your film last night and as a Muslim I was proud of your thoughtful and poignant film. You presented Islam intelligently which promoted the beauty of Islam while also, exposing Muslims to their own heterogeneity and presumptions. Culture drives much of the way Muslims respond to things and their subjected interpretations, the cultural expressions were powerfully displayed and meaningful.
Islam would never reject the believer. The people you introduced us to were undoubtedly believers whose immutable beliefs could not be shaken even if the cultural interpretations are narrow and inhumane. Thank ALLAH, for the mothers and children who showed their love unconditionally. I am spreading the word to Muslims in my community challenging them to see this most important film.
Hajjah Benita from Baltimore
Will be writing more soon about others who have been deeply touched here including the Indian Muslim father of a dear friend last night.
SOLD OUT, YES! IN DC...
A South-Asian man said to me: "We have been so excited-this is the first non-white gay film we have felt strongly about in a long time!"
This is not a surprising comment to me at all, given the Caucasian-ness that is so pervasive all around us and in this year, when all of Americas dirty racial laundry will be up for everyone to see...
Regardless-it was a moving night with a 40 minute Q&A- Joining us on stage were two people who are very special to me-both straight Muslims- Asra Nomani, author of 'Standing Alone in Mecca' and a fellow fearless love jihadi; ) and Zahir Janmohamed from Amnesty International.
Shirine was so inspired that she wrote a poem and here it is!
A poem inspired by Jihad for Love...
Why Choose Hate?
By Shirine Hossaini
I sit and watch their pain
displayed before my eyes
what do people gain
from suffering and lies?
I cannot hold my tears
my feelings are too strong
though I've tried for years
they always say 'you're wrong'
Why should people struggle
when all they want is love
life is such a juggle
it's noone's right to shove
for every stone you throw
a count is being kept
when you die you'll know
how many mothers wept
every tear they shed
for every lonely night
will haunt you though you're dead
so why not make it right?
use your faith to guide
and open up your mind
nothing left to hide
you'll leave this world behind
learn to live
before it's too late
learn to give
and I'll reciprocate!
Good afternoon, Mr. Sharma.
I had the great fortune of meeting you on Monday, August 25th and a screening for your film at the Lumiere Theater in San Francisco.
The journey began with an email sent by my dear friend Marc Smolowicz to support the film soon after I heard a piece on Up Front's radio show about the piece.
I was drawn to see the film when I heard the clip of the South African imam.
I was working in another part of the city and am trying to commit more to public transportation, so was rushing to the busstop after a full day of setting up interviews for teaching artists for our school programs. I am a program director of a youth arts organization in San Francisco. My treat after a long day was to be infused with your film.
The bus arrived late and I got to the movie ticket window to purchase my ticket a few minutes after 7 pm. The kind woman took my card and ID and the purchase came back denied.
It's an ATM card and indeed had a positive balance so I insisted that I call my bank. I was going to see the film.
The staff at the Lumiere was gracious enough for me to use their phone, sit in the ticket office, and resolve the issue. Sure enough there was an error on the bank's end. While the bank representative was on the phone the ticket agent ran the card and my ticket was purchased.
I was so relieved!
I quietly and quickly rushed into the theater. The lights had gone dark and the film had started. I moved near the front and settled into my seat and placed my backpack next to me.
I was overlooking the ocean in South Africa and then following a penguin.
The dialog in the car between the imam and his children was sweet and honest. It reminded me of working with the youth I serve. The questions and responses come from a place of honesty one rarely gets from adults in "official" contexts.
Then on to Iran. Then on to Turkey...
I didn't know what to expect. I suppose I expected another lovely film about gay life, but this time set in the Muslim world. But I was touched to see Islam portrayed as a faith and not as a "regime", "other", "evil", "conservative", or "extremist".
I was raised Catholic, so I laugh whenever I see catholicism mis-portrayed by the news and media. There are still times when I have to explain the whole "3-in-1" God thing.
And I have some friends who are Muslim, so I feel I have a little handle on tradition and faith. I'm not surprised when Ramadan suddenly starts up again with its roving location on the Gregorian calendar because of how it falls in the lunar cycle.
But, honestly, I know Islam more factually through the news I seek. Some alternative news, but I don't understand Arabic yet in a way to get a non-news take on Islam. (Unless the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour counts.) Until this film, I had never seen women engage in Islam so intimately.
And I knew that was because of the gender holding the camera.
I've only ever seen men in mosque and set out prayer rugs.
I was so touched to see loving devotion in this way by women.
Thank you for filling in a blank spot in my understanding of how women devote themselves in their faith.
I also wanted to thank you for taking the time to answer the questions in the audience and being so kind as to shake my hand at the end of the screening. You allowed yourself to be vulnerable and shared how profound of an experience this was to create.
And I am excited for your next project, especially if it's a Bollywood film!
Please continue to pursue your work with the care and craft that you have in this movie. I'd be honored to thank you with a meal the next time you come to the Bay Area.
I look forward to continuing to support your work.
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