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!