Love Jihadi, Parvez Sharma Blogs Here

...our time, is now...

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Parvez Sharma also blogs at The Huffington Post,

Parvez writes for The Guardian

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31.5.08

A Disabled FaceBooker

So just an hour ago, FaceBook disabled my account with a cryptic message-

Hi,
Our systems indicate that you've been misusing certain features on the site. This email serves as a warning. Misuse of Facebook's features or violating Facebook's terms of use may result in your account being disabled . Thanks in advance for your understanding and cooperation.
If you have any questions, please contact warning@facebook.com from your login email address.
The Facebook Team

This had happened to this very blogger account as well a month ago. I have written to FaceBook where so many of you have been sharing your global experience of this film and I am now praying that they re-instate my account-in our world, where so many of us live these strange online lives ; )

30.5.08

A New Role Model

This is the title of an email I just received from Dan S. I reproduce it below:

"Hi Parvez: I felt that I had to email you and let you know that I think you are one of the bravest role models that the gay community could ever have. I first saw your name when I read your essay in Michael Luongo's book "Gay Travels in the Muslim World". I was so impressed that I checked the web for other samples of your writing. It was then that I discovered your production of "A Jihad For Love".

I live in New York City so I went to the IFC on Wednesday, May 28. Of course, I was completely amazed at what you were able to capture on film. Watching it made me feel like I was taking a journey to meet my gay brothers and sisters in a part of the world that I otherwise would never have understood. The people you interviewed were amazing - despite all the obstacles life put in their way, they were determined to love who they wanted to love and still maintain a link to their spiritual lives.

I have to admit that I was a bit intimidated to approach you after seeing the film. I felt a bit shy and didn't really know what to say in the moment. However, after thinking about what I had seen I knew that I had to reach out to you and just say "thank you" for being so cour
ageous. If only there were more people such as yourself in the world - how much better life would be!!!

All My Best To You, Dan"

And here is another email:


"I regret that adjectives like Christian and Muslim and Jew must define and exclude. I regret that those who call themselves by one name or another need to establish their religion in their own minds by Rigid Rules rather than the costly submission of love. I would not call Rigid Rules Law or Torah out of respect for a true love of Torah. Rules are a convenient substitute for thought and are a dangerous barrier to honesty in some situations. Culture is fearful of touch, anxious for control, and desiring power, and so individuals and cultures often confuse running from fear or desire for power and control with truth.

If - and it is a big 'if' - the religious opponents of committed love between same-gendered partners could phrase their opposition from the experience of their own love of God and not from their own fear whether of God or of themselves, then they might see that they need not fear, for their God in love - they would know - and they would know that God is capable of bringing to joy people other than themselves and their own imagined 'in-group'.

Persevere and continue your good work. I have kept my few readers informed of your progress on my blog.
Bob MacDonald"

And:

Dear Parvez,
I just wanted to congratulate you again and thank you for making "A
Jihad for Love".
Film truly has the power to touch people's hearts, open their minds
and start useful dialogs. I have always believed this as I think most people are strongly effected by visional imagery and the emotions that are played out on the human face.
Your work reaffirms this belief in me and I think the film will have
an important, lasting effect for years to come. Not only for the queer community but also for the Muslim communityand for the non-Muslim community to have a greater understanding ofthe complexities (and beauty) of Islam.
Thank you!
Sincerely,
Kate

Please keep looking out for my upcoming feature on The Huffington Post.

Complex, Layered and Enthralling

That is what one of the audience members tonight told me about the film.
The day had started with a meeting with one of the leaders I admire-Urvashi Vaid, whose fierce intelligence had given my ideas, wings-when I was younger.

Later today- A film professor from NYU was impressed with the films 'cinematic vocabulary' and a young Iranian man said that the film was 'your very own Hajj and spiritual journey, Parvez'. An older Indian gentleman said that the film was 'beautiful and engaging and not preaching to the choir'. A South Asian academic was impressed with the discussions women were having in the film. Yet another South Asian organizer felt it did not have enough womens representation.
The discussions in the cinema are rich and are also complex, layered and enthralling. One day I hope to have them reproduced (we are documenting as many as we can and I just wish todays had been taped!).

Here is another email.
" Hi Parvez,
Congrats again on such a moving and honest film. The documentary far surpassed my expectations and I have told some of my close Muslim friends (who are still in the closet) to come out and watch this film for sure, I want them to accept and embrace their religion and sexuality whole heartedly instead of submitting to societal pressures...
V"

But then this one-I just wish he sees the film to understand the title and indeed, Islam...
"

I'm sorry, but your marketing people should have come up with a better title. "JIHAD" for love. Jihad meaning "holy war" .... holy WAR from a religion that stone's gay people?
Should have come up with a title that exposes "faith" of all kinds for the many problems it causes.

Also...
Hi...
I just saw the trailer for Jihad for Love, and I'm excited to see the film after hearing much about it the last few months. I'm puzzled, however, why there are no screenings set for Detroit when it has the largest Arab population in the United States??
Please bring it here!
Thanks,
Daniel

And...

"Just saw your movie today...Congratulations. It both excited and saddened me that it was the first substantial footage I've seen of life of anyone other than tv spokespeople of Muslim nations.Keep doing your important work. Coming out is powerful. Look at what we've gained here in just 40 years. It all came from personal honesty and dignity.

H"

R writes from Canada...
Parvez....
Your work is SO inspiring, thank you for opening up such uncharted territory, thank g-d you have the freedom to do so!
Will or when will your film come to Canada, particularly west coast, Vancouver?

S writes from South Africa...
"
was good to meet you in november last year in johannesburg; hope i'll see you again soon.
congratulations on your remarkable work and good luck with the ongoing struggles!
best wishes from south africa..."

Q writes from Mexico...
"
Hi Parvez, I watched your film in Mexico, a little whil ago...I was amazed by how you managed to capture all of those feelings in one film. Congratulations! Keep up the work! "

TFF from Malaysia says...
"
ur film will not be shown in malaysia so how can I get hold of it? Thanks"

And finally the seventeen year old gay Muslim man I have been corresponding with in Europe (he was locked up by his parents) says
"Hi
I have unfortunately not had the opportunity to watch your film yet. I am truly eager to see it. I am still here but I left home two months ago and now I live with an old friend. I received a lot of help from the social services and I have contacted my parents. They have calmed down because they think I am "cured" if you know what I mean.
Thank you for asking"

And a review in the Turkish 'Hayat' is here- "Aşk için cihad"


A few closing thoughts: Clearly this "Jihad" is global and audiences here are part of a larger movement and hunger. While I am amazed at the discussions we are having in the cinema, my heart is also filled with grief and anger at all the time that has been lost, the families that have been broken, the love that has not been given or recieved. I feel that the Obamaspeak of the 'Fierce Urgency of Now", inherited from Dr. King does apply to this 'Jihad", in ways that we are only beginning to imagine.

28.5.08

Smash Opening for A JIHAD FOR LOVE!

Here we go! Our JIHAD is on fire! Here is what our distributor said to IndieWire- (just remember that Box Office proceeds do not really mean income for us and we are still in fundraising mode for our International Muslim Dialogue Project)
"A Jihad For Love" Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma's controversial documentary about gay and lesbian Muslims striving to reconcile their faith and their homosexuality, earned $13,418 in four-day earnings for First Run Features from an exclusive debut at New York's IFC Center. "Jihad For Love," Sharma's debut feature film featuring people from twelve countries including India, Egypt and Iran, became the year's number three documentary debut, just behind "Up the Yangtze" and "Planet B-Boy." "It was a great mixture of the audiences that the film directly addresses - Muslim and gay - but also people who won't fit into those two categories, for instance, a nice turnout of women and Jewish people," said Marc Mauceri, vice president, First Run Features. "The energy in the theater was tremendous and the filmmaker panels were very successful." Mauceri confirmed a deliberately paced platform plan for "Jihad For Love" throughout the summer and fall. "With a six day total of $20,183, we have a bona fide hit on our hands. Our plan all along has been a slow rollout to accommodate the filmmakers' wish to travel as much as possible with the film and to have the time to put as much work as possible into every opening."

Great Numbers! We need to keep them going-to prove that an extremely Muslim film has appeal at the US Box Office!

This is just some of what the critics have said-

"POWERFUL!" - Owen Gleiberman, Entertainment Weekly

"HEARTFELT!" - Nathan Lee, The New York Times

"PROVOCATIVE!" - Jim Ridley, Village Voice

"Lifts the veil of secrecy...frankly brave!" - National Public Radio's Talk of the Nation

"CRITIC'S PICK! Brave...Eye-opening!" - Sara Cardace, New York Magazine

"REVEALING and moving!" - Wall Street Journal

"Passionate, essential...both haunting and inspiring!" - S. James Snyder, New York Sun

This is what others are saying:

I'm a hardcore muslim from Saudi Arabia ...but im gay :D
still havn't found peace in my self to actually believe that it's ok to be homosexual
I live in Vancouver Canada ...so I don't think i could atten this ...I wish i could have a copy of it though
peace

And here is another one-

Dear Parvez Sharma,

When will you and your film be in Chicago? I
really want to see it!

I read the Amy Goodman interview and visited the
film's website, and watched "The Hour" interview
with you.

Bless you 1,000 times, you are on the very
cutting edge of gay liberation, your work is
vitally important in so many ways.

Love,
K

SELL OUT

Such an amazing discussion in the cinema last night- an Imam (ours), two Rabbis and two Christian priests and yes the show was a sell out! People were remarkably engaged and moved. Clearly this film is touching people in ways I had not even imagined possible.
Here is another email

Salaam Alaikum, Parvez!

I was gladly surprised to hear from you, the producer and Imam Muhsin and Mazin. Several friends who joined me were equally glad to hear the many questions and the panel responses.

Thank you again for bringing this film to the wider world screen.

I did give you my card to forward to Mazin. My question for him was close to being answered at the very end of the Q& A. But if you would indulge me, I might state my concerns more clearly, which Mazin could answer if possible.

Before the Queenboat event in Egypt, was there a sense for those who frequented the club of a greater personal freedom, or was there an impending sense of danger which the frequenters accommodated?

I believe that during Q & A, a passing mention of Wahabism was obscured by the fuller discussion of Sufism. I began thinking of the various responses to Sufism which I encountered whenever I mentioned my recent reversion to Islam. There was never a discussion as much as a dismissal of its validity. I never proffered the fact of my gayness, since my faith was young and in need of nurturing. I sensed the greater cultural differences which exist among the spectrum of Muslims throughout the world.

Mazin seemed to confirm the "in your face" nature of answering "I'm gay," especially to his mother. The response to deny his gayness was a Muslim response borne of one's respect for the imaan of his mother. Her blessing was given out of love. And what he said during Q&A was that because his mother is his mother, she was knowing of his life and wanting him to live it honest to himself. I admired his maturity at once.

I'm aware of your film because I subscribe to Muslim Gay Men, and seek to understand how people reconcile the identity of being gay with the reality of Islam. I, unlike those in the film, am one who gay-identified before accepting Islam. Needless to say, I get very little advice from my fellow brothers and sisters, since largely, they are from the Middle East, where individuating identity is anathema to the collective philosophy of the region. I believe, like all Muslims, that it is the responsibility of each brother and sister to study and learn from this life, as your movie purposefully demonstrates,

When you covered Turkey, I was homesick for my friends in Istanbul, who lovingly embrace me whole, straight as they are, and Muslim born. I was happy to see images from throughout Turkey, including Konya, Ankara and Istanbul. I was fortunate to visit eastern Turkey, last year, where the Muslim culture is pretty much undilluted.
Thank God for my faith. Thank God for persons who challenge cultural proscriptions. InshAllah, this jihad resolves peacefully for those who dare to be honest, for the sake of the ummah, and in God's name.

Any thoughts from you or Mazin, Imam Muhsin, or any other from the film is appreciated

Wa'salaam,

BL

27.5.08

LOVE JIHADIS TAKE OVER NYC

And they are showing up in record numbers. But we really need them to keep coming. Part of the movement of this film in the US is giving the box office in this country proof that a Muslim made film, with an Islam positive message can resonate with post-September 11 audiences. So please spread the word so that we make our Jihad a huge success around the country.

Here is another email, this one from R

Dear Parvez,

I just wanted to let you know how marvellous your film is. I'm so happy that we got to see it last week in its New York run, and it's just phenomenal that you spent so much time and took so much care to make this incredible documentary. The subjects, of course, are brave, and I admire your courage too, for doing this project. You really made a complicated topic absolutely approachable while showing the complexity of the experience of sexuality and its encounters with different facts of religious discourse. The Q&A was excellent too. Wishing you with future screenings of A Jihad for Love in other places too! And I hope you get time to relax a little and enjoy your much-deserved success!

warmly,
R

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!"

25.5.08

The Numbers are Rising

We have had so many hugely successful shows in NYC today where people have been remarkably engaged with the film and the remarkable panel discussions that followed.

Here is another email that just came in:

Dear Parvez,
Salam Alikum, it's so good to see that finally someone has the courage to speak up and talk about this controversial subject.So far I have only seen the previews of your movie on the youtube.com website and can hardly wait for this movie to open up here in Los Angeles.
I am originally from Pakistan and now I live in United States. I always wanted to make movies especially documentaries about the topics that other people might not interested or are afraid to talked about and just to see you do that gives immense pleasure.
Please continue with this topic and don't let anyone stop you. Allah has given you this opportunity to speak on behalf of others who do not have the courage or just simply don't know how to tackle this controversial subject.
I am gay and I live with my partner. We've been together for almost 11 years now. I used to tell my boy friend that I always wanted to make or act in a movie which deals with the subject of homosexuality in Muslim countries. After reading about your movie I feel like half of my dream came true. Best Luck & God Bless you.
Sincerely,
Yasir

Also these from a gay and Muslim man from Sudan:
Email 1
really looking forward to seeing the movie this week, i grew up muslim and gay in the sudan
m.

Email 2
hey parvez-
i came with friends to the 930 show on friday, we enjoyed the movie and it sparked a lot of discussion amongst us, i have to say i discarded islam completely out of my life once i moved to the west so it was good to see people who made different choices
congrats, you should be proud for tackling this!
m.

Also this from an Iranian man:
Hello Parviz.
I am very interested in the movie that you have made. Although not a believer of Islam and not a believer that Islam (real Islam according to the Koran and the Sunna) can be a non-violent democratic religion and can provide people with the most basic human rights, I would very much like to see your film. Do you happen to know where in NYC I can obtain/watch this film?
Best regards,
D

This is another email:
Parvez! I really, REALLY loved a Jihad for Love! My partner and I are trying to spread the vibe--I'm biracial African-American, and she's Iranian-Danish, so it hit home on many levels...I also know your friend Ashwini Sukthankar, who says hello!".


24.5.08

Excellent Interview on Filmmaker Magazine and a Review I like

Many have asked how I felt during the making of this film.

Some of my answers are here on FILMMAKER magazine from an interview we did two weeks ago.


Here is an excerpt from the journalists introduction:
A Jihad for Love, Sharma's debut as a director, is a highly personal documentary informed by his own status as both Muslim and gay. It is a revelatory examination of the paradox of Muslims who remain devoutly within the religion despite Islam's persecution of them because of their sexual orientation. Sharma presents a panoramic view of Islamic homosexuals throughout the world such as Muhsin, an openly gay Imam in South African; Mazen, an Egyptian refugee who was incarcerated because of his sexual preference; Ferda and Kiymet, a lesbian couple living in Turkey; and Amir, a young Iranian man forced to flee to Turkey. Shot in 12 countries over six years, Sharma's film is an intelligent and eloquent exposition of a taboo subject that not only movingly pays tribute to the strength and integrity of the film's embattled subjects but – despite its provocative title – maintains a reverent rather than critical attitude towards the Islamic religion.

I really like this review on IndieWire not because it is flattering (which helps certainly!) but because it is written well.

(To put it bluntly it is less about the reviewers seeming knowledge of cinema and the world and more about the film.)

REVIEW | Irreconcilable Differences: Parvez Sharma's "A Jihad for Love"

[An indieWIRE review from Reverse Shot.]

Homosexuality isn't a choice, but often, many forget, neither is religion. And this is certainly the case for the world's dense population of devout Muslims, now comprising the second largest religion in the world. Since the dictates of various orthodoxies seem almost by design to painfully rub up against basic biological desires, the demonization of sexuality has been widely reported upon and dramatized, whether directly or indirectly, for as long as there has been sophisticated thought.

Though the most blatant and rigorous denial of carnal desire is extended, as ever, to homosexuality, only in recent years have we been granted the courtesy of fine documentaries such as Sandi DuBowski's "Trembling Before G-D" and Daniel Karslake's "For the Bible Tells Me So," primers on the eternal battle of conscience and love waged in the minds of gay individuals for whom abandoning faith-based communities is not an option. For them, the need to touch another human body does not preclude the desire to be close to God; of course, in dealing with a handful of extreme, sexually repressive Islamic societies, Parvez Sharma's passionate, yet reserved new documentary "A Jihad for Love" can't help but seem even more urgent.

Sharma, a gay writer, reporter, and filmmaker born in India, is himself a Muslim, and his lack of condescension toward the religious communities he captures on film is "A Jihad for Love"'s greatest strength. Sharma excels at depicting the effects of repressive regimes on individuals in a matter-of-fact manner, without the aid of overly cute populist doc tricks or direct audience appeals; one comes away with the sense that Islamic governmental law based on religion isn't so different from nonsecular Westernized rationalizations for discrimination.

Indeed, there's a terrific scene in which Muhsin Hendricks, an Islamic scholar and Imam in Johannesburg, questions the very existence of any sort of anti-homosexual decree in the Quran, citing the Old Testament tale of Sodom and Gomorrah as the most oft misconstrued passage of all, in which God's condemnation of rape has been twisted to include all forms of male-male love. It happens to be the same argument made by Western scholars in Karslake's film, and though it's been used in such nations as Saudi Arabia and Iran as the base rationale for government-sanctioned punishment and execution, it unites religious intolerance in harmonious discord.

Despite the instructive necessity of scenes like these, it's "A Jihad for Love"'s focus on the personal conflicts, tortures, and everyday quandaries of articulate, desperate people like Hendricks that truly ennoble the film. "Help us remove this desire and replace it with love," a praying woman is heard saying at the beginning of the film, and it's a stunning phrase, heartbreaking in the fact of its irreconcilability, which defines all of the film's principal subjects. Some show their faces and some do not, yet when they have chosen not to Sharma heightens their abstraction to both humane and artistically valid ends -- the closeness of human bonds and the rights of two people to lovingly touch one another are impossible to misrepresent.

The decision for some -- like Amir, an Iranian seeking asylum and living as a refugee in Turkey with other young, ostracized gay men in one cramped room, or Maryam and Maha, a Moroccan and Egyptian lesbian couple -- to not show their face on-camera does not make them any less brave than those who do, including middle-aged Sufi lesbian couple Ferda and Kiymet, living in the more sexually permissible Istanbul, and the Egyptian Mazen, who had been imprisoned and tortured as one of the "Cairo 52," men rounded up from a gay club, before remaking his life in Paris.

Yet when Mazen calls home to his mother, invoking Allah with reverence, Sharma's film reinforces the fact that complete escape is not only impossible, but in many cases, unwanted. "A Jihad for Love" depicts those who do not reject their faith but must also choose survival. The movie isn't perfect -- even for an eighty-minute film shot in twelve countries and following at least eight principal personages there's a bit of narrative filler, including Ferda and Kiymet's rambling conversation about the presumed sexuality of a parrot, and too often Sharma relies on an overly familiar slow-mo-imagery-and-melismatic vocals to string together scenes. But as a document of testimonials from those who otherwise dare not speak, and for whom being gay is like being born, inextricably, into the lowest possible caste, "A Jihad for Love" is invaluable.

[Michael Koresky is co-founder and editor of Reverse Shot and the managing editor and staff writer of the Criterion Collection.]

Interesting comment here btw-what do you all think? To be clear-I am strongly against the Iran-phobes that surround us and have been speaking emphatically and clearly to the press about the war drums that are beating again and how a sovereign nation like Iran needs to decide its own fate-My interview on Democracy Now! is a case in point. This email is worth generating a discussion on and therefore I reproduce it below.

When I saw the movie last night I thought the portrayal of the situation in Iran was overly grim. During the discussions, the director expressed regret that he did not visit Iran and instead relied on the testimony of a group of Iranian asylum seekers in Turkey who had approached the UNHCR seeking refugee status in order to go settle in Canada, claiming that their lives in Iran were in danger because they were gay. One of them claimed having had a gay marriage in Iran, the videos of which had been seized by the police.
The idea of a gay marriage in Iran (video, cake, and all) sounds too improbable, especially in the case of lower middle-class Iranians from the provinces (Shiraz in this case). Their stories seem far-fetched to any Iranian ears.
Could these asylum seekers have improved their chances of winning asylum by participating in this documentary? Was the director manipulated?
In a world where top-ranking French ministers talk about nuclear attack against Iran, Hillary Clinton talks of "annihilating Iran", and Israeli officials drop hints of preemptive nuclear attacks against Iran, increasingly it is Iran that is facing an existential threat, not Israel (a country with the bomb).
There is a very real chance that this film will be used as ammunition by Zionist sympathizers to bolster their case for further marginalizing Iran. And worse.

Muhsin responds to Ashok Row Kavi

Muhsin and Mazen have been here, tirelessly wowing audiences at the theater every night!
Here is Muhsin responding to a recent post that went out on a public listserve (and is included a few blog posts ago)

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

So many Love Jihadis...

Each one has an opinion...
Very soon all of us will be one!


Here is a recent response on AfterElton which reviews the film.

Last night, a friend and I went to see "A Jihad for Love". I have the common point of also coming from an environment that is very negative about being gay - the Christian church. I has since reconciled my Christian faith with my sexuality (gay) and so I realize now that i can be Christian & gay & its ok together. And this movie showed that you can also be gay and be Muslim. In both cases, the religion is more liberal, but still it is the religion. This film gave me hope that one day gay Muslim people wont be so persecuted and hated and that one day, lots more Muslims might be ok with it. Some Muslims are already, as are in the film, of course.

"Jihad for Love" is an educational movie that I think all GLBT people should see. They need to know how it is for gays in other places, such as the Muslim world. And it would help them to be thankful for how good we have it here. We should not take our sexual freedom for granted here in the US, and we should guard this freedom. We can do this by being loving and kind to each other and spread peace. And not be obnoxious, self-absorbed, and rude, but instead be thankful, peacemakers, and spread our message of freedom in ways that the straight world will be able to understand and agree. We need to educate them by being good examples of how great gay people are for our society. Showing all the good things we have to offer. I know its idealistic but some in our community really need to hear this message and see this film. It was about love....winning them over through love. See this film, it will move you.

An interesting conversation has been unfolding on the FaceBook group of this film.

Message # 1
جميع الارهابيين هم مثلي الجنس ولعن من قبل النبي Mahomet

كل المسلمين ليسوا إرهابيين
ولكن جميع الإرهابيين هم من المسلمين!

المسلمون لكم ان اليهود هم عنوا به النبي Mahomet


يهودي يتحدث اليكم

Message # 2

"Lee Keen (London) wrote:where does it say in the holy Quran that its fine to be gay. there is no gay in islam..""Where in the Quran does it say it is fine NOT to be gay. There is no heterosexism in Quran. Surat ul Nisa says DON"T use your sex on women. It says protect women, and never use them. NEVER abuse them. The Lutis are the straight HETERO who hate and hurt. That is whom GOD says GOD hates: the ones GOD destroys are the ones like the people of Salih aws, the people of Nuh aws, the people of Lut aws, the people of Yunus aws, the people of Isa aws who hate and hurt and use and abuse, NOT US: gay people are the people God blesses in Quran. Being gay is a gift from God, Alhamduli'LLAH arrabial amin. Thank God I am gay. and God save us all from hate. The jihad of love is Islam. The GREATjihad is the jihad of love: ahadith

Message # 3
where does it say in the holy Quran that its fine to be gay???????????????????????
??????????????????????????????????????????????

there is no gay in islam...
wot u talkin about!!!
may Allah tala 4give me....

Message # 4
punishments from god come to wer ppl r gay
dis is wrong in soo many ways
its haram to be gay
ur muslim den readhadits and da holy quran
ur not born gay
u choose to be gay
and dats wrong
my opinion
but i pray allah(swt) guides u to da rite path
and forgives u
cause muslims arent suppose to begay

Message # 5

"god made us males and females so we can be together its written with straight words and not only us even animals its the nature that god made that means ur going against that nature and going against god"

You seem to be basing your 'truth' more on the principles of nature than god. If u believe nature/science to be the answer to this issue, then u should be aware that there have in fact been many studies on the sexual practises of animals, both in the wild&domestic settings, which show a wide degree of homosexual activity. Coincidentally, this activity is perfectly acceptable amongst the groups of animals concerned, even those not actively participating in the fun.
I believe that if there was a God, it/he would have more important concerns than consenting individuals participating in something that comes natural to them, which doesn't cause harm&which, let's face it, is a much better hobby than hate-mongering.

Message # 6
It is not known whether people are 'born' gay or not. This is a very controversial subject and is open to much debate, so unless you can provide some new evidence, I suggest you do your research first before making such sweeping statements.
Even if people aren't 'born gay', that doesn't mean it is a choice. It is something which comes from within a person, just like ever other aspect of their personality, and is a huge and very important part of who they are as human beings. To deny this is to deny oneself and to live a lie. I'm sure no God would want people to live lies. Let me ask a question. Do u believe that the internet is wrong just because it hadn't been 'born' at the time of the Quran being written? No, of course not. And it is your choice to use it responsibly if you wish to do so. So please stop the hatred & let others make their own responsible choices in life and let them get on with it while u enjoy yours.

And then this from Lebanon (and I cannot comment but just reproduce, from Nawasib Mushriq)!

"I enjoy sodomy in the masjid alhamdulillah"


Hebron Hell 1 and Hell 2

Many friends have asked me how Asif is doing. He is still working hard and quietly in Palestine and has sent this profound despatch from Hebron which I reproduce below.

I recently visited, the city of Hebron or Al-Khalil after having tried a few weeks beforehand. The first time I tried to visit Hebron, it was on a tour with "Breaking the Silence" organized by former IDF officers who have taken the very brave step to speak out to Israeli's and the world about their experiences in Hebron.

http://www.shovrimshtika.org/

Setters met us at the entrance to the city and denied us entry. The Israeli Police (who are responsible for settlers in the West Bank) asked us not to get off our bus as they "could not guarantee our safety". After we confirmed our intention to visit Hebron and not to demonstrate, they told us we would be arrested for "attempting to incite public disorder". After repeating our intention to visit Hebron, we were asked to wait so the police to confer with others. The entire episode was recorded on video as all parties (including the police) are armed with camcorders. After 45 minutes, the area was designated a "closed military area" so we could not enter.

It was only "a closed military area" for the tour bus and not to anybody else.

As we were not able to enter Hebron from the Jewish side and could not enter from the Arab side (it is currently illegal for Israeli's to enter areas administered by the PA) we went to the South Hebron Hills to meet with villagers who spoke about their situation with regards to the lawless nature of settlers and their activities. The settler police also followed our bus around for the entire day to ensure we were not going to harm outposts etc. As our tour guide and ex army officer Yehuda put it, "if I have to work on a Friday, so do they".

The situation in Hebron is one of the oddest here in Palestine in that it is the only city here with settlements in and around the city. The IOF has never withdrawn from this city for this reason. The Hebron agreement divided Hebron into 2 sections, H1 (under full Palestinian control) and H2 under Israeli security control. In 2002, the IOF reentered H1 as part of Operation Defensive shield.

Hebron is home to 150,000 Palestinians with 35,000 living in H2. There are some 500-600 settlers living in H2 many living in the old market area who are protected by some 2000 Israeli soldiers. Hebron also has more checkpoints in and around the city then the entire West Bank, so it is no wonder it's a hotbed for frustration, despair and hopelessness. I call them Hell 1 and Hell 2. (I'm sure I'm not alone in this)

As you drive to Hebron from Ramallah, you travel along winding roads, steep hills, and sharp turns. At various points you see small villages, settlements and olive groves. The road is old, not very well maintained and extremely accident-prone At some point on the way, we travel on a nicely paved well lit highway, but only for a few kilometers as the minute you come near a larger settlement, you must divert to the back road.

The colour of the license plate dictates which road you can use and where you can go in the West Bank. The colour that is issued to you is determined by your race or status within Israel and the West Bank. For a Canadian, this seems highly ridiculous and very problematic.

As you enter the areas surrounding Hebron you start to see many more observation towers, particularly at entrances to small towns and villages. Occasionally you see a gate at the entrance to these towns. This is not to keep trespassers out, I assure you, It's to keep the residents in. In many places the entrances to villages are only open for a certain times in the day for an hour or so, depending on the mood of the officer posted there. (These can change randomly as most IOF officers are young, pissed off, hungry, and unpredictable) Usually it's at the most inconvenient time say, 6:30-7:30 in the morning and 7:00-8:00 in the evening. So if you are say a university student and have classes at 10-4, you must leave your home at 6:30 since there is usually a checkpoint or two on your way and come home after dark in order to sleep in your own damn house.

Upon entering Hebron, you see a bustling, busy city, which looks like other Palestinian cities. The old city market is really quite beautiful; I actually liked it more that the old city market in Jerusalem. I think the fact that there were no fat Tourists walking around in shorts and visors, fake "holy land" stalls and other tourist advertising everywhere was a relief.

As you walk through the market towards the tomb of the Patriarchs and Ibrahim Mosque, you begin to see less and less people, and the shops get more and more sparse. At one point you realize that there is metal netting over your head with garbage, dirty diapers, bottles, bricks, and other rubbish thrown at it from the houses above. "That is what the settlers throw down on us as we walk in the market", our friend who is taking us around tells us, sometimes, it's dirty water, hot coffee, and even bleach. The netting is installed by the Authority to protect whomever is walking below. It doesn't always work.

Although this area we are walking through is 100% Palestinian, IOF soldiers wander the streets whenever they like, enforcing arbitrary curfews, area blockages checkpoints. On Saturday's (shabat for Jews), settlers walk through the old market harassing patrons, overturning shopkeeper display tables, abusing residents, all under the watchful eye of soldiers who are there for "their protection". They are not accountable to anyone, as their actions are accountable to the Israeli Police and not the military. There are several documented cases of setters abusing or attacking IOF soldiers who are trying to stop them from committing acts of violence against Palestinians.


We were able to visit a home of a poor family who lived next to some settler houses. They invited us up to their roof so we can get a better visual of what this odd situation actually looks like. We went up to their roof and we were ordered by a soldier from an observation post some 10 meters from the house to get off the roof, as we didn't have permission to be on it. We responded with a confirmation that we did by the owner of the house and that were just visiting the family. From the roof you can see the ghost town of what used to be the main vegetable market. The shops are closed, there are no people and the entrances to the houses are sealed off with stars of David spray painted on them.

To get an idea of what this situation looks and feels like, imagine a split level roof of a run down house. The to get to the roof you have to climb up a spiral staircase that is covered with a mesh netting as settlers throw garbage on you on your way up. (There is no protection from dirty water, bleach or god forbid urine.). You are forbidden to use the higher level of your roof as you might try something against the 20 settlers who live in a modern, gleaming townhouse complex next to you. You are forbidden to close your front door, as the army won't let you. Soldiers use one room in your home so they can have tea, coffee, or sleep whenever they feel like. Two of your children have been killed after two settler children set their bedroom on fire. No charges are ever laid since the perpetrators of this crime are under 16….after all, children cannot be held accountable. Your kids cry when they hear English because the associate with violence committed by soldiers and settlers. You have been offered $2 Million US to sell your home, but what's the point? 2 of your kids are dead and after they buy this one, you neighbours will be in the same situation you are.

Can you even imagine what this feels like?

Of course they offer us tea while we are hearing and seeing this horrific situation, because they have to be kind to guests. Alhan wa sahlan. They tell us about the orphanage nearby is being closed down because it's called an Islamic Centre for Orphans and clearly is a front for Hamas. 700 orphans will be thrown out onto the street.

As we headed towards the mosque we crossed 2 checkpoints. Our local friend is not sure if Ashraf, one of our volunteers in Nablus we are with can actually come into the mosque, as you have to cross a final checkpoint before entering. She suggests we stay together as a group and she can say we are all Internationals. We put him in the middle of our group (kind of the same way elephants do with their young when facing attacks) and we make it through the final checkpoint.

3 checkpoints to get into the place where the Prophet Abraham is said to have bought land to bury his wife and family.

The mosque itself is quite pretty and houses cenotaphs dedicated to Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Leah, Isaac and Rebecca. The caves beneath are where it is believed they are actually buried. They are not accessible to the public. The mosque itself is divided into sections for Jews and Muslims. Jews cannot enter the Muslim side, and Muslims cannot enter the Jewish side.

Christians can enter both.

For ten days of the year, the entire area is accessible only to Jews, and 10 days only to Muslims.

So I was a Christian for the day. After we left the Muslim side, our Palestinian friends left us to enter the Jewish side, as they could not come in. Again 3 checkpoints, the final one consisting of me being asked if I had a gun, for my passport and being told I could not enter.

When I asked for a reason why, it was inferred that it was because I was Muslim. When I told them I was a Christian, I was given a confused and puzzled look because no one who was really a Muslim/terrorist/crazyArab would ever dream of pretending to be a Christian to see the tomb of Abraham.

Duh? You have to lie to do everything around here!!! The fact that I am a Muslim whose coming to see the situation in the "holy land" here through his own eyes would have denied me access to even step out of Ben Gurion Airport.

I was asked how long I would be in the Jewish side and to make it short. I prayed a secret prayer to Abraham (mostly to give sense to his disappointing descendents) and left.

After leaving this "sacred" space, I felt more contempt and hatred of religion then I have ever felt before in my life. The presence of soldiers, checkpoints, walls, hatred and suspicion erases any feeling of wonder, love, and reverence.

As we were leaving the tombs, one of our group members spoke with some of the dozens of soldiers "guarding" the area on how they felt about being in Hebron. Unsurprisingly, they all said they hated being there and were hoping to get out soon. We approached the area round the corner that was permissible to only settlers and the few Palestinian families that lived there. At the checkpoint, we spoke with 2 young soldiers about the situation. Our 21 year old Palestinian friend started to ask them what they thought of the situation and how they felt about closing access to streets, denying Palestinians to drive their cars or walk to their homes, closing businesses and markets based on race, and why everybody could not live together.

Had they known he was a Palestinian, they would have probably yelled at us to leave, but as we were an International group, he was able to blend in with us. The soldiers were both 21 and from Northern Israel and had only been it was their 1st year of military service. They explained to him that he did not know the situation and had only heard the other side. They did however recognize that the situation in Hebron was completely out of control and that the settlements were the cause of much strife to the local community.

It was the first time he had ever had a conversation with an Israeli officer that did not involve being barked at in line at a checkpoint or during one of the many military incursions into Nablus.

Thinking back on that day, I could not help but think of my youth I volunteer with in Toronto, and had if both he and the soldier had been out of this crazy situation, they would have just been two guys hangin' out.

What I saw in the old city of Hebron is only a small glimpse of the reality of what Hebron is like, only 1 settlement in a series of settlements that are designed to ensure that it's local population leaves it's chaos and madness. Many families have left their homes, business, and livelihoods, but many have stayed, as they really have no other places to go. It's not as if there are other places in Palestine that do not come with their own problems brought on by the 60 year old occupation and the worlds indifference to it.

23.5.08

A Christian, presumably?

An interesting email for all to discuss. My advice to the gentleman and all others who have not seen what they speak about-PLEASE SEE THE FILM!

Dear Mr. Sharma,
Hello. I have not seen your film as of yet, but I admire the guts you've had to produce it. Also, though I am a Christian I am much opposed to the persecution of homosexuals. What's more, I'm libertarian-leaning in my politics.
Therefore, the following is neither about your orientation nor about the gay community as a whole. I cannot help echoing the sentiment of film reviewer Jim Ridley, who writes that your movie "leaves open a provocative question: If you pick and choose which tenets of a religion apply to you, is it still a religion?"
That is a very good, very fair question, and should be put also to professing Christians who, like yourself, are attempting to syncretize Christianity and homosexuality. What offends me is neither that you are gay nor that you are Muslim - but that you are presumptuous enough to think you can just go ahead and alter the contours of a given religion.
Now, as a Christian, I must tell you that I hold Islam to be a false religion and Muhammad a false prophet. However, looking at it from your point of view, if you hold that he was a genuine prophet and that Allah's authority stands behind the Qur'an, then how do you presume to suggest that it's okay to be a gay Muslim? If you want to be gay, then why not just pick a different religion or start your own? If you want to be Muslim, then why wouldn't you obey what you believe to be Allah's word? If Allah is the true God, then why should he change his standards for you? And why on earth would you expect him to?
I'm sorry but while, like you, I am distressed by Islamic violence, nonetheless you show a stark lack of integrity to think that you can be a member of a given religion yet not bother adhering to that religion's standards. It's hypocrisy. How do you explain yourself?
Thanks and regards,
Andy Derksen

"Tell me I have led a good life. . . .

Tell me I'm a good man."
¾Saving Private Ryan (1998)

"No one is good except God alone."
¾Jesus (Mark 10:18)

Also, I just have to reproduce this ; )

As a Roman Catholic I know that homosexuality is clearly defined in both the King James and the New International Version-as well as the North American Bible that I use. How can you keep fooling yourself into thinking that it is O.K. to practice fornication and the defilement of God's Creation-your body-the "Temple of the Holy Spirit". I may be wrong but I beleive that homosexuality is condemned as part of the Arabic Culture and teachings of traditional Islam, as it certainly is for Arabic Christians.
As God Loves You and so Do I. Please Turn Away, all Followers of Sinful Living, and Embrace the Teachings of Our Good Father so as to Gain Eternal Live in Heaven. I Humbly Ask this in the Name of Jesus Christ and through the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
-Carol


LOVE JIHADIS EVERYWHERE!

And yes, they are all showing up in large numbers at the New York theater where we are playing.

Get tickets at IFC with a list of showtimes

Many amazing discussions and panels are coming up in the next few days and those are at www.ajihadforlove.com

In the meantime emails like this make this Jihad so worthwhile for me and all of us.

Hi Parvez,

I just saw the documentary in New York City. I really have no words to express how much I admire its remarkable courage and vision. As a gay Muslim, I've had a mighty struggle adjusting to my homosexuality. I'm ashamed to say that I'm still struggling at 43! When I told my family for the first time that I was gay (last year), my mother told me menacingly that the Koran says I should be hung by my toes. Horrifying, no? In any event, I think your film is a revolutionary act. It will, needless to say, give hope and empower many, many people and most importantly, could actually save lives. Your work is a gift.
Hamid

21.5.08

Thousands of Emails and a BUZZ that is unbelievable!

Friends this is an amazing time-we have our big opening night in just a few hours-Tonight is already sold out but just remember there are six shows every day at the IFC Center on 6th Avenue.
I have received thousands of emails from across the world from people praying for the success of the film on American soil.
All of the reviews are pouring in.
There was a great interview yesterday on Democracy Now! which is now also up on YouTube.
The New York Times, New York Magazine, Indiewire, The New York Sun, The Village Voice and many others have published today. More details to follow.
Mazen, Imam Muhsin and Faisal Alam, the founder of Al-Ftiha are joining all of us in the theater.
This is just a sample email I just received.
Assalamo Alaikum Parvez,

Hope all is well with you Insha-Allah. Just found out about your work and your doc (Jihad for Love). I have not seen your movie yet but I applaud you for taking such a brave (and most probably life-threatening) step.
May Allah SWT protect you and your work!

Khuda Hafiz,


And here is another message from a Muslim man:

im sorry but im going to cut to the chase :Doesn't the qur'an say that gay sex is a sin ?i mean i have been raised all of my life believing this...it's just too hard for me to find peace in my self to either say it is or nothow did u do this ...and i would like a copy of the dvd if there is one sorry dude .....it's just to hard for me right now ...hope to hear from you soon

17.5.08

Our Jihad is making News

There is a great deal of anticipation and I will be blogging a lot more soon.

I returned to the Firehouse studios of my former employer Democracy Now!-a nationwide radio and television show with this great interview with award winning journalist Amy Goodman. Click here to view and listen.

One of the best and most comprehensive reports on the film is on here, from Turkey based journalist Dorian Jones, who also reports for the BBC.
Dorian Jones for Eurasia.Net

I was on the NPR Show-Takeaway ths morning. Click on this link to listen.

New York Magazine lists the film as a critics pick with a nice little blurb.

"Ignore the silly title. Parvez Sharma’s brave documentary about homosexuality in the Muslim world presents a brutally honest, eye-opening look at gay and lesbian individuals who continue to practice their religion, despite its blunt, often violent rejection of their orientation.

New York Magazine also writes about the film, in this short write-up-"How Parvez Sharma made 'A Jihad for Love"
Here is a link to an excellent interview in the New York Blade (the grammatical errors are not from my speaking! And I am misquoted on 'there are only six Islamic states')

Struggles of Gay Muslims
Local filmmaker Parvez Sharma discusses homosexual Muslims—and the trouble with U.S. activists who try to help them.

15.5.08

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
UNAIDS, India

rowkavi@gmail.com

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:
personal.
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"

Followers

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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