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Parvez Sharma also blogs at The Huffington Post,

Parvez writes for The Guardian

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25.8.08

Islam 'recognizes homosexuality' (Jakarta Post)

Islam 'recognizes homosexuality'

Abdul Khalik , The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Fri, 03/28/2008 1:38 AM | Headlines
Homosexuals and homosexuality are natural and created by God, thus permissible within Islam, a discussion concluded here Thursday.
Moderate Muslim scholars said there were no reasons to reject homosexuals under Islam, and that the condemnation of homosexuals and homosexuality by mainstream ulema and many other Muslims was based on narrow-minded interpretations of Islamic teachings.
Siti Musdah Mulia of the Indonesia Conference of Religions and Peace cited the Koran's al-Hujurat (49:3) that one of the blessings for human beings was that all men and women are equal, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, social positions or even sexual orientation.
"There is no difference between lesbians and nonlesbians. In the eyes of God, people are valued based on their piety," she told the discussion organized by nongovernmental organization Arus Pelangi.
"And talking about piety is God's prerogative to judge," she added.
"The essence of the religion (Islam) is to humanize humans, respect and dignify them."
Musdah said homosexuality was from God and should be considered natural, adding it was not pushed only by passion.
Mata Air magazine managing editor Soffa Ihsan said Islam's acknowledgement of heterogeneity should also include homosexuality.
He said Muslims needed to continue to embrace ijtihad (the process of making a legal decision by independent interpretation of the Koran and the Sunnah) to avoid being stuck in the old paradigm without developing open-minded interpretations.
Another speaker at the discussion, Nurofiah of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), said the dominant notion of heterogeneity was a social construction, leading to the banning of homosexuality by the majority.
"Like gender bias or patriarchy, heterogeneity bias is socially constructed. It would be totally different if the ruling group was homosexuals," she said.
Other speakers said the magnificence of Islam was that it could be blended and integrated into local culture.
"In fact, Indonesia 's culture has accepted homosexuality. The homosexual group in Bugis-Makassar tradition called Bissu is respected and given a high position in the kingdom.
"Also, we know that in Ponorogo ( East Java ) there has been acknowledgement of homosexuality," Arus Pelangi head Rido Triawan said.
Condemnation of homosexuality was voiced by two conservative Muslim groups, the Indonesian Ulema Council (MUI) and Hizbut Thahir Indonesia (HTI).
"It's a sin. We will not consider homosexuals an enemy, but we will make them aware that what they are doing is wrong," MUI deputy chairman Amir Syarifuddin said.
Rokhmat, of the hardline HTI, several times asked homosexual participants in attendance to repent and force themselves to gradually return to the right path.

24.8.08

In the Bay

The audiences here are loving the film. I am surprised and happy at the number of people showing up and yes I am really happy with the Desi and Muslim turnout. Big thank yous to TRIKONE, 3rdi and SWANABAQ. Many touching and compelling Q and A's and interactions have happened and I have been talking with audiences for up to 40 minutes!
More updates and experiences from the road here in the Bay area will follow-meanwhile here are two emails from a Muslim and a non-Muslim after they saw the film in Berkeley last night...
From the Muslim:
Salaam, Parvez:
I was very nice to meet you last night at the 7:20 screening. Your film was very poignant. My objective is to open dialogue within the ummah so that people who are dealing with myriad issues feel like they can stay within the family and receive compassion and understanding. It hurts my heart to think about people abandoning Islam because they don't "fit." That is such a Western concept, and one I don't believe is inherent to Islam. If I am wrong, let Allah be the judge. Please let me know if I can be of future assistance. If not, just know that I'll be thinking good thoughts for you.
From the non-Muslim:
Thank you for making such an amazing movie!!!
Not only did the movie do a good job at exploring the subtle religious and cultural differences of the gay community in different Islamic countries, but it managed to retain the commonality in all of them: the Jihad.
The struggle was what unified all the men and women in the movie and what made it relatable to me, who is pretty far away from Islam, but really close to similar struggles in the Catholicism.
It also brought focus to one connotation of the word Jihad, which is often trampled by those pushed by what we read in the daily papers: the sense of struggle.
An Italian dancer/chemist fan,
Massimo

and this from FATIMA:
Hey Parvez, it was nice meeting you on Friday night. Thanks for making this wonderful film. Your movie has greatly touched and inspired me to embrace Islam.

19.8.08

INTRODUCING: A NEW VOICE FROM TEHRAN!


My dear friend Ava writes a blog in Farsi in Tehran. As I have pointed out in my interviews everywhere, amongst other things- Iran has the worlds largest, most meaningful and active blogospheres-alive with profound thoughts and everyday experiences of living within a theocracy. Ava and I talk a lot and she and I have connected in so many special ways because of 'Jihad'. I will now begin to share with all of you some of her blog entries from Tehran. This is a remarkable Iranian woman writing regularly from the Tehran of 2008. Please post comments and I will forward them on to her. So I am very happy and excited to introduce all of you to this new and hopefully continuing blogger-these are words from one of the smartest, and most attractive ; ) Iranian women I know and yes she does live in Tehran-the capital of that nation- so many fail to understand and love to demonize.

AVA WILL BE BLOGGING FROM TEHRAN REGULARLY here on the Jihad Blog.

BLOG ENTRY 1
  • Salaam
  • Ss….( unclear sound out of boredom and ignorance)

    The Iranian officer in passport control at Imam Khomeini’s airport made that sound when I said hi and put my passport on his desk. He avoided any eye contact until he wanted to check if the photo in my passport conforms with me. He stamped the passport and put it on his desk and turned his face away.

    I loved to tell him that this is my homeland country as is his and he had no right to frown at me instead of welcoming me just because he feels superior by wearing that uniform and sitting behind that desk. But I swallowed my words.

    The concierge of my building was happy to open the door for me in middle of the night. The poor old man who lives 70 km away from the city and his salary is only 150 $ per month was the first one to smile at me. I wonder how on earth he could manage to feed his family with that little sum of money!

    The next morning when I saw my car in the parking place I didn’t recognize it. My car was shining! The Afghani boy who works as a cleaner in the building together with one of my neighbors had washed my car. My telephone and electricity bills which were more than 100 $ were temporarily paid by the other neighbor of the first floor! The one with a religious wife, whose face was always covered behind her black Chador, knocked my door and gave me a nice welcome with fresh bread first thing in the morning. It’s amazing that with all the economical and social crises that people are facing in their daily life, the culture as well as relations have still remained strong.

    Unfortunately apart from the people the rest of life in Tehran is not that pleasant. For the first few days it was difficult to drive in Tehran. Not only because of too many cars and heavy traffic, but also because of difficulty to adjust myself again with the driving style of Tehran, though the style is very simple: no rules! I wish disciplinary forces had made tight rules over driving instead of women’s outfit. It’s unbelievable that moral Police forces are standing at every corner of this big city under a 40 degree heat to check out women’s dress code while this crazy driving manner is out of control.

    Electricity goes off once or twice a day each time 2-3 hours, even in banks or hospitals. Inflation has affected everything: 30% on rice, 20% on dairy products, 30 % on rent and so on…

    I remembered when I wanted to pay the departure tax at the airport before leaving the country; I asked the guy why the fee was always changing? And he replied: “Do you guys expect me to answer all your questions with 200 $ (Tuman) salary per month? Instead of getting angry I got embarrassed and sad.

    However the TV anchor woman, while being, happy to be shown on the TV is giving a report of the new agriculture method in Zimbabwe, unemployment in The States or the bus that was off the road and caused 17 injuries in a far corner of New Zealand. I’d love to tell her how I felt about her but again I swallowed my words. Later on when she reported on the scientists’ latest discovery of Apes cells in Tanzania my words were blurted out.

    Later at night I was lying down on the couch and watching the State TV proud report on Olympic opening ceremony and the presence of our athletes, although all the girls and the so-called nudity shots were cut out of the scene. How proud we are!

    I was turning like a pancake on the couch, a few minutes on my back and then on my stomach. I asked myself: How does it feel being back home after a while? Home? Where is home? I remembered this little poem:

    Oh, God!

    What bridge in which part of the world has broken?

    That no one reaches home.


    BLOG ENTRY 2

-“Is your pass card still valid?”

I said yes to the security woman and placed my bag under the X-ray to be checked.

-“May I see it?”

I nodded with confident, took the bag and put my hands into my purse to grab the card while hiding my fingernails from her. Although the security room was dark, I kept my sunglasses on to make sure she can not see that I’m wearing mascara.

I showed her my card as quick as possible but before putting it back in my purse she said:

“Oh, do you have nail polish?”

-“No, this is just a varnish! As you can see there’s no color.” I said.

-“But I see the shining, you are not allowed to get into the building like this. It surprises me that after 20 years of work in here that you still want to round the rules.” She said with a big smile on her face while smelling like fried sweet onion.

After a brief discussion, she gave me a pad and nail-polish remover. I removed it and left the room, heading towards my own department.

This is how I entered the State Television building yesterday.

My colleagues were watching a live report on an Iranian wrestler in the Olympic Games when I entered the room full of anger and hatred. When the Iranian athlete lost the game, some shouted and cursed him and some got happy and said: “Yeah…, we don’t deserve it…the government doesn’t give a damn about the sports or sportsmen, but now when it comes to the Olympic Games they want to be proud of their gold medals!” One of them said: “They had even censored the report, because the Chinese girl walking along with the athletes to the ground was wearing a short skirt.”

I was surprised to see my colleagues criticizing everything from head to toe so openly. Everyone was aggressively complaining about the 20 to 30% inflation on daily costs without caring about the security man who was walking through the corridor. I was imagining how Dutch people would react if suddenly facing some 30% inflation rather than their 4%? The big difference, at least, would be their permission to react!

Instead of welcoming me back home, my colleagues asked: “Couldn’t you have stayed there? Why did you come back?”

The hot subject for chatting in the office was the fake honorary doctorate certificate of the new Minister of Interior from Oxford University which was reported in the website of a conservative parliament member.

Late in the afternoon, I paid a visit to my bank, the electricity was cut and 38 people were ahead of me waiting to be served if electricity comes back before the end of official working hours. Before leaving the bank, I received a message which was awfully appropriate for the situation: Blackouts always remind us of four people: Edison’s mother and father, and our president’s mother and sister!!!

On my way back home, when waiting for the green light, I saw a little boy asking people to buy his flowers. I told him: “It’s hot, do you want me to get an ice-cream for you?” He replied: “I’m not a beggar, I need to work and make 7000 tumans (7$) a day”. My heart shrank.

When I got home, I turned on my computer to check that website and the articles about the fake certificate. After half an hour dealing with the super-slow dial-up connection, the webpage popped up but the website was filtered. I tried to visit the other websites: BBC Persian and YOU TUBE were filtered. I even checked my Face Book account and realized that it was filtered too. And that was the moment for repeating my favorite Dutch phrase for 10 times: “God ver doma.”

Later at night, when watching “Sex and the city” TV series on my DVD player which I had borrowed it from my friends, there was a sudden blackout. I lit a candle and laid on my couch, thought how gezilig is my life in Tehran! I grabbed my mobile to chat with a friend and kill the time. I dialed the number but there was the same old voice saying: “The network is busy!” I dialed again and there was another familiar phrase: “This recipient is not in the coverage area.” I dialed again only to hear that: “The connection canceled, please try again later.”

I took the telephone and dialed my own mobile number to check if it was working, but it said: “This number does not exist in the network.”

12.8.08

Great Interview

This is a good interview about the film and the fundamental inequalities of the film industry (here in 'Amreeka')

Muslim Pride

Gay and lesbian Muslims struggle to reconcile their homosexuality with their faith in Parvez Sharma's documentary A Jihad for Love.

Watching 'Jihad...' in Tehran

Another screening....this time in private, with curtains drawn, presumably...
A friend in Tehran invited some trusted friends including filmmakers over and they watched the film-I will not reveal names here but here is part of the email I got...
Hi Parvez,
I haven't heard from you for a long time but I know you are very busy with presenting your film around the world and The States.
I think it's a big success and I hope it goes perfect with everything.
I came back to Tehran....
I watched your beautiful film again yesterday with a few of my friends,they were all so touched by it---it is a powerful film and specially the story of the iranians were more touching for us.We have some similar scenes in our films....

8.8.08

Extended Run in LA and Palm Springs!


Here is a new review of the film in the LA Independent
"
A Jihad For Love” is at once a heartbreaking and hopeful documentary written and directed by Parvez Sharma about the plight of homosexuals (men and women) within the Islamic faith."


I have been on my endless travels talking to audiences around the world and learning new things about my work through their eyes. This is satisfying in many deep ways and also has an element of the surreal about it.

Anyway I have just returned from a very successful week in LA and Palm Springs and I have understood deeply that the intellectual vacuum we assume exists down there in Southern California may be a myth after all!

I was also surrounded by the love of Mickey and Tom, Firoozeh, Reza and Amanda, Richard and Sussan, Larry and all of my lovely desi friends- Rashmi, Sanjay, Ayesha and Khadija, Juhi, Naveed and Mushtaq who even organized a delicious dinner ; )

I have had remarkable conversations with the inhabitants of la la land and have learnt profoundly how much the legacy of that fateful day in February 1979 when the Marja-al-taqlid with those penetrating eyes (Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini) returned to Tehran- creates fissures in Tehrangeles for the Iranians in exile. More on that will be posted on my blog soon at www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com, which I do as always encourage all of you to visit. Some of the new and amazing press on the film with comments that pour in every day is also posted there.

On another note:
We have been extended for another week in both LA and Palm Springs. My main mission has always been to prove to the US Box Office that this very Muslim film, made with a very Muslim lens can succeed at the US Box Office. Jaded as I feel sometimes, I still get the greatest satisfaction when I hear an 'American' audience member stand at the Box Office and ask for 'a ticket for Jihad please!'

So humbly and hopefully I do request all of you to send everyone you know to this second week and especially this weekend (if we do great box office numbers this weekend- we could even have a third week!)

Here are the showtimes in LA
Fri 7:30 pm
Sat - Sun 3:30, 7:30 pm
Mon - Thurs 7:30 pm
Regent Showcase Theater
614 N. La Brea Ave. Los Angeles, CA. 90036 323-934-1770
Website: http://www.regenttheaters.com/nowplayingSHOWCASE.html

And for Palm Springs:
Fri - Thu: (12:30), 3:00, 5:30, (8:00)
Camelot Theatres
2300 E Baristo Road
Palm Springs, CA 92262
760.325.6565
Dolby Digital
website: http://www.camelottheatres.com/index.html

7.8.08

La La Land

I leave La La Land with a heavy heart. Too often many of us on the East Coast and elsewhere assume a kind of intellectual vacuum in this town. While West Hollywood many times does appear to be out of touch with reality and conversations about Islam or global politics at the Abbey (for example) are not destined to go very far- I have been amazed with the quality of discussions I have had with the media here and indeed with audiences. The film will be held over both here and in Palm Springs for another week (I will update that information as soon as I have showtimes).

A highlight of my trip was being asked to sit for Don Bachardy. Don is Christopher Isherwoods lifelong partner and now a 74 year old widower. I spent the day sitting still for this remarkable man who has lived history-and whose hands have worked the faces of remarkable people from Anais Nin to Aldoux Huxley and so many more. I am told it is an honour to be asked and I feel humbled. I spent much of the time in his Santa Monica studio observing his hands. They show signs of age but move across canvas with remarkable alacrity and an almost spirtual certitude. Don does not talk much. He is shy and very childlike in some ways. The energy he exudes is of one who has lived a remarkable and full life, who has met most of the important people in the last century of Western history and who still retains an amazing curiosity for his subjects. I am told three portraits with him is enough for him to get a sense of your being.
He told me I was very 'still'. I know I was that day, mostly out of awe and in as much as I was in a meditative and observational state. Stillness however is not a quality that I think I usually posess. But on Monday I was watching Don Bachardy watching me.
I read Isherwood when I was 12, so this portrait session was like coming full circle with this phase of my life.
I remain, deeply fascinated by 'The Hands of Don Bachardy'.
I hope, one day, to ask him for permission to use one of those portraits on this blog.

Finally-John who saw the film here sends this touching email:
dear Parvez,
my friend and i saw "Jihad" on saturday night and enjoyed both the film and the question and answer period after.
i must apologize, however, for using the term " Islamists" in place of Moslems when i was speaking with you. please attribute that to being a bit tired...but not because of the film.
as i had said during our exchange this film really pointed up, for me, the great faith and devotion of the subjects in the film to Islam. i felt that this demonstration of their faith was the highlight of the film for me and spurs my hope that more non- Moslems would see it.
it is my great pleasure, and good fortune, to have as my close friend a very devout Moslem who demonstrates to me daily what a loving and inclusive religion Islam is.
we had both come to "Jihad" with sincere hope that some answer to the question of homosexual love's place in Islam would jump out at us. though we didn't experience any epiphany our love as friends will continue to grow as will our respect for one another's beliefs and "jihads".
thank you, Parvez, for this fine film, and your commitment to your subjects struggles.
be well,
John
p.s. much better than any sequel to " another gay movie"! :)

Parvez,
You're documentary was very well done.
I hope the film, "Jihad for Love", has the power to bring some beneficial changes to the injustices that exist in many parts of the world. Not being a religious person myself, it's difficult to understand gays that remain faithful to a religion that does not tolerate their uniqueness. My partner is a former Mormon from Salt Lake City where his family still live. We have similar problems in our own country, though maybe not as extreme. I do work with Muslims in my office from Yemen, Iraq, Jordan, and Iran. They have been accepting of my being gay, so there is hope.
Thanks for making this colorful, interesting film. I wish more people will see it.


Here are some links to features:

The Long Beach Press Telegram has a nice feature with interviews

Also this excellent interview with Yatrika Shah-Rais. Click on the Link and then click on the Global Village Icon from August 6, 2008 to play




3.8.08

Tehrangeles

So here I am in La La land having some really amazing conversations. We are trying to get more of those Iranians (also known as Eye-rain-ians on Fox Noise) and I will update you all soon!
But meanwhile a choice email has arrived from Fadia Darwish:

I just wanted to say that this whole thing about being gay, or lesbian and calling youself a muslim is a disgrace.I am so sick of this. YOu cannot be this way and call yourself a muslim. Its against the religion. you are not a muslim just because you say you are. In order to be a muslim you have to follow the religion. In the religion homosexuality is HARAM. ALSO this gay Imam, he is a JOKE like the resty of you. I how can he preach about Islam and he doesnt even follow it.

Not sure if she saw the film? But she did chose to include her email address and in this case I have no qualms in making it public, for anyone interested in her comments to reply. Fadia can be found at famuha21@yahoo.com

Also there is this email from Arash in Iraqi Kurdistan:
Hi Mr. Parvez
I thank you for creating a movie on homosexuality.
My name is Arash, I am 24 from Iraqi Kurdistan. I cannot wait until I can see your film. People across the muslim world and middle east has been very ignorant of this issue.
I want to talk to you about my personal problem, as muslim, i could have written down on your site but i prefer a reply and to get to know you.
thank you
Arash

This one from Melbourne:
Hello Parvez
I just saw your film tonight at the Melbourne Film Festival in Australia - very large audience. Congratulations - it was both a moving and entertaining film.
Normally I don't send emails to directors but I read on your blog that you have been getting hate mail so I wanted to do my bit in sending you a positive email!
Cheers
Bree McKilligan

There is a great write up on EDGE NY
New Film Examines Being Gay + Muslim

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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