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Parvez writes for The Guardian

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27.12.08

Parvez Sharma is not a Muslim he is an apostate.

A new Facebook group called the above has just been started.

This is how the group describes itself:

This group is for anyone who believes that Parvez Sharma does not represent the beliefs of the Muslim faith or the Holy Quran, and for everyone who is aware that homosexuality does not exist in Islam.

Parvez Sharma has insulted Islam and the Holy Quran. He claims to be a Muslim while he is an openly gay filmaker who directed and produced a film called A Jihad for Love which is about gays and lesbians.

Homosexuality is strictly forbidden in Islam and the Holy Quaran, ayone who is a homosexual and calls themself a Muslim is an apostate. Parvez Shamra needs to stop calling himself a Muslim because he is an apostate. Given the fact that homosexuality is a capital offense in Islam.

Right now, it has only two members.

Mohamad Rasheed who is he founder of this group also has posted this on my wall-
"Homosexuality does not exist in Islam, it is strictly forbidden in the Holy Quran and a capital offense in Islam. You are not a Muslim, you are an apostate."

Question of the day: What should I do?

11.12.08

Comments on Bullets in Bollywood

#1

Why is it that Muslim majority countries have such a hard time accepting democracy, pluraism and secular courts? Even somewhat moderate countries like Malaysia have a two tiered legal system with non-Muslims placed second class (Dhimmis). Saudi Arabia is an extreme example where even owning a non Islamic scripture can get you a very harsh penalty. Most others including Pakistan have versions of Sharia and hudood ordinances to include thought crimes like apostasy, blasphemy etc. all with very harsh punishments. The treatment of minorities by official law is apalling to say the least. Even non mainstream Muslims (Ahmadis) feel the heat. Women have half a vote, worth half a witness etc., all part of the law. Non-Muslims cannot hold any Government job etc. etc. Even in India, clerics managed to get a Muslim personal law. I am sure you remember the Shah Bano case where the secular court ruling for alimony was reversed by Muslim politicians. The loser was a poor Muslim woman. I feel your pain, but as many scholars have written there needs to a fundamental overhaul (reformation) much like every other religious group has done, to generate a massive majority liberal base. Only then will the influence of the Maulanas (clerics) on young minds reduce, and true democracy prosper. And these constant "Fatwas" are irritating......

# 2

Sometimes it seems like the most amazing miracle of all is that there are any people anywhere living in peace. But there are. At any given moment, somewhere someone is serene, healthy, secure, happy. It's hard to believe but it's true.

# 3

Parvez, You are thoughtful and meaningful as always. Not too many people can articulate their feelings and thoughts so honestly. Shukriya.

# 4

As an ex-Christian, ex-Catholic, permit me to observe that the inherent barbarism of many religions has turned many people off. Beyond that, their irrationalism and lack of evidence for all their gods and spiritual assertions makes rational people turn away.

Science produces verifiable knowledge, at best, religion produces unverifiable assertions, at worst, rationales for murder.

You might want to consider separating yourself from al of this nonsense. Personally, I find the picture of the vast and apparently purposeless universe that science produces much more emotionally rewarding than religion.

And it has the virtue of producing measurable, real results and encourages rationality.

# 5
You must be kidding! The worst barbarisms have been committed by Atheists who rationalizations permit them to kill millions of innocent people. God is not responsible for the ignorance of man. You obviously are a scientific illiterate to think science is anything more than convention. Even you must realize that the "apparently purposeless Universe" is your own illusionary construct.

# 6
Heh. I'm in a similar boat as you, in point of fact. I've decided, weighing the evidence for myself, that organized religion serves no purpose, and my personal code that I've cultivated compels me to reject the worship of any god that would create a world such as the one we live in.That said, I think there's a danger of being fundamentalist even as an atheist. There are a lot of atheists who seem intent on evangelizing their view aggressively -- not you though, arvay, just to be clear -- your post demonstrates a reasonable expression of your viewpoint. I've observed a number of avowed atheists who, on closer examination, seem to be disguising prejudice and ignorance in the cloak of their self-declared "supreme rationalism."Me? I'm an atheist because of my personal experiences, but I can't, as a rational man, completely discount the notion that other people may have had genuine religious experiences that I'm not privy to. In short, if I assume that my own perception must be the extent of the defined universe, that would make me as guilty of bigotry as a Christian who despises Muslims or a Muslim who demonizes Jews.That said, while we have our fundamentalist problems (thank you, Christopher Hitchens), atheists on the whole tend to be a reasonable, peaceable lot, I think. :)

# 7
I agree that atheist "fundamentalists" can be as insane as the religious kinds. The USSR actively persecuted religion and probably strengthened it. Altho I've seen programs about formerly Soviet Central Asia that show Muslim men happily sipping vodka :-)Basically, it makes sense for all of us to be tolerant and accepting of each other, even if we don't share the same views. We all inhabit the same planet and need to learn to live together peaceably

#8
Problems created by organized religions...

I think, I must watch Bill Maher's "Religulous."

#9
Don't bother, it's crap. And I'm saying that as an atheist. If you want someone who gives a decent, rational and even-handed case against organized religion, go find something by Richard Dawkins

# 10
Anybody who opts NOT to kill animals has made an advancement.

I met 2 good and decent people involved in the sacrifices today. One had a wounded finger. Although they are friends, part of me felt some revulsion. They may never make the same step you have. It isn't easy to perceive past what we have been taught since childhood.

# 11
Very thought-provoking article, Mr. Sharma. I think what we were all horrified to see in Mumbai was the product of the extreme politicization of religion, fueled in large part by governments in the West, like "with us or against us" Bush, for example. India has long been, with a few tragic exceptions, a place where lots of different kinds of people could coexist, and where it didn't matter so much who/how you worshiped. How will India, with the second largest population of Muslims in the world, fit into this Muslim nation vs. other dilemma?I don't read your piece as pro-vegetarian, but rather as frustration with Islam's glorification of violence and submission.

# 12
I thought "the West" and Bush were probably involved in the Mumbai attacks. Are you sure the vessels the terrorists used weren't supplied by Haliburton

# 13
What I meant by the West's promotion of the politicization of religion was that the vague and ultimately meaningless "War on Terror" has inevitably come to be seen as a War on Islam. I feel like this has seeped into countries with a Muslim population, where us. vs. them battles are being waged where inter-religious relations had previously been tolerable. Of course, throughout history, there have been significant and terribly bloody conflicts in India and all over the world--I'm not naive--due to religion, but this neocon good/evil, red state/blue state dichotomy has a monstrously infantalizing and regressive effect and is doing pluralistic societies no favors

#14
Really, now. What kind of response is that? If you categorize a whole religion as bad or evil, you only create LESS peace. No, you do not triumph in "enlightening" people. When denigrating a religion that is that old, that is so entrenched in one's ancestral "background" , it is not greeted with kindness. Mind you, religion is not always about theology. It is often about geography, history, and one's ethnicity. Of course not always. However, even hundreds of years before us, Sir Francis Bacon found that one's religion is determined in large part to where they were born and to whom they were born. So, please, your statement is not only so flawed, it is MEANT to divide. This is an archaic practice. Do I need to point out the violence in other "acceptable", PC religions? The slaughtering of animals? I'm also a hardcore animal rights advocate, so get ready to go toe-to-toe in backing up your arguments.

# 15
"I think what we were all horrified to see in Mumbai was the product of the extreme politicization of religion, fueled in large part by governments in the West."Then why are you contributing to the polarization by pushing this rather tunneled-vision opinion? The West is to blame that Pakistan is trying to detach Kashmir from India? Oh, really. Pakistani people and government have nothing to do with it, of course. Looking for culprits everywhere, but in your own neighborhood, will not advance the cause of reconciliation

#16
"The West is to blame that Pakistan is trying to detach Kashmir from India? Oh, really. Pakistani people and government have nothing to do with it, of course."Note the word "fueled" and phrase "in large part" in his statement. Where is he reassigning blame from Pakistan to the West exclusively or even mostly? "Large part" doesn't seem to mean "ALL" to me

#17
I believe he said "fueled in LARGE PART" by the West. Note the word "fueled". This doesn't completely reassign blame. Relax.

#18
Great article, Parvez. On my Pakistani-muslim side of the family, we are all vegetarian. I'm a vegetarian and I'm disgusted with this archaic practice. Please, those in no need to hunt anymore, people. This should be out of complete necessity only, not ritualised.

# 19

Parvez the great thing about be American is you can be Parvez Sharma, and anything and anybody you want to be, you can invent yourself and just be you...

Isn't that enough..?

#20
Mr. Parvez Sharma, I bow to you for such a clear and honest explanation of your feelings. Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis are of the same history, ethos, and culture, with variations and differences of course, but within the same space of Mother India (Bharat Mata). Music, food, folklore, etc. I believe this feeling you describe is the best way to fix the conflicts facings us with the dangerous divide between Hindu and Muslim. Why India cannot unite? That is the solution, a lose federalism. Bring back the Panchayat. Let everyone's religion worship God as they see fit without interfering with another, that has been the root of Hinduism. But right now India is a giant that cannot walk, as she is missing a part of each leg. India's Dharma is always in peril, as Sri Aurobindo asserted on 15 August 1947, until partition is reversed. This must go. And with India's Dharma in peril, the world's future looks bleak.Yes, vegetarianism is of the essence. Let Sattwic food decrease the animosity and respect for animals - Ahimsa - propel respect for men. Several critical concessions are a must, no religion should believed called to convert the other.

#21
The answer in not in going backwards but integrating the NOW. Change in a constant. What you are proposing is regressing to a past...you can never go home. How do you escape the time warp of your own conditioning, and shape those of others? Sorry, I am only good at posing questions...

#22
"What you are proposing is regressing to a past...you can never go home. "Only difference is, they ARE home. We're not talking about Dorothy or a band of gypsies. There is an artificial border between these countries and that is a VERY LARGE PART OF THE PROBLEM. Hello? Kashmir, anyone? Al Qeada in Kashmir? Yoo-hoo. I cannot understand why someone would so flippantly dismiss the idea of unity, as if it is silly and because it is of the past (something the British enforced), it's no good and anything already done, is no good. Does it just sound too idealistic? Sometimes what seems peaceful can actually be. Sometimes it isn't just pink fluffy clouds and hearts. There is actually reason behind it. We're not speaking about a nomadic tribe that wants to return "home" and reclaim land. It isn't such a far-out-there idea. I fear some are insisting on a system that is obviously not working and has no reason to exist. Why should these countries be seperate? Any reason for that? Please tell me? Just religion, huh?

#23
I was born and raised in Pakistan and I'm one of the (few) Pakistanis who thinks that uniting the South Asian subcontinent is something that will happen, possibly within the next 20 to 30 years. Pakistan is a hollow state that cannot provide peace and prosperity to its own people and can not control the extreme elements within it. Most of the culture, food, music, lifestyle etc of Pakistanis is based on our Indian heritage. We were all Indians not too long ago, and some of us realize that we still are. But due to blind nationalism, extreme defensiveness, and the bloody history between the two nations, Pakistanis have a hard time accepting this simple fact. Extremism on the part of Hindu nationalists doesn't help relations either. But overall, Muslims of Pakistan need to stop acting like victims and start looking at the world differently than they have since 1947. Pakistan is a failed state and it's best for the younger generations there to work towards a more united South Asian region rather than keep fighting over the differences.

#24

Yes, Bharat Mata is an organism, a whole that can only be partitioned by violence. Because of missing integral parts, it cannot function properly or fulfill her destiny (Dharma).One of the greatest Indians, Sri Aurobindo (his birthday was on August 15, coincidence?) wrote on August 15, 1947 India Independence from British Raj: "India is free, but she has not achieved unity, only a fissured and broken freedom...The whole communal division into Hindu and Muslim seems to have hardened into the figure of a permanent political division of the country. It is to be hoped that the Congress and the Nation will not accept the settled fact as for ever settled, or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled; civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. The partition of the country must go...For without it the destiny of India might be seriously impaired and frustrated. That must not be." Finally, Union is the only real solution.

9.12.08

Bullets in Bollywood: No Eid for me

This is the text of my recent op-ed on Huffington Post about the Bombay attacks.
You can post comments directly on Huff here

On this Eid-al-Adha, the Muslim festival of the sacrifice, I wonder what aspect of my identity troubles me more: the Indian, the Muslim, or both. And is there more to those troublesome questions as well--perhaps willingly being away from the homeland?

For at least a year now, I have very loudly proclaimed the virtues of my religion, which I know are many. I have spoken about a Jihad, for love. I have even made a film called just that. I am profoundly aware that Hindus AND Muslims AND Christians AND Jews AND Sikhs died in Bombay. But I also know that today, Eid-al-Adha, is an annual event that I will not celebrate.

Ever since I became a "prominent Muslim living in America" (quoted from some recent journalistic queries) I get all kinds of email alerts and messages, often unsolicited. So today, in the 1429th year of Islam on this planet with another Hajj ending, the emails continue. One informs me that the (until recently, Hindu) kingdom of Nepal now has its own Quran in Nepalese to be widely distributed in Nepal, Bhutan and Burma! Another informs me that Indian Muslims have been marching in protest of November 26th. I am asked again to join yet another new group called "Muslims for Peace," this time in India informing me that they were the group that pushed the Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind to support the idea of not burying the "terrorists" on Indian soil. Yet another tells me that a teenage Muslim student in a Delhi school was asked if she is Pakistani when she arrived at school wearing a head scarf, something she had always done. Meanwhile the Facebook group entitled "Can u please take Barkha off air," formed in reaction to a particularly melodramatic and histrionics-prone Indian television journalist, now has more than 3,000 members and, yes, I am invited to join, once again. A new group called "Ratan Tata should be India's Obama" now has more than 700 members. Mr. Tata is one of India's richest men--a prominent industrialist who, in addition to a lot else, also owns the beleaguered Taj Hotel. I have been invited to join both groups repeatedly and until I do so, it seems I will get reminders about their increasing popularity. In addition, during the last two weeks, I have seriously been on the verge of becoming a self-hating Muslim--perhaps a new New York "-ism" to join the ranks of all those self-hating Jews. And then, there are way too many "Eid Mubarak" messages. The butter on my almost burnt toast is a detailed message from a group that calls itself "Serenity Fountain" and sends me daily missives on how to be a better Muslim. This email detailing the right way for the ritual sacrifice of "smaller animals" on this Eid ul Adha seems like the final straw. The message is anything but serene and I wonder if I should add them to my spam box. They explain thoughtfully:

"First a knee-deep hole is dug. The animal to be killed for qurban (sacrifice) is blindfolded with a piece of cloth. It is made to lie on its left side with its face and throat towards the qibla. Its throat is brought near the hole. The ankles of its front legs are fastened together with one of its hind legs. The takbir of 'Iyd is said three times. Next the following words are said: 'Bismillahi Allahu akbar.' Then, if the animal is not a camel, its throat is cut at any place. While saying 'Bismillahi,' the 'h' must be articulated with due stress and aspiration. In this case it is not necessary to bear in mind that it is Allah's name. If one does not pronounce the "h" clearly enough, one has to bear in mind that one is saying Allah's name. If one does not do this either, the animal becomes as unclean as a carrion. It is not halal to eat it. For this reason, we should not say, 'Allah ta'ala,' but should accustom ourselves to articulating the 'h' always clearly by saying, 'Allahu ta'ala."

In the Quran, this Eid, mostly known as "Bakr Eid" in the majority Muslim Indian sub-continent--if you count Muslim numbers in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh together--comes from Bakra, the goat, the animal of choice for slaughter. The Prophet Ibrahim (Abraham to the Jews and Christians) was about to slaughter his son to God (against the wishes of Shaitan or Satan) when God in very timely fashion intervened and provided him a lamb instead.

I have been a proud, meat-eating Muslim all my life but the details of the slaughter spelt out in the English language make my stomach churn and I think of some of my Muslim friends who have turned vegetarian. I read the message again and wonder, "What about the 'h' in "hate?" For me the last two weeks have not been particularly good to be a Muslim. Even as the closing rituals of the Hajj are being performed in Mecca, a few twenty-something Muslim extremists imported, presumably from Pakistan, with cutesy, clean-shaven faces have shattered my identity to its very core. I know that today, rivers of animal blood will flow down streets in Muslim communities around the world.

As a child I remember seeing this blood both fascinated and horrified. On moving to the "free world" it was clear, though, that slaughtering animals was not just the prerogative of the poor of the "third world," but was equally celebrated in an annual animal slaughtering ritual made even more miserable for some, by being the one Thursday when escape from "family" was inescapable. Most recently I was reminded about the slaughter elements of the annual American Thanksgiving ritual, when Sarah Palin decided to use it as a backdrop for a press conference. Eid-al- Adha was never my favorite Muslim festival, Thanksgiving is not my favorite American one either.

Ironically, this Thanksgiving, as their turkeys basted, Americans learnt about the bloodbath in Bombay as some kind of Breaking News non-stop holiday special. And now almost two weeks later, this other Eid of Islam for me, as an Indian Muslim, is only about blood.

The city formerly known as Bombay amongst its 19 million inhabitants, also counts the world's largest film industry and stars of mega proportions mostly unknown to the ordinary American but instantly recognizable in Jakarta, Kabul, Marrakesh and Nairobi. For many years this particular film industry was ruled by three muscle-bound Muslims all sharing the last name Khan. At least two of them (Shahrukh and Amir) still carry the dreams of millions on their shoulders. On this Eid, many of Bollywood's Muslim stars, as India's frenetic and recently reviled media are reporting, will not celebrate the annual slaughter fest but wear black armbands instead. The two aforementioned Khans have already spoken out to the media machine--one talking of the real Jihad (and I feel momentary but proud vindication for the title of my recent film A Jihad for Love, coming from one of them). Not to be outdone, the third Khan in Bollywood (Salman) has now also spoken out against "Islamic terrorism." I guess they have to watch their backs, as India is no stranger to retribution towards what the media always used to call "the minority community."

The blasts in the city, which I refuse to call Mumbai have shaken up the very core of my Muslim and my Hindu identities. Schizophrenic at the best of times, these identities could not, I feel, find an easy home in the India that now seems to be reacting to its own 9-11. As a child I was ashamed of my mixed parentage. As an adult, having made some peace with my own Islam, I now feel despair. As an adult, I chose to not succumb to what I believe was the Hindu nationalist agenda of stripping names of cities to reflect a false, pan-Hindu national identity, when Bombay became Mumbai, Madras became Chennai, and Calcutta became Kolkata. I was also acutely aware of the desire to wipe away the last vestiges of colonialism in this frantic renaming process that seemed to have political sanction. I now wonder if I was and am right in choosing to do so.

Watching India's booming (and "boom" they do, with some of the journalists screaming into their microphones) news networks on YouTube over the last two weeks, I have felt that melodrama may be the central defining aspect of Indian identity, probably fueled by entire childhoods framed by the dream machines in Bollywood. Many of the new stars of television--some with whom I worked in a former life as a television journalist, when the concept of the 24-hour news cycle was still fresh and clean--seem to have taken great joy in accosting hapless people with family members trapped inside burning hotels, always asking them how they felt. Many explained the movements of the "terrorists" and those sent in to conquer them in great detail as the "operations" continued and allegedly as "the terrorists" watched while planning their next moves within the hotels. The same journalist who now has so many Facebookers starting a cult of hating her, in her reportage "even put her arm around a conservative Muslim man" (quote from FaceBook) during the sixty-hour media circus.

The bloodbath in Bombay thus led to unprecedented media mayhem in India and certainly in the US as well. It was certainly enjoyable to see Indian New Yorkers of every shape, size and political opinion pontificating on India's 9-11 on the networks here. And as frantic American shoppers trampled a Walmart worker to death, we got a brief respite from the bombs in Bombay. I felt ashamed that my country had never before elicited such attention in the American media. Most Americans were certainly not informed in such detail about the train bombings in Bombay in July that killed more than 200. And the Gujarat riots of 2002, where more than 2000 people, the majority of them Muslim, were killed also did not occupy the Breaking News cycle on American television with such intensity. But as millions of turkeys were slaughtered and then roasted and basted in America a couple Thursdays ago, the media in this country were obsessed with the live television intensity of reporters from their "sister networks in India," standing and screaming into their microphones outside the Taj. I watched horrified as CNN did a breaking news phoner with a man in Istanbul who said, "My parents went into the hotel corridor and identified themselves as Muslims to the terrorists... My father even did the prayer...and they are now safe. I know, because the terrorists just asked them to lock themselves up in their room." That for me was a defining moment in feeling the Muslim shame I feel today.

As we in the US entered the "holidays" and the endless holiday parties, I listened in horror to a diamond- and daiquiri-dripping Indian socialite opine on how the blasts in Bombay would improve box office numbers for everybody's new favorite movie, Slumdog Millionaire. She was just one of the many "deeply concerned" Indians and Pakistanis in the room that night pledging to hold marches and benefits.

In the two weeks that have followed, much has been made of India's own 9-11 now uniformly being called 26-11 by the Indian media. Much blogging angst has also been spilt over the fact that India's elite who haunted plush five-star hotels were the target and therefore the media hysteria. And in fact, the presence of Americans, British and Israelis in the middle of the mayhem certainly can be seen as contributing factors to the media blitz here in the States. Watching the carnage unfold on YouTube and the websites of the 24-hour television networks in India--now too many to name--I have also been horrified by the quality, or rather lack of it, in the reportage. Friends in the media here point out that it is "immature." I wonder what they think of cable television in this country. This I know: Sixty hours of Breaking News madness on Indian television has been enough to get millions of young Indians to collectively vomit on social networking groups and in public protests. The signs at these protests have been emailed to me and leave little doubt in my mind that the world's largest democracy is going to have to seriously shake up its political and media elite if it is to survive.

As I write this, another email "alert" tells me that in New Delhi this Friday some prominent journalists and filmmakers will gather to debate in a discussion entitled "Who is to blame for media hysteria on terror? Journalists or viewers?"

This, perhaps, is reason to cheer and perhaps, indeed, also is the fact that the "Bomb! Bomb! Pakistan" rhetoric has been somewhat muted. But as an Indian Muslim, why should I celebrate at all?

I also realize that the sense of shame that overcomes me may have a lot to do with being Indian and choosing to live far away from it all, somehow "protected" in New York. As my mailbox continues to flow over with Eid blessings and wishes, I wonder how many Muslims it is going to take to end this bloodbath in the name of the Quran. I wonder how many of us indeed are going back to the Quran and back to the Imams that define right and wrong for us with the questions that we need to ask more urgently than ever before.

In India, many years ago, I knew that the line was drawn in blood from 1947 on with the hurried and horrific re-mapping of the sub-continent. The line, amongst other things, was between the cow-worshiping Hindus and the cow-eating Muslims. On this festival of sacrifice, which I, like those hot Bollywood superstars, am choosing not to celebrate, I wonder how much more blood it will take.

It remains easy, of course, to pontificate from thousands of miles away.

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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