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Parvez Sharma also blogs at The Huffington Post,

Parvez writes for The Guardian

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21.12.09

Public Screening in Dhaka !

For some time now, the film has been widely shown in Muslim countries-including a multi-city tour in Indonesia, where even protesters showed up at a screening and a hugely successful screening in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia attended by many including the former Prime Minister's daughter, who was reduced to tears.
The latest is the following screening in Dhaka, Bangladesh-where I had filmed as well.
If you are in Bangladesh, please go and tell all your friends to go as well.Click on this link below for details.

A Jihad for Love in Dhaka, Bangladesh

19.10.09

50 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World

I am honoured and excited to be named one of 50 visionaries by the leading progressive journal, UTNE Reader. The list which includes people far more deserving than me is headed by the Dalai Lama.
Read more about it here

22.9.09

Lost in (translation) in Bishkek!

Yes, I am in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan!
Will update when I can find the internet-
For now-
Sweet Sixties bar in Bishkek- My bar buddies-An Uzbek couple, a Mongolian filmmaker, a Serb, a Russian and a Croatian Czech-scintillating conversation veers from Putin's sexiness to Balkan politics to Brezhnev to Shashtri's statue in Tashkent to Obama's unpopularity in the CIS-this is the life ;-) Coming up tomorrow-Horse meat for lunch! On TV now-Church TV!!! (The only English language channels are Church TV and "Fox Crime")-and yes Russian MTV, Russian News or Putin News, and Tajik TV, and Turkmen TV and Kyrgyz TV.
Got to love it.
My ethnic Russian-Kyrgyz translator informed me how much locals (especially the older ones) long for a return to Soviet times. I can see why.

16.8.09

GET JIHAD AND ROCK YOUR CAMPUS!

Thousands of students across the United States have participated in fierce and urgent discussions and engaged in an amazing learning process with "A Jihad for Love" accompanied by filmmaker Parvez Sharma. These lecture/town hall screenings take students and faculty into a surprising world of an Islam that is poetic and erotic and sensual and dogmatic at the same time.

In his inimitable style Parvez takes the audiences through a riveting journey at breakneck speeds through 14 centuries of Islamic history!

CLICK HERE AND BOOK THE FILM NOW FOR FALL 2009

READ MY LATEST FEATURE ON THE DAILY BEAST HERE ON A SHOCKING NEW REPORT FROM IRAQ

THIS IS ALREADY ONE OF THE MOST READ AND SECOND MOST EMAILED STORIES ON THE IMMENSELY POPULAR WEBSITE!

9.8.09

My Live Chat on NDTV

This is the text of my live chat on NDTV with viewers, a few hours ago. (The abusive questions are not reproduced).

NDTV 24X7 is the TV broadcaster that has just shown "A Jihad for Love" to millions of viewers across the world.

14:30
NDTV.com: The forum is now closed for questions. But do keep sending us your comments on the film, A Jihad for Love.
14:06
Parvez Sharma: The DVD can be bought at www.ajihadforlove.com where links guide you to buying it outside the US and Canada! All your friends and family need to see it as it is a valuable resource for those who still live in fear or feel that they are alone and have no role models to look up to.
14:05
Parvez Sharma: Thank you everyone! I applaud NDTV's courage and vision for showing a film like this and in generating a debate that is critical. Believe me not many broadcasters would have dared. So you should all support NDTV for its courage and you should please spread the word widely about the film, buy it (it has subtitles in 8 languages including Hindi and Urdu), vsit my blog and the website and if you wish-talk to me on Facebook and Twitter! Thanks again!
14:01
Parvez Sharma: Hey Peter
I certainly think the film tried to cover way too much! Islam is complicated and I wish I had just made the film about the closeted gay Muslim penguin on the beach in South Africa (for those of you who have not seen the film yet, this happens in the first 20 minutes!) But seriously-this is a complex issue and I think the film covers pretty tricky terrain rather well
13:59
[Comment From peter ]
Did the film try to cover too much?
13:56
Parvez Sharma: Hey Miraj:
My Jihad continues in many many ways. Do visit my blog all of you at www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com and you will see how. I have been doing a lot of work with the situation in Iran as well for example. And tonight (or this morning, after this) there will be a Jihad for sleep ;-)
13:54
Parvez Sharma: Hey Deepak! Please watch the film again! Its a documentary-not a fiction film (though sometimes it does seem a little bit unreal!) Its almost 4:30 am here on the East coast in the States, so maybe my tongue is way more in my cheek than it usually is as well!
13:52
Parvez Sharma: Hey Rahul
I am not very good at predicting the future! I dont think in our lifetimes we will see a worldwide acceptance of homosexuality, not from the Vatican and certainly not from Islam or even lets say the RSS/BJP gang. Now my own future? Thats way more interesting. There is a book in the works. I travel a lot and speak way too much around the world and people seem to listen so far (so thats a good thing) and honestly I am plotting a return to India to make a subversive Bollywood film-that is if they can deal with a completely out and proud homosexual filmmaker! (so many in that town are completely in the closet ;-)
13:48
Parvez Sharma: Hey Komal
The greater Jihad in Islam is the Jihad ul Nafs, or the struggle within the self. This can manifest in many ways and most of them are ones of faith and contemplation. Jihad has been used variously through Islamic history-for example a particularly rich period of Arab (mostlt Egyptian) literature was referred to as the Jihad of the Pen. However there are also those who claim that Jihad is just Holy War and equate that with killing innocent people and that is the kind of interpretation that needs to be challenged by many more Muslims and condemned publicly by more Ulema in the Muslim world.
13:45
Parvez Sharma: Hey McLovin: I seem to get a lot of McLovin from most Muslims, most of the time! I am mostly fatwa-free still and there is a reason for that. Unlike "Muslim" opportunists like Irshad Manji I do not attack my own religion and I feel that people value that. There are way too many people like her who have made an industry out of working with right wing conservatives in defaming a 1428 year old religion while having pretty much no understanding of it.
13:42
Parvez Sharma: Eisha: Islam has a very large heart and more Muslims need to pick up cameras and tell our stories unfiltered!
13:40
[Comment From Komal ]
My view-- "jihad" speaks not of holy war but of spiritual struggle...do you agree ?
13:38
[Comment From Eisha ]
Does islam have room for this kind of cinema
13:37
Parvez Sharma: Hey Athar
A simple google search will correct the many falsehoods in your question. Homosexuality is NOT a major factor in HIV-infact the largest number of infections happen in heterosexual populations. My film DOES NOT show Islam as a backward religion because the people in the film are true believers who love their Islam. And as far as condemning homosexuality as a Muslim goes Athar, I agree that most Muslims think it is wrong.
13:35
Parvez Sharma: Tina: Fundraising is a huge challenge and young filmmakers like me struggle a lot. I hope things become easier with the huge success of this, my first film. But independent filmmaking is tough. It took us years to get the big broadcasters on board even though the subject matter for them was "sexy". A record number of foundations also funded this film. And we were extremely lucky to get distribution in theaters in the US and Canada atleast
13:33
[Comment From Tina ]
Hi Parvez, does money ever become a constraint for a young filmmaker like you ?
13:33
Parvez Sharma: Manisha: I lived through eight years of George Bush when the values of democracy and free speech were a mirage! So America was not the greatest place to be in. Its only now, after Obama that it feels a little bit (and not always) like the promised land again! I even took on Obamas middle name as my Facebook name when he won (and I was not alone). Lets see what he does with Muslim issues. With immigration. With healthcare and yes "gay marriage"
13:33
[Comment From Michelle ]
Any part you wish you had shot differently ?
13:31
Parvez Sharma: Sure Saurabh: I did feel like running for cover because I was always filming undercover anyway! Whenever I was in tricky situations I was able to bribe the police and found that the bribe system works as well in Cairo as it does in your local police station in Gurgaon!
13:30
Parvez Sharma: Hey Yashika
The film has been playing around the world. You can see it on NDTV now and it is also on DVD which you can buy when you click on www.ajihadforlove.com
13:29
Parvez Sharma: Vijay:
I agree that calling homosexuality "unnatural" in 2009 makes no sense! However we have to understand that for the majority of people all over the world, cultural and/or religion dictate the heterosexual norm. I am able to understand the other side (and it took me a long time to get there). It is also interesting as I said earlier that Hindu and Muslim "leaders" in India can agree on little, but definitely seem to agree on the sin of homosexualty!
13:29
[Comment From Saurabh ]
Hi Parvez, did you while filming at any point in time feel the desperate urge to leave your camera behind and run for cover !! Just a fun question !!
13:28
[Comment From Yashika ]
Hey! When does the movie release and where?
13:26
Parvez Sharma: Hey Saurabh
The reaction in the West has been amazing! This film has now been seen in 49 countries by more than 4 million people at last count (and I dont have the NDTV numbers yet). I think for Western audiences the film has also been a primer on Islam, almost like an Islam 101
13:24
[Comment From Saurabh ]
How has the western world reacted to your film ?
13:23
Parvez Sharma: Lokesh: All three monothesims condemn homosexuality and let us not forget that even in America there are large sections of the country that are deeply moralistic, conservative and Christian-and disapprove of homosexuality in ways that mirror Islamic disapproval. I think the problem lies in a nation like Egypt, where a supposedly "secular" but dictatorial regime carried out a pogrom against gay men and whenever the state starts policing peoples bedrooms we have problems
13:21
Parvez Sharma: Hey Muneera:
Its about time a prehistoric law like 377 was sent to the dustbin of history! Its the worst thing the British left in India,Pakistan, Bangladesh. It is outdated and creates huge problems. I am not sure how this will play out at a governmental level and I am very interested in seeing how the ruling by the Delhi High Court will be seen in Pakistan and Bangladesh especially.
13:20
[Comment From Lokesh ]
Parvez, if the world’s most popular religion denounces homosexuality, what sets this brand of anti-gay sentiment apart from others?
13:19
Parvez Sharma: Hi Carla: Yes racism and Islamophobia are a way of life in the West, post September 11. Interestingly in Muslim communities/countries I was invisible because I looked like everybody else but it was always coming back to the US when the visas in my passport lead to fun times at the airport!
13:17
Parvez Sharma: Hey Roshan: For me the gay Imam in South Africa with the three children was the most intelectually engaging. However the two women you see in Egypt were the most compelling (Maryam and Maha) because their struggle was just so impossible-Maryam infact said repeatedly that in order to feel that she was a good Muslim she felt she needed to be punished. That was tragic and also at the very heart of the film.
13:15
Parvez Sharma: Dear Mr Coorg:
I am actually a great defender of Islam! Have you seen my film or read any of my interviews easily available on the web? Infact I think it would be very wrong to compare me to the people you mention. Please see and absorb "A Jihad for Love" and I promise you that your conclusion will be different.
13:14
[Comment From Mishi Raina ]
Your film fails to address the issue of how has homophobia evolved in the Muslim world? Could you elaborate?
13:13
Parvez Sharma: Hey Rahul: Most filmmakers will look at their work in critical ways and I am no exception ;-) If I was to do the film again I would have done the parts in Iran completely differently and perhaps I would also have let some of my current pessimism shine through a bit more. Because now, after a year of traveling I do not think that there can be a Quranic or theological "solution" to the "problem" of homosexuality (please do note the quotes) that is acceptable to one billion plus Muslims. I also do not think that any religion is going to be "comfortable" with homosexuality in any of our lifetimes.
13:11
[Comment From mr.coorg ]
Those who write against Islam will always become famous! tatz what history tells us! example: salman rushdie, naipul, tasleema and there will be no doubt next in the number will be U, can u please comment on this?
13:11
[Comment From Roshan ]
Who was the film's most compelling subject ?
13:10
Parvez Sharma: Tanmay: I do not feel there is a sense of Muslim brotherhood at all! Islam is way too diverse and for most of the time Muslims cannot agree on most things. I certainly feel no brotherhood with Bin Laden or Kassab. And I think this lack of unity worldwide has created tremendous problems-but the complexity of what is the worlds fastest growing religion (Islam) makes it pretty impossible for there to be any kind of unity
13:07
Parvez Sharma: Shailija: I have traveled very widely around the world with this film, in more countries than I can even remember and yes that travel and exposure to diverse cultures (and also the diversity of Islam) has lead me to believe that one persons terrorist can be another persons freedom fighter. It may not be very kosher to say this in India, but Kashmir is a perfect example where people across the border look at the same situation in completely different ways.
13:04
Parvez Sharma: Noopur: In some ways it took a lifetime, of trying and understanding parts of my faith and parts of my mixed heritage and my own sexuality. And in reality I started filming in 2002 right after September 11. I dont live in India anymore, but I do feel it is easier to be gay in India today. I came out at a young age when I was in India, but at that time not many people were able to do so. However strong cultural and religious barriers remain. And isnt it interesting to see right wing Hindus and Muslims speak in the same voice to condemn the Section 377 ruling? I always say-nothing unites Hindus, Muslims and Jews more than their fear of homosexuality!
13:01
Parvez Sharma: Imran: Nothing has given me greater pleasure than seeing Western audiences go up to the box office here in the US for example (the film was released in theaters across the country) and say "Can I have two tickets for Jihad please?". This is why I chose the title. To take the discussion of Islam away from just violence. To reclaim some of the true meanings of words that we have been taught to forget and that includes Jihad which really means an inner struggle (Nafs) to be a better Muslim. And to put Jihad and Love right next to each other is a powerful statement for a powerful film.
12:59
Parvez Sharma: Salam alaikum Yassir- I have read the Holy Quran very well and do consider myself a good Muslim. Let me ask you this-where in the Quran does Allah swt ask us to judge the faith of other Muslims? Is he not the one who will decide finally? Lets respect the basic tenets of our religion and believe me when you see the film, the respect for Islam is what you see.
12:56
[Comment From Naman ]
If Islam is okay with polygamy, why not homosexuality?
12:32
[Comment From Yasir ]
I want to ask, just one thing. Have you read the Quran or are you a Muslim just by name? You need to follow Quran and Islam to be called a Muslim.
12:31
[Comment From Imran ]
I want to ask you the sole meaning of keeping this name
12:11
[Comment From Noopur ]
Parvez how long did it take you to make the film? Do you feel it's easier to be gay in India today as compared to say 7-8 yrs ago?
09:18
[Comment From Surekha ]
Parvez, even while exploring the religous and cultural differences of the gay community across Islamic countries, how did you manage to retain the commonality in all of them: that of Jihad?
09:10
[Comment From Carla ]
Have you ever been a victim of racism, manifested mostly in just getting around with your muslim names in western nations ?
09:10
[Comment From Shailja ]
One person’s terrorist is another persons freedom fighter- do you believe that's true ?
09:10
[Comment From Tanmay ]
Parvez, do you believe there still exists a sense of Muslim brotherhood around the world ? Any instance that makes you believe that ?
09:04
[Comment From Akshit ]
Parvez, through this film, could you reclaim the Islamic concept of a greater Jihad? What is Jihad, please explain.
09:04
[Comment From Muneera ]
Your film comes at a time when Section 377 of the Indian penal code has been successfully challenged. Do you believe acceptance of the film will now come by more easily ? also what's your view on the judgement
09:04
[Comment From Rahul ]
Parvez, do you disagree with any part of your film and feel you could have executed it better ?
08:32
[Comment From Suhail Ahmed ]
Kudos to Parvez to highlighted this thorny issue of homosxuality. Its natural desire one cannot deny it.
18:52
[Comment From rahul ]
the film is great. But what's the future?
11:56
[Comment From Nadeem ]
Almost of third of countries worldwide still criminalises same sex relationships and seven carry the death penalty for the offence. Parvez, what in your opinion will ensure a change in mindset?
11:56
[Comment From Sunaina]
Your film is an intelligent and honest appraisal of Islam as a multi-denominational religious experience. Share with us your most memorable thoughts or discoveries while shooting the fim?
11:56
[Comment From Miraj Qureshi ]
Parvez, we Muslims are members of the world's fastest growing religion, indeed the second largest. We are all waging several jihads within ourselves. Does the Jihad still continue for you?
11:56
[Comment From Manisha ]
Values of tolerance, of democracy, of free speech-- is that why you chose America?
11:07
[Comment From vijay ]
I am not sure about what the scriptures say, but both muslims and hindu fundamentalists are against homosexuals, much like Hitler was. We dont know yet if homosexual traits are conditioned or are genetic. Whatever the case may be, calling it un-natural is foolishness. If humans really blv in natural living then we should stop wearing clothes, using technology, cooking food, etc. since all this is un-natural too. What's your take?
09:49
[Comment From Athar ]
Well homosexuality is not illegal but prohibited not only in Islam but other major religions like Christianity, hinduism, etc. It is a major factor in rising cases ofHIV/AIDS. So don't know why we are promoting such an evil and that too by using Islam as a scapegoat and displaying it as a backward religion which has not upgraded but in fact it is a way of life decided by the creator (who knows much more than we do) and when HE commands us not to indulge then why do we question it when there are so many scientific proof out there. Parvez why are you trying to show that muslims will have to accept homo stuff, if we want to coexist? What is your take Parvez?
16:19
[Comment From McLovin ]
Hi I was wondering how the Muslim community reacts to the fact that you are gay and a Muslim? Considering the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Islam.
13:14
[Comment From Deepak ]
Parvez does this reflect your own thought with actors playing it out or are they projecting their own struggles?

7.8.09

GET JIHAD AND ROCK YOUR CAMPUS!

Thousands of students across the United States have participated in fierce and urgent discussions and engaged in an amazing learning process with "A Jihad for Love" accompanied by filmmaker Parvez Sharma. These lecture/town hall screenings take students and faculty into a surprising world of an Islam that is poetic and erotic and sensual and dogmatic at the same time.

In his inimitable style Parvez takes the audiences through a riveting journey at breakneck speeds through 14 centuries of Islamic history!

CLICK HERE AND BOOK THE FILM NOW FOR FALL 2009

5.8.09

Jihad in India, UAE, Africa, Middle East, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and more!

Hello everyone
NDTV 24x7 is doing a great job promoting the second broadcasts of "A Jihad for Love" this coming weekend.
Check it out-visit the site-chat live with me at 1 pm India time on Sunday and much, much more.
Spread the word. This is the first chance that people in many countries will have a chance to see the film and react. For me personally this is very significant as India is my home country and I also know that enormous numbers of Muslims will now be able to watch the film easily. Click on this link below and even see Part 1 in the region (only available for a limited time)

A Jihad for Love : Being Gay and Muslim ONLY ON NDTV!

1.8.09

STILL ALIVE AS MY FILM DOESN'T ATTACK ISLAM

That, my friends, is the screaming headline on the front page of the Bombay newspaper Midday today. I must clarify that there are several misquotes, which is a fact of life I should be getting used to, having spoken to media all around the world. For example, I did not say "Fatwa-fine" but I said "fatwa-free." I did not speak about family at all. The quote, "Leaving it means leaving your food, music," is a simplification of a more complex quote in which I said leaving Islam is like leaving your family, your community, your culture and even seemingly small things like what you eat, the kind of music you listen to, how you view the world, etc. And there are several more. However, I must also give credit to the journalist who did spend a considerable amount of time with me on the phone, though she did not manage to get all of my quotes just right.
Here it is; the abusive comments are already on there. Decide for yourselves.

MIDDAY article and interview on the Indian broadcast

Here are just two of the recent comments:

You r an Ignorant and Abnormal person
Dear Parvez
NO harsh words but an advice: DONT MESS WITH THE NATURE OR NATURE WILL MESS WITH YOU
Have u ever seen a lion mating a donkey? a snake mating a rat????? then why on Earth are you bent on making this obscene act as worthy and ok to carry on???? Go and make the movie but why are u using a religion in between???? May Allah Guide you and Show you the Right Path and give you strength and wisdom to accept and follow the Right Path. amen.

and then this, a more positive one.

WELL DONE
I THINK BIGGEST PROBLEM WITH US IS THAT WE ALL ARE HYPOCRATS.WE DON'T WANT TO FACE THE REAL WORLD.WHATEVER PARVEZ IS SHOWING IT EXIST IN THE SOCIETY AND WE SHOULD APPRECIATE HIS EFFORTS.

31.7.09

Watch "A Jihad for Love" on Indian Television and across Asia, Africa, Middle East!

I have just returned from being a keynote speaker at the World Outgames in Copenhagen. I was humbled to learn the extent of the worldwide impact of this film from delegates from countries we had not been able to easily reach.

And now-that impact is going to increase a thousand fold when beginning tomorrow you can watch "A Jihad for Love" on one of the most watched networks in Indian Television.

NDTV 24X7 which has a very large footprint across the Indian sub-continent and the Middle East will be broadcasting "A Jihad for Love" on the following dates and times (Indian time/calculate accordingly for your own region if you get this television channel in your own country).

This is historic and important in a time when Section 377 of the Indian penal code has been successfully challenged and this will increase the number of viewers and nations this film has been seen in, significantly.

Here are the times (all times are Indian Standard Time)

Part 1
Aug 1, 2009: 3 - 4 pm
Aug 2, 2009: 1 - 2 pm
Part 2
Aug 8, 2009: 3 - 4 pm
Aug 9, 2009: 1 - 2 pm

NDTV 24X7 can be seen in India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, UAE (including Sharjah, Dubai and Abu-Dhabi), South Africa, Singapore, Mauritius, Japan, Taiwan, Korea and on many platforms in Australia, New Zealand, Europe, the UK and Canada. Check your local TV/cable listings for your individual countries and times.

Please tune in, in your own countries and spread the word widely. This is a huge opportunity for millions across the world and in many countries we have not been able to reach before, to view the film.

21.6.09

Iran

For the last few days I have been reporting from various sources on the situation inside Tehran.
Some of these reports can be found at the following links.
I even ventured into enemy territory (Fox News) yesterday to try and highlight the stories of these amazing people without punditry. Not being Iranian, I was extremely reluctant to go but also realized that all I really needed to do was report back what I knew.
We need to tell the news broadcasters to stop being arrogant about the unfiltered reports from the streets, which I prefer any day to pontificating stand-ups from reporters.
I urge everyone to also exercise extreme caution in what you post about the situation. Remember that all of us have friends there. Remember that it is very hard for them to send us information. And remember that lives are at risk here.
"Eyewitness Account: My Brother was Beaten" Daily Beast

Memo from the Streets of Tehran: Arash Aryan, Part 1, Daily Beast
Memo from the Streets of Tehran: Part 2, Daily Beast
Memo from the Streets of Iran: Part 3, Daily Beast

On the Huffington Post you will find reportage and some opinion (based on real conversations and not punditry) at the following links.

There will be Blood: Huffington Post
A Report from Inside as Tehran Twitters: Huffington Post

The Basij will face retribution: Exiled by regime Mohsen Kadivar gives his own sermon: Huffington Post
Tehelka in Tehran: Huffington Post

If I am not responding to your many emails on facebook, on my personal email and here-it is beacuse I am likely talking to someone there or tracking reliable information to put out there. Reliable is the key word. This is not the time for hysteria or factionalism.
I have not been a reporter for some nine years, but circumstances, dear friends and the messages I could no longer ignore-have made me one in some way, for the time being.

Finally I leave you with the Surah Fatiha, the first Surah in the Quran, the translation of which may give you some insight on how those fighting the custodians of religion in Tehran are not without faith themselves. Their Allahuakbars (God is Great!) resound louder from the roooftops of Tehran every night.

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمـَنِ الرَّحِيم
الْحَمْدُ للّهِ رَبِّ الْعَالَمِين
الرَّحْمـنِ الرَّحِيم
مَـالِكِ يَوْمِ الدِّين
إِيَّاك نَعْبُدُ وإِيَّاكَ نَسْتَعِين
اهدِنَــــا الصِّرَاطَ المُستَقِيمَ
صِرَاطَ الَّذِينَ أَنعَمتَ عَلَيهِمْ غَيرِ المَغضُوبِ عَلَيهِمْ وَلاَ الضَّالِّين

17.6.09

New on Huffington Post: A Report from inside as Tehran twitters

Suddenly there is no dearth of Iranian punditry on cable television, with "academics" and "Iran experts" languishing in the dank closets of academia, brought out to air on every US network. Unfortunately none of us can easily watch BBC World or Al-Jazeera here, to even begin to fathom another perspective.

The results within the limited-attention-span-and-mind-numbing-stupidity of cable news have been mostly laughable. It is admirable that pretty-boy "journalists" like Anderson Cooper can at least start to pronounce Azadi Square right, though the shrill reportage of CNN's Pakistan correspondent Reza Sayah who has a distinct American accent remains humorous. Just yesterday he invoked his knowledge of Tehran geography repeatedly with his Vali Asr sounding like "Wall Ass".

Ridiculous debates with neo-con Iran "experts" continue and will probably only rise in crescendo in the next hours and days. I almost wish that those in Tehran could watch the spectacle of US "media" falling all over themselves trying to report from behind the Chador, while exclaiming the virtues of Twitter (though those virtues do need to be acknowledged in this case). If for nothing else, the profound discovery they (the US media) have now made of the net-savvy Iranian citizens (better at beating every firewall known to man than most) is a cause for celebration.

One Iranian friend I managed to get on the phone had an interesting theory about why the Guardian Council would rather hang Ahmadinejad (now conveniently traipsing in Russia) out to dry than see any erosion in their (now uncertain) stranglehold of the country. She also pointed out that it was fascinating to see a loyal servant of the revolution (and certainly not a reformist in his recent past life) Mousavi turn into the "great green hope" for reform. While there is blood on the streets and an amazing energy as well, from my brief conversations with Tehran, there seems to be a surplus of cynicism too, at least from those who are living it, unlike many of us, including me, sitting here and pontificating. (and Iranian punditry, I do not claim-but getting blogs out from people there, is a critical concern for me).

However, what happens today with the Assembly of Experts meeting is going to be fascinating. Maybe the abiding principle of the revolution -- the "Valiyat e Faqih" (the guardianship of the "jurists"/the rule of the clerics) is finally under enough threat to warrant such a meeting.

There are also widespread rumours on the street that Basij-like Arabic speakers are on the street wielding truncheons. If this is true-it is disturbing and alarming because then the regime has flown them in by the planeloads as it had done before, during student unrests in the nineties.

Another friend pointed out that she was not optimistic that this 1388 would bring a revolution -- and her only hope was that all those lovely people in Sabz (green) would be the precursor for a larger movement that will build over the next four Ahmadinejad filled years and finally unseat the Mullahs.

As I promised, here is a blog report filed in the middle of the night by a dear friend in Tehran.

Negin is a blogger and a filmmaker who works part time with state television -- and as you can see she writes with irony and despair. Negin's tongue usually is firmly in her cheek. English is not Negin's first language and I have decided to reproduce this just as she wrote it.

My mobile phone kept on ringing all day long and I missed most of them because of bad connection. When I arrived home I had more than 20 messages on my answering machine. Friends from all over the world are trying to reach us to get the news and be sure of our safety. The connection is cut or that bad that we have to guess our conversations. But among the entire phone calls one was very clear and that was my mother who was asking for some computer assistance; she has recently joined the facebook and cannot stand the fact that her favorite site is filtered.

She seems to be that excited that has stopped complaining my father for following the news day and night. They both are either outside in the middle of the city or have glued to the television to follow their missing news.

Until a few days ago most of the people believed that this is just the voice of suppressed students and youngsters but now we don't believe our eyes. "No fear, no fear...we are together." This is what we all heard today from millions of people from different generation in Tehran.

When our coordinator from State television studio called me this afternoon to confirm the appointments for the next week, he asked me about the background noise. We hardly could hear each other. He has the image of a typical secret agent to me. He never takes part in any discussion at work. "I got stuck in traffic and a big crowd." This is how I replied. "I got stuck in the same thing last night and went back to the state TV and stayed over the night in my office!" I heard something different in his tone of voice. I guess he wanted to share something but hesitated. "God bless you wherever you are." He said this before hanging up.

The number of people participated in the demonstration surprised everyone but what has fascinated me is the variety of people in their outfit and social status.

At the beginning I thought this is going to be the fight between lower class and middle class but what I saw today changed my biased opinion. I saw many old and young women wearing black chador and covered from head to toe shouting and chanting among the demonstrators and joining the young girls in the front line whom were sitting on the ground in the middle of the street to stop Bassij militia walking inside the crowd. I'm happy to say that that image will never wipe away from my mind. Those women with loose colorful scarves had opened their arms ready to be killed in the front line while the others were beaten up at the other side of the street. I didn't need a tear gas; my tears were rolling down already.

People want to be heard and supported by the rest of the world. They were sending messages to the west in front of the western cameras. Appointing to Obama and Sarkozy they were demanding the free west to not to recognize this government. I saw a few women shouting: "Now it's your turn to support the democracy and human rights."

"The fear is gone; nothing seems to be an obstacle anymore, they can filter all the websites and shutdown the internet, sms service or mobile but they cannot shut our mouth." This is what I hear all the time.

Late at night everyone wants to share his/her experience with others. Telephones are none stop ringing. Sara my girl friend called me half an hour ago; she had heard the gun fire near her house and had seen many people in blood. Although she was panicked and need to talk to someone, she hanged up the phone to go to the roof to shout, and within a few minutes I heard my neighbors shouting Allaho Akbar (God is great) from their balconies.

I remember how sometimes irritated I was by hearing the loud prayer call which starts by the same phrase: Allaho Akbar and now this phrase is turned to be the most beautiful one.

After a while I called back my mother to help her out with her computer problem. She didn't answer the phone, perhaps she is on the roof too.

I have just introduced Negin to a major US newspaper who were looking for voices out of Tehran -- and hopefully you will see her blog reports on there soon. (watch this space).

20.5.09

India Shining? Not Quite.

Please go here to the Huffington Post and post comments on a very different perspective on the Indian elections. It is better if comments are posted on the Huffington Post page to generate a discussion.

22.4.09

There are no direct flights from Tel Aviv to Tehran

The Facebook Universe is remarkable. After my recent post "Poor, Israel? Sure, and I am Barack Obama" I got a flurry of immediate responses. I had blogged hastily, still shaking with anger at the events that unfolded yesterday on a panel organized by UN Watch, an organization with a very particular worldview, as I now know. I blogged pretty much on the run and realized that in an instant world, people do react instantly. One gentleman took it upon himself to berate me repeatedly in comments that came fast and came furious.
He said: "I was responding entirely to what you wrote in your HuffPost piece: ‘an erudite Canadian professor. . . threw around a baffling and hard-to-explain term: “genocidal anti-Semitism.” Only he knows what he means, I certainly do not!’ As far as I can figure, there are only two ways to interpret this statement: either (1) you're casting doubt on the existence of genocidal anti-Semitism as a phenomenon; or (2) your vocabulary is so challenged that you literally don't understand the meaning of the words."
He then proceeded soon after to "un-friend" me making a ceremonious announcement on my "wall" and this of course lead to other messages from "friends" who either agreed with me or with him.
Shattered (!) by the un-friending I have now composed myself enough to offer the following.

I do understand "genocidal anti-Semitism" rather well, at least as it applies to the horrors of the Second World War. As someone said to me once, "Parvez, but all your best friends are Jewish!" This still remains true. On the misguided panel at the UN, sitting next to me was a Rwandan woman, survivor of a rather recent genocide, which receives close to no attention compared to the annual commemorations of the Shoah. Next to her sat a man from Darfur, where the genocide that is now fashionable for Hollywood stars to opine on, continues. Both the Rwandan and the Darfur-ian got time to speak in their accented English and there were collective sighs from the assembled, majority White audience when they mentioned the recent massacres of their entire families. When it was the turn of the moderator to introduce a Canadian professor I felt a complete shift in rhetoric as he chose to preface his introduction with the presence of the President of Iran in the same building. What followed was the Professor’s written argument against the Iranian state and the conflation of the Shoah with the massacres in Rwanda and Sudan. The Professor was not interested in discussing the continuing racism and apartheid of the Israeli nation. He extolled the virtues of a shared history of genocide with the unsuspecting Africans. He went on to share his horror and disgust at Iran’s parading of its missiles and the possibility of its nuclear program. The coming Islamic bomb and its ability to add to the insecurity and neuroses of the Israeli state were cause for immense fear in his argument. What finally did it for me was to use the horrific history of the genocidal anti-Semitism of the second world war as a contemporary argument to denounce Ahmadinejad, who has been more bluster than action and has certainly not yet engaged in any kind of Hitlerian pogrom to annihilate millions of Jews.


I was angry at how the Rwandan and the Darfur-ian were paraded in front of this group, only to have their real loss confronted with the polemics of an obviously well-paid, comfortable, white professor living clearly in the so called “free world”. Later this very shy Rwandan woman thanked me quietly for being ”honest” as she put it. I still wonder if she fully understood the flawed logic of that particular panel and how I atleast perceived her as being “used” to present reductive anti-Iran arguments.

As the room nodded sagely and mostly in agreement, my turn to speak arrived. I was horrified by his reductive logic and the hysterical fear-mongering that the Israeli state does and most of its Western allies buy into. Most horrific was the idea of a second holocaust, of a second wave of genocidal anti-Semitism wrought forth by the evil and dictatorial Ahmadinejad who had dared to enter the UN.

I was there to speak as a gay Muslim, my current raison d’être, supposedly. The panelists had surely assumed that I would be the perfect candidate to trot out to launch into anti-Iran and also anti-Muslim rhetoric. I knew I could not. In the last year I have often disagreed publicly with some of the content of my own film and certainly felt I would have executed its Iranian content differently if I knew then what I know now. I have treaded a fine line, continuing to defend my religion and somehow successfully criticize it for its alleged persecution of homosexuals. I have insisted that the film cannot be shown in what I view as the Israeli apartheid state and even resisted the possibilities of filming with Palestinian-Israeli gay couples, knowing that to enter that contested land and its politics would merit a separate film. The recent massacre in Gaza and falsehoods of the Israeli state during the bombardment--the loss of more than a thousand lives; the use of white phosphorous on civilians who live in abject poverty, surrounded and hemmed into a tiny piece of land; the very fact that Gaza is nothing but a large and fetid concentration camp created by the Israeli state--these were the issues that came to mind. I could not sit there and attack Islam or Iran. I had to speak out and I did so, briefly also pointing out to the Professor that in his harangue on the missile power of the Iranians and the impending doom of the Islamic bomb, he had conveniently, amongst other things, forgotten to mention the “undeclared” nuclear arsenal that Israel possesses and the infinitely more sophisticated weapons it uses on the Palestinians from its own tiny nation, which has all the trappings of the West, including nice homes, smooth-as-silk roads and constant water and electricity.

I have never been to Israel with the principled notion of not going and submitting to its checkpoints to go and look vicariously at a trapped and stateless people, beaten into submission by the state itself and their own supposed Arab allies that have done nothing for them. But now I would need to speak briefly and get out. The claustrophobia of the room was enormous and I would see later throughout the building not an Israel hate-fest, as surely the US media would portray it back home, but quite the opposite. The ability of the well-funded Zionist lobbies to function as well oiled machines in portraying an Iranian president with limited powers as almost the next anti-Christ and certainly a Hitler, reborn.

Three other non-white people in the audience clapped when I spoke. As I ran from the room after the panel, they met me outside. Two were Palestinian and thanked me for speaking up for them. I reminded them that I was an Indian and had never been to their land. They said it did not matter and called me “brother,” in the comfortable (for all of us) assumption that there still existed some sense of Muslim brotherhood. As we walked past some young, white protesters holding signs against both racism and Iran—I still fail to see the connection—a young Egyptian activist said simply to me: “One person’s terrorist is another persons freedom fighter.“ That is a powerful statement that does lack a certain nuance of complexity. However coming from India, where similar logic could be applied to Kashmir depending on what side you are on or even coming from a family that had been split apart by the blood of partition that followed the freedom movement from the British colonizers, I understood the truth of that statement.

The farce that was this Geneva round became clear to me as soon as I stepped into the haloed confines of the UN. As the much reviled, almost made-to-be Hitlerian Mr. A. was a few minutes into his speech, the all-Caucasian EU delegations (23 members, we are told) walked out ceremoniously only a few moments after the “humble” (his own term) former mayor of Tehran was pelted with red clown noses, also by Caucasian protestors. But as they made their displeasure known, delegates from African and Asian nations applauded. I wonder if a discussion of race, in terms of skin color, and indeed, the institutionalized racism in many European nations, is even noticed by the White gentleman’s club that usually represents European nations at the UN. Where, indeed, were the voices from within Israel who oppose the disturbingly rightwing, bellicose government that has been chosen to speak for the entire Israeli nation?

The schism between the West and the Rest on Israel and its racism or its institutionalized apartheid of the stateless Palestinians cannot be more obvious. As Mr. Ahmadenijad walked into his press conference, again a motley crew of twenty-something, entirely White protestors hissed at him with quickly printed signs and hissed, stressing their sibilants: “Racccissst.” A British Pakistani man and I were the only two who questioned them on whether they actually had any experience of racism, manifest most simply for both of us in just getting around with our brown skins or Muslim names in most Western nations. These well-dressed kids surely had not experienced racism.

The vilification of the Iranian state is complete. I am no supporter of the “humble” former mayor of Tehran. If anything my work has been harsh in its criticism of the Guardian council-run Islamic state. However, as I chatted to two Iranian delegates just outside of the press conference, I felt briefly that they were actually the underdogs. Dressed in tie-less suits (since that “Western” appendage is so reviled by the Shia intelligentsia) they agreed when I said that their PR was the worst. I even dared in a brief moment of courage to propose that having an easily caricatured provocateur as President could not help the case. The latter case was met with cautious looks. The former was agreed. As we stood there, two young girls carrying the Israeli flag hissed at me and spat in our general direction and said they were going to the anti-Iran protest.
“You mean the commemoration of the Shoah?” I said.
“Yes, and you should see what has been done to our people,” they yelled.

Bewildered, I did stop by the concert held to commemorate the Shoah. Despite the large banner over the stage, it seemed to be was a Bash-Iran concert with signs and banners aplenty and rousing invective. The Iranians were nowhere to be seen. And yes, once again, it was a sea of mostly Caucasians.
I emphasize skin color here for a reason. The way I have understood racism as it pertains to the color of my skin has always been about being a minority in a majority White nation, which now does have a Black president. At the UN there has been a successful conflation of racism with anti-Semitism, which I continue to find problematic. Many of my Jewish friends would hesitate to be identified in reductive terms that disavow the diversity of the people of the Jewish faith. And I do have an immense problem with “White” or “Caucasian” people who, while not aware of their own privilege, accuse an entire nation in which the successfully implemented post-1979 identity has been one born from the Islamic nation state, not based on the colour of one’s skin. These are complicated ideas and certainly the blogosphere and its often off-the-cuff writing style does not invite the easy articulation of complexity and nuance.

I leave Geneva disappointed and sad. Disappointed at the amazing success and desire, evidently, of the Iranians to add value to their ever growing bad rap. Sad that, at least on my panel, the real victims of genocide, discrimination, and racism in our own time were mostly ignored--the dark-skinned African man from Darfur and woman from Rwanda. Disappointed that the mostly Caucasian room at the sham-panel I spoke at could only understand these dignified victims of painfully fresh wounds in relation to the victims of the horrors of the Shoah, now at least five generations past.

The biggest joke in all of this is the continually ineffective, gargantuan bureaucracy also known as the UN. The joke remains on them in their inability to get a single head of state to attend other than the continually reviled Ahmadinejad, a candidate in an upcoming, contentious election, who clearly speaks neither for all of the Mullahs in the Guardian Council nor the anxious youth of Iran, but is, like George Bush was for the grim period just ended, a convenient scarecrow and bogeyman for the rest of the world.

The last and only time I was in Iran was as a young student morphing into a journalist, and that was brief. The fact that I have never been to Israel and the lands it occupies makes me now wonder if I really need to go. Perhaps, they, the Israelis need to see “A Jihad for Love.” And perhaps then I can discover the much-touted claims of this most enlightened “Middle-eastern democracy.” If they allow me to cross from their first-world, well-paved streets into the third-world rubble and chaos of Ramallah and Gaza, I should definitely want to go. I am told that the enlightened Israelis not only tolerate but supposedly love their gays. I also know that the Iranians seemingly do the opposite. I wonder indeed if Mr. Ahmadinejad would now allow me to enter Iran, since I have made some kind of case in the defense of his nation. I already have stated my regret at portions of “A Jihad for Love” that I would now construct very differently. Maybe, now forgiven, I could cross over into both of these forbidden lands that I have feared in the past. Maybe, just maybe, they will even soon have direct flights from Tel Aviv to Tehran! And maybe, just maybe, we will stop waiting to see who destroys whom first. The Israelis clearly have their nuclear arsenal safe and ready. The Iranians are supposedly working on theirs. The Israelis clearly still have Barack Hussein Obama’s America behind them, which reminds me: Is it time to remove the middle name I adopted willingly and proudly during that most famous American election from my Facebook profile?


20.4.09

Poor Israel? Sure, and I am Barack Obama!

I write from Geneva, where I was invited to speak at the UN "Durban II" conference on racism and have just today been spat at by two Israelis. I found myself (unknowingly) on what turned into a "bash Iran" panel with a problematic Zionist agenda. The expectation, perhaps, was that I, being Muslim and gay, would sit and join in the Iran-bashing choir. In doing the opposite I did not make myself the most popular person in the room.
Later, two Israeli delegates spat at me. Surprisingly, an erudite Canadian professor and member of Parliament threw around a baffling and hard-to-explain term: "genocidal anti-Semitism". Only he knows what he means, I certainly do not!
Still later as the Iranian president walked into his press conference, clueless, young (all White by the way) UN workers stood and hissed, accusing him of "racism" (a term problematically applied in this case).
Today for the first time I was witness to the extent of power the pro-Israel , anti-Iran and anti-Palestinian lobbies wield, even here in Geneva.
Cleary Ahmadinejad made provocative comments which were in poor taste. But the complete lack of discussion of Israel's continuing genocide of the Palestinian people, its use of banned weapons of mass destruction like white phosporous on Palestinian civilians, the shameful loss of Palestinian life and its skewed ratio with the loss of a few Israelis are not topics of discussion here.
A greater dispatch will follow but let me very clear: the first day of this UN conference was not an Israeli hate-fest. Quite the opposite; Israel and its many lobbies in majority Caucasian countries (and sometimes mine like India) are loud enough to drown out the rhetoric of the humble former mayor of Tehran.

4.3.09

Parvez Sharma is going to die such a bad death...

So I re-visit my blog, after a long time-many travels, sold out screenings in eight cities in Holland and the day after the film showed on More4 in the UK (that tiny little island that has more Muslims than it knows what to do with!) to find some new fan mail.
I reproduce below. Comment if you wish.
"Parvez Sharma is going to die such a bad death, one that will startle those that dared to support him. Watch out paddy! every Devout Muslim from here to Azerbaijan will be hot on your trails trying to rid you from the face of this earth, we know what you look like so I guess thats a start. If I ever see you and your homo-herd in public I'm going to beat the shit out of you all, I'm going to tie a noose around your bits collectively, tie the other end to the tow bar of my car and drive off leaving off leaving you without your pistols"



8.1.09

Poor Israel!

Please read in their very own newspaper-
Israel's PR war
My thought for the day-
Gideon Lichfiled once again in Haartez says it like it is. Poor Israel cant do PR? Right... And I am Obama...My heart bleeds every minute still, for the terrified population of southern Israel-poor things. I guess they don't have rather fancy bomb shelters, homes, internet, electricity and medical facilities for the useless rockets that fall into their perfectly paved neighborhoods. The rockets that they so fastidiously collect to parade to the foreign journalists they have forbidden entry into a fetid concentration camp called Gaza.

7.1.09

Help us make history!

Dear friends:

We have an urgent need.

We must raise $6,766 to subtitle A Jihad for Love in Farsi, Urdu, Arabic, Hindi, and Turkish for global DVD distribution.

If even 14 people gave $500 or 27 people gave $250 or 45 people gave $150, then we would reach our goal. If we add Turkish, it is $1,458 more.

We are very proud of this groundbreaking work and have worked very hard to reach this point. A Jihad for Love has now been seen by 700,000 people in 30 nations with many lives transformed. People are convening, sometimes at great risk, private screenings in homes and organizations in Pakistan, Iran, Egypt and Bangladesh. However, the film cannot reach those in crisis who do not understand English. It is imperative that A Jihad for Love is available in the languages spoken by a majority of the world\'s 1.4 billion Muslims. There are tens of millions of Muslim gay and lesbian people, and their imams, families, and friends for whom A Jihad for Live has been and will be a lifeline. From Tehran to Istanbul, Cairo to Mumbai, Marrakech to Karachi, and Beirut to Dubai, a subtitled DVD will have impact for years to come as it is nearly impossible to screen the film on TV, in cinemas or safely in any public spaces in many countries.

Please help us make history!

Contact us immediately with ideas.

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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