Parvez Sharma at a showing of A Jihad for Love in Washington, D.C. on 7 September 2008
|Alma mater||University of Calcutta
Jamia Millia Islamia University
|Occupation||Filmmaker and writer|
Parvez Sharma is an internationally renowned New York based Indian writer and filmmaker. He is best known for the multiple award winning and acclaimed film A Jihad for Love, on gay and lesbian Muslims. The influential UTNE Reader named him one of "50 Visionaries changing your world" in a list headed by the Dalai Lama in 2009. "A Jihad for Love" is his first feature, which he directed and produced and is an international phenomenon with more than 8 million viewers in 49 nations in the first two years of its release. The film has been premiered at most major international festival venues including a world premier at Toronto in 2007 and a European premiere (as the opening film of Panorama Documentary) in Berlin, 2008. The winner of more than five international awards, the film has been theatrically released across the US and in Canada and is being broadcast around the world. The film has generated an international media blitz and coverage in practically all big media outlets. He has also been interviewed on BBC, CNN,CBC, Channel 4, Arte/ZDF, SBS, MSNBC, Fox and hundreds of television and radio stations worldwide.
Co-produced with five international broadcasters, France's ARTE, Germany's ZDF, the US Logo, Australian SBS, the British Channel 4 and the Sundance Documentary Fund and Katahdin Foundation, the film has also brought together a historic coalition of foundations and individual donors, making it one of the best funded documentaries of recent times. Mr. Sharma speaks nationally and internationally on college campuses and live theatrical events including conferences and seminars and is represented in the US by premier speakers agency, Keppler Speakers (www.kepplerspeakers.com)
Even though his film has faced theological condemnation in many countries, and has been banned in a number of countries, most notably in Singapore, Mr. Sharma remains (in his own words) "fatwa-free" as he has become a leading spokesperson on defending Islam and yet being able to speak for urgent reform, as a Muslim. He has conducted and led more than 200 live events across the world talking about Islam and in part its relation to homosexuality.
Parvez studied English Literature at Presidency College of the University of Calcutta. He received his master's degrees in Mass Communication (Film and Television) from Jamia Millia Islamia University, Broadcast Journalism from the University of Wales, Cardiff, and Video from American University's School of Communication. He currently lives in New York.
Parvez Sharma has previously worked as television journalist in India and the UK, most notably for India's largest 24-hour news television network NDTV. He also worked with the independent Democracy Now! (in New York) as a producer and as a print journalist in India and the US for many prominent publications. He was educated in India, the UK and the US and has also in the past been an adjunct professor at American University, developing and teaching that university's first curriculum on Bollywood and other Indian cinemas.
The US based OUT Magazine has named Mr. Sharma, one of the OUT 100 for 2008- "one of the 100 gay men and women who have helped shape our culture during the year". He blogs regularly at his extremely popular www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com and is the winner of the prestigious GLAAD media award for Outstanding Documentary in 2009.
He is also a leading commentator on Islamic, racial and political issues with his writings most frequently appearing on The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast. He is engaged in a nationwide speaking tour, current and forthcoming writing (including an anthology on Islam and homosexuality, for which he will write the foreword) and in pre-production for a new film, partly set in his home country, India.
A journalist, Sharma has worked with numerous media, including radio, print, and broadcast.
A Jihad for Love
Sharma is best known for directing the film A Jihad for Love, a documentary that seeks to refute the belief that LGBT Muslims do not exist. The film has also been known by the working title In the Name of Allah.
Sharma, director and cinematographer of the film, came up with the idea after listening to the stories of gay Muslims when he attended American University. He decided to give a voice "to a community that really needed to be heard, and that until now hadn’t been. It was about going where the silence was strongest." 
The film's website describes the film:
|“||Filmed in twelve different countries and in nine languages, In the Name of Allah [working title] is the first-ever feature-length documentary to explore the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality. With unprecedented access and depth, gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma brings to light the hidden lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Muslims and goes where the silence has been loudest in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt and Bangladesh, as well as in Turkey, France, India, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.||”|
The film premiered in early 2007. Sandi Simcha DuBowski, the filmmaker behind Trembling Before G-d, a documentary investigating the lives of homosexual Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, is the producer of A Jihad for Love. The film is produced in association with Channel 4 Television (UK), ZDF (Germany), Arte (France), MTV-Logo (US) and SBS (Australia).
While the film reveals homophobia and persecution in the Muslim world, Sharma has stated that the purpose of the film is not to vilify Islam. Instead, he said:
|“||The Islam that this film is seeking to reclaim is rich, it is pulsating, it's welcoming, condemning sometimes, it's loving, it's erotic, it's sensual, it's poetic and it's musical.||”|
The documentary "A Jihad for Love" deals with the difficult themes of Islam and homosexuality in a post-September 11 world and also seeks to challenge many stereotypes around Islam, in a time when much of the religion and its one billion followers are misunderstood. The film has generated an international media blitz with the New York Times, the Washington Post, The LA Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Houston Chronicle, the Guardian, The Times of London, the Independent, Der Spiegel, Stern, Newsweek, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Screen International, BBC, CNN, SBS, ZDF, CBC, NPR, al-Arabiya and hundreds of others writing about and profiling Mr. Sharma's work. He has variously been hailed as a "gifted filmmaker" (WSJ), "frankly brave" (NPR) and "provocative" (San Francisco Chronicle) and "an apostate" (South Africa's Muslim Judicial Council).
Moez Masoud, a young Egyptian daa'y (caller to Islam) and media expert who has studied under traditional scholars (including the Grand Mufti of Egypt Ali Gomaa) spoke about Parvez's debut film and said "The [documentary] is correct in its use of the term of jihad but defines it incorrectly. When people who have homoerotic desires struggle against their inclinations, they are struggling against an act that satisfies their physical body but is against their spiritual self... jihad is to struggle in the cause of good. It's a struggle for the sake of goodness, beauty, justice and truth. Homoerotic activity is not a manifestation of these universal principles; it's a violation of them and is in antithesis to the spiritual dimension. I love the title [of the movie] but when defined differently. We need to have jihad against extremism in society so we can learn to love the sinning person that is struggling, even though we hate their sin, and so, I too, call for a jihad for love." (source: Egypt Today, February 2008).
Some of the review highlights of the film include:
- Dignity and Despair woven tightly together! -The Guardian
- Critics' pick! Eye-opening, brave, brutally honest - New York Magazine
- Revealing and moving-a gifted filmmaker! - Wall Street Journal
- Lifts the veil of secrecy - National Public Radio
- Courageous...invaluable! - Boston Globe
- Fascinating, provocative! - San Francisco Chronicle
- Provocative, deeply felt and emotionally complex - Village Voice
- Heartfelt... Nail-biting! - The New York Times
- A powerful, important documentary - Film Journal International
- Illuminating! Joins two other very fine documentaries about faith and homosexuality: For the Bible Tells Me So and Trembling Before G-d - Denver Post
Work on Islam and homosexuality
The film is not Sharma's first work dealing with Islam and homosexuality. His piece "Emerging from the Shadows" for The Telegraph in India was the country's first major newspaper article to discuss the life of Indian lesbians.
Sharma has written for The Huffington Post as an authority on issues concerning Islam, the Indian sub-continent,and Islamic sexualities.
He was involved in the organization of the first organized LGBT effort in the state of West Bengal and has spoken internationally on LGBT issues, Human rights violations across the world and the crisis in 21st century Islam.
- Hays, Matthew (2 November 2004). "Act of Faith: A Film on Gays and Islam". The New York Times. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
- "The Democracy Now! Staff Talks About the Blackout of 2003". Democracy Now!. 2003-08-15. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
- "In the Name of Allah". Retrieved 2006-08-28.
- A Jihad for Love
- Rajan, Sujeet (10 March 2006). "Film of Muslim gays stirs up sentiments". Indian Express. Archived from the original on 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2007-02-08.
- Dettman, Katie (19 October 2006). "Benefit held for gay Islam film". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2007-02-05.
- Director of Film on Muslim Homosexuals Frets over His Subjects' Safety
- A Jihad for Love
- Parvez bio
- Film of Muslim gays stirs up sentiments
- Queer and Present Danger (mp3), with Kathleen Mullen, Gretchen Hildebran, Malcolm Ingram and Parvez Sharma
- Parvez Sharma Interview on The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos