A Jihad for Love

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A Jihad for Love
A Jihad for Love Poster.jpg
First Run Features poster for A Jihad for Love (US)
Directed by Parvez Sharma
Produced by Sandi Simcha DuBowski
Parvez Sharma
Music by Sussan Deyhim
Richard Horowitz
supervised by
Ramsay Adams
Abe Velez
Cinematography Parvez Sharma
Edited by Juliet Weber
Distributed by First Run Features (U.S.)
Release date
  • September 9, 2007 (2007-09-09) (Toronto International Film Festival)
  • May 21, 2008 (2008-05-21) (United States)
Running time
81 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English, Arabic, Persian, Urdu, Hindi, French, Turkish, etc.
Box office $105,651

A Jihad for Love (preceded by a short film called In the Name of Allah) is a 2008 documentary film and was the world’s first film on Islam and homosexuality.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11][12] It took a total of six years to make and premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007. It premiered at the Berlin Film Festival in 2008 as the opening documentary film for the Panorama section.[13] The filmmakers[14]—Director and Producer Parvez Sharma and Producer Sandi Dubowski raised more than a million dollars to make the film.[15][16][17]

Because of its debut at the TIFF in 2007, this film is often confused as a 2007 film. However, the film is actually a 2008 film since it began its wide film festival, theatrical, broadcast, networks, streaming runs in the same year.[18]

Many organizations including the Indo-American Arts Council (on March 8, 2009) considered it a “seminal film” because of its historic significance as the world’s first film on this subject.[19][20]

On May 21, 2008, Filmmaker magazine said the same adding that the film was “Shot in 12 countries over six years, Sharma’s film is an intelligent and eloquent exposition of a taboo subject that not only movingly pays tribute to the strength and integrity of the film’s embattled subjects but – despite its provocative title – maintains a reverent rather than critical attitude towards the Islamic religion. We spoke to Sharma about the difficulties involved in making the film, reclaiming the word “jihad,” and designing his own Bollywood film posters as a child.”[21]

IMDB rates the film at 13 on its list of 58 titles under the category of "Best documentaries on religion, spirituality and cults".[22]

The website of the film offers some of the press around the film when it came out and contains an important resources section for LGBT Muslims who are struggling with their identities.[18]

The work that Sharma started with the film started to become a staple in many books on Islam and at U.S. University libraries.[23]

He wrote the forward for the two part anthology called, “Islam and Homosexuality[24][25]

On Amazon the film has a customer review average of four and a half stars out of five. On Amazon A Jihad for Love has a rank of 7,653 in the top 100 documentaries.[26][27][28]

Filmmaker Parvez Sharma was labeled an apostate (kaafir-Arabic), a crime punishable by death by the Tablighi Jamaat in South Africa and several high ranking Salafi/ Wahhabi Sheikhs in Saudi Arabia.[29][1][2]

Production[edit]

A Jihad for Love is produced by Halal Films, in association with the Sundance Documentary Fund, Channel 4 Television (UK), ZDF (Germany), Arte (France-Germany), Logo (US) and SBS (Australia).

On November 20, 2007, The New York Times while explaining the methodology of the film, while quoting an interview with the filmmaker said, "...Shooting the film was no easy task. Sharma was forced to employ guerrilla film-making tactics in Islamic countries where he knew he would never be granted government permission for his taboo subject matter. "I would shoot touristy footage on the first 15 minutes and the last 15 minutes of a tape, hoping that if the tape was actually confiscated at customs . . . they would not find the key part of the interviews, because they would just scroll through the beginning or the end," Sharma says. Luckily, Sharma managed to extradite his footage, over 400 hours worth, to the United States, where he whittled the secret lives of his subjects down to an 80-minute film."[30]

The documentary was filmed in 12 different countries and in nine languages.[1][31] Sharma compiled 400 hours of footage of interviews throughout North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Countries included Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, France, India, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom.[31] He found many of his interviewees online, and received thousands of emails.[32][33]

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007, and has been screened to great acclaim at several film festivals around the world. It was the Opening film for the Panorama Dokumente section of the Berlin Film Festival in February, 2008. The U.S. theatrical release was May 21, 2008 at the IFC Center in New York City. The film screened at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco on June 28, 2008, and the Tokyo International Lesbian & Gay Film Festival on July 13, 2008.

Another website puts it at number 9 in a list of LGBT films about faith.[34]

Filmmaker Magazine said,"Shot in 12 countries over six years, Sharma’s film is an intelligent and eloquent exposition of a taboo subject that not only movingly pays tribute to the strength and integrity of the film’s embattled subjects but – despite its provocative title – maintains a reverent rather than critical attitude towards the Islamic religion."[15]

The Guardian said, " Dignity and despair are woven tightly together in A Jihad for Love, a six-year endeavour by Indian film-maker Parvez Sharma that explores Islam and homosexuality. Without a distributor in the US, the film is one of the hottest tickets at the festival, and nobody knows what will happen at the first public screening. "[35]

The filmmaker raised more than a million dollars over a six-year period to make the film.[35]

The film was shot in a dozen nations, most with Muslim majorities. Parvez Sharma filmed 400 hours of footage in countries ranging from Iraq to Pakistan. The Globe and Mail, Canada's national newspaper said "After nearly six years, Parvez Sharma will finally show his documentary A Jihad for Love at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sunday. But the work is far from over for the filmmaker, whose feature film about the lives of gay Muslims who continue to live strongly by their faith is sure to be provocative.[36]

The film also helped to launch the career of South African "Gay Imam" Muhsin Hendricks by putting him and his work on the international map.[37][38]

Instead, as audiences get their first glimpse at the 70-minute documentary filmed in 12 countries and nine languages, Sharma and his producer, Sandi Dubowski, who directed 2001's Trembling Before G-d, will be on the hunt for donations to help pay off the film's post-production costs and fund their planned Muslim Dialogue Project." The Muslim Dialogue Project was launched right after the film's theatrical launch around the U.S.[39]

New York magazine said " Making a documentary about gay and lesbian Muslims in twelve countries was not easy. “A white boy from Chelsea could not have made this film,” explains Parvez Sharma, the New York–based director of A Jihad for Love, opening May 21. “Being gay and Muslim myself, I knew that this film had to be about us all coming out— as Muslims. It’s about claiming the Islam that has been denied to us.” As such, Sharma says his ideal audience is faithful Muslims—and not just “gay white men or activists.” To reach them, he’s “smuggled tapes into Iran and Pakistan,” leafleted mosques, blanketed MySpace, and “hosted a screening at a home in Astoria for fifteen key progressive Muslim leaders.” There’s more to do: “Over the last six years, some of the most amazing conversations I’ve had about this film have been with taxi drivers, but I’m stumped about how to reach them again.”

An article about the film in The Guardian in 2007 explained its methodology:

"Sharma compiled 400 hours of footage from a dozen countries ranging from Iraq to Pakistan to the UK. The nature of the work placed him at considerable personal risk. He adopted hardcore guerrilla film-making tactics, pretending to be a tourist in one country, a worker for an Aids charity in another. Wherever he went, he asked friends to keep copies of footage and destroy the tapes once he had successfully smuggled the masters out of the country."[35]

The film took Parvez Sharma to 12 countries and he filmed in nine languages.[16]

During the making of the film, Sharma always worked undercover without government protection. He would record tourist looking footage at the beginning and end of every tape and check his tapes in, hoping that if they were checked by unfriendly border authorities, they would only see the first couple of minutes and assume it was tourist footage and let it go. He took these extraordinary precautions to not reveal the identity of his subjects and in many cases to save his own life.[40]

In an interview to the German "Der Speigel" Sharma explained the significance of the title

" I'm not looking at jihad as battle -- I'm looking at the greater jihad in Islam, which is the jihad as the struggle with the self. I also thought it was really compelling to take a word that only has one connotation for most -- to take that, reclaim it and put it in the same phrase as love, which is universal. I really think it explains it very well."[13]

In 2004 when the film was still in production the New York Times profiled the filmmaker (it would do so again in 2015[41]) and said

"Given the hostility toward homosexuality in some Islamic factions, Mr. Sharma has gone to great lengths to reassure many of his interview subjects that they will remain anonymous. But this obscuring of identities has led to what the director regards as one of his key challenges: filming people in silhouette or with their faces covered tends to reinforce a sense of shame around homosexuality, precisely countering one of Mr. Sharma's main objectives."[42]

"The Nation" explained the methodology "Sharma" employed to film.[43]

"But shooting the film was no easy task. Sharma was forced to employ guerilla filmmaking tactics in Islamic countries where he knew he would never be granted government permission for his taboo subject matter. “I would shoot touristy footage on the first fifteen minutes and the last fifteen minutes of a tape, hoping that if the tape was actually confiscated at customs…they would not find the key part of the interviews, because they would just scroll through the beginning or the end,” Sharma says. Luckily, Sharma managed to extradite his footage, over 400 hours worth, to the United States, where he whittled the secret lives of his subjects down to an eighty-minute film."[44]

Cinemapolitica in a review said" "A Jihad for Love" is Mr. Sharma’s debut and is the world’s first feature documentary to explore the complex global intersections between Islam and homosexuality." [45]

The primary film industry rankings indicator called Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 78% score, which is considered high. In their own words, " As the reviews of a given film accumulate, the Rotten Tomatoes score measures the percentage that are more positive than negative, and assigns an overall fresh or rotten rating to the movie. Scores of over 60 percent are considered fresh, and scores of 59 percent and under are rotten."[17]

Distribution[edit]

The film was made available on Amazon Prime and iTunes. It was one of Netflix's earliest acquisitions. US Distributor First Run Features[46], acquired the film for a theatrical release as well. It was also co-produced with and broadcast on MTV's Logo, UK's Channel 4, Germany's ZDF, France's Arte and the Sundance Documentary Fund.[47][48][49][3][50] They bought the film and went on to release it in more than 30 cities in the U.S. alone.This kind of release was rare for a documentary in 2008.[51]

At New York's IFC Center the film ran for four and a half weeks.[28][4][52][53]

Earning more than $22,000 dollars in its first five days in NYC, the film was already breaking records for documentary.[46]

By 2016, the film had been viewed by an estimated 8 million viewers in 50 nations. A lot had to do with its sale to television networks around the world.[54][55][56][57][5][58][59]

The film was acquired for distribution on Netflix in 2008.[60] It was declared "one of the best Netflix movies".[61]

On YouTube the trailer of the film has 264,289 views as of 2017.[62][6]

Box Office[edit]

Opening Weekend USA: $13,418, 25 May 2008, Limited Release

Gross USA: $105,033, 21 September 2008

Mongrel Media in Canada acquired the film for theatrical distribution releasing it in Toronto and Montreal.[63] First Run Features issued a detailed description/ press release at the early stages of the film saying: "A Jihad for Love had a World Premiere at The Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007. It is screening at The Berlin Film Festival in Panorama in February 2008. First Run Features has acquired the film for US distribution and the film will kick- off a US theatrical release at The IFC Center in NYC on May 21, 2008.[7]

Screenings[edit]

A Jihad for Love was screened at more than a hundred film festivals including:[8]

The Toronto International Film Festival, Canada, September 2007

The Rio Film Festival, Brazil, September 2007

The Morelia Film Festival, Mexico, October 2007

The Sheffield Documentary Film Festival, UK, November 2007

The Out in Africa Film Festival in Johannesburg and Cape Town, South Africa, November 2007

MIX BRASIL, São Paulo Brasil, November 2007

The Image + Nation Film Festival, Montreal, Canada, November 2007

The Tri-Continental Film Festival in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bangalore, India, January 2008

The Berlin Film Festival, Germany, February 2008

Ambulante Documentary Film Festival, 16 cities in Mexico, February–April 2008 Thessaloniki Documentary Film Festival, Greece, March 2008

London Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, UK, March 2008

The Istanbul International Film Festival, April 2008

Singapore International Film Festival, April 2008

Frameline Film Festival, San Francisco, USA June 2008

Melbourne International Film Festival, Australia, July 2008

Special underground screenings in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Lahore, Pakistan

Awards[edit]

The movie won seven international awards:

This information is available from an early press release from First Run Features.[9]

The film went on to win 15 other international awards including the GLAAD Media Award on June 30, 2009. This award is considered a pinnacle of achievement with celebrity endorsers like Rachel Maddow and Suze Orman.[65]

At the time GLAAD said the film won this award for many reasons including it being groundbreaking : "A Jihad for Love wins best documentary at the GLAAD media awards. Writer/director Parvez Sharma and producer Sandi Dubowski were present to accept the award for their groundbreaking work."Leading the conversation. Shaping the media narrative."[65][66][67]

The film was screened in the Toronto Film Festival in September 2007 and had its European premier as the opening film of Panorama Documente of the Berlin Film Festival also known as the Berlinale in February, 2008. At the latter festival the film won a special "Teddy".[68][69][70][13][71][72]

In a feature on the film titled " Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma risks personal safety to tell the stories of queer Muslims around the world" Cinemapolitica said, "Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma risks personal safety to tell the stories of queer muslims all over the world.

In a time when Islam is under tremendous attack from within and without, "A Jihad for Love" is a daring documentary filmed in twelve countries and nine languages. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has gone where the silence is loudest, filming with great risk in nations where government permission to make this film was not an option. "A Jihad for Love" is Mr. Sharma’s debut and is the world’s first feature documentary to explore the complex global intersections between Islam and homosexuality. Parvez enters the many worlds of Islam by illuminating multiple stories as diverse as Islam itself. The film travels a wide geographic arc presenting us lives from India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and France. Always filming in secret and as a Muslim, Parvez makes the film from within the faith, depicting Islam with the same respect that the film's characters show for it."

"A Jihad for Love" is produced by Sandi DuBowski (Director/Producer of the award-winning "Trembling Before G-d") and Parvez Sharma in association with ZDF-Arte, Channel 4, LOGO, SBS-Australia, The Sundance Documentary Fund and The Katahdin Foundation. In Western media, the concept of ‘jihad’ is often narrowly equated with holy war. But Jihad also has a deeper meaning, its literal Arabic being ‘struggle’ or ‘to strive in the path of God’. In this film we meet several characters engaged in their personal Jihad’s for love. The people in this film have a lot to teach us about love. Their pursuit of love has brought them into conflicts with their countries, families, and even themselves. Such is the quandary of being both homosexual and Muslim, a combination so taboo that very little about it has been documented. As a result, the majority of gay and lesbian Muslims must travel a twisting, lonely and often dangerous road. The majority of Muslims believe that homosexuality is forbidden by the Qur'an and many scholars quote Hadith (sayings attributed to Muhammad) to directly condemn homosexuality. Islam, already the second largest religion in the world is also the fastest growing. 50 nations have a Muslim majority.

In a few of those nations laws interpreted from alleged Qur'anic prohibitions of male homosexuality (lesbianism is allegedly absent from the Qur'an) are enforced by religious, tribal or military authorities to monitor, entrap, imprison, torture and even execute homosexuals. Even for those who migrate to Europe or North America and adopt Western personae of "gay" or "queer," the relative freedoms of new homelands are mitigated by persistent racial profiling and intensified state surveillance after the attacks of 9/11 and train bombings in Madrid and London. As a result, many gay and lesbian Muslims end up renouncing their religion completely. But the real-life characters of A "Jihad for Love" aren't willing to abandon a faith they cherish and that sustains them. Instead, they struggle to reconcile their ardent belief with the innate reality of their being.

The international chorus of gay and lesbian Muslims brought together by "A Jihad for Love" doesn't seek to vilify or reject Islam, but rather negotiate a new relationship to it. In doing so, the film's extraordinary characters attempt to point the way for all Muslims to move beyond the hostile, war-torn present, toward a more hopeful future. As one can imagine, it was a difficult decision for the subjects to participate in the film due to the violence they could face. It took the filmmaker six years to finish this film and he like those who have stepped forward to tell their stories"[45]

In a piece entitled "Two tickets for Jihad Please", which is a direct quote from Parvez Sharma's interview with the Black Filmmakers Collective, the journalist also noted that the film was "critically acclaimed".

Cineaste magazine said "The climate was certainly ripe, and there was a very ambitious filmmaker who knew a good opportunity when he saw one. Parvez Sharma was raised Muslim in India and although he does have some feeling for his religion, he is by no means devout. However, as a resident of the US, post 9/11, he says he felt he had to do something in the battle to represent Islam. He declares that his religion was hijacked by extremists who preach violence and hatred, and he is not referring to Fox TV or George Bush. He means the radical clerics who have become the face of Islam in the West. Sharma sought to prove that his religion was a peaceful and loving one, and in effect, that not all Muslims are terrorists. Some are even gay."[73]

Another website placed it on a list of the top religious documentary films ever made.[74]

Critical Reception[edit]

The film got a lot of publicity worldwide. This started after its international release at the Toronto Film Festival in September 2007 and European premier as the opening film of Panorama Documente of the Berlin Film Festival also known as the Berlinale in February, 2008. At the latter festival the film won a special "Teddy".[68][69][70][13][71][72]

The scores on Rotten Tomatoes, IMDb and Metacritic indicate that the film was overall rated very positively. The film has a score of 78% on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 32 reviews. It has a positive audience review of 68% which gives it an overall four out of 5 stars.[75] Here are some excerpts of reviews in the US.There are hundreds of other reviews in English, television and other languages; and in the countries the film was broadcast. The website afterellen said, "You know that director Parvez Sharma is serious about focusing also on women in Islam when he opens his debut documentary, A Jihad for Love, with a lesbian couple at prayer. Notably, about half the film traverses lesbian landscapes, which the Indian-born Sharma covered as a print journalist for The Statesman in 1994, marking the first major newspaper presentation of lesbians within India. He remains committed to lesbian visibility now in his career as a filmmaker.“I find that gay cinema has been in decline ever since the great films of the ’80s like The Times of Harvey Milk,” Sharma observed. “After that, the majority of gay cinema was focused on trash. I have been troubled by the inordinate focus on the sexual lives of gay men. As a screen remedy, Sharma unveils a diverse range of practicing Muslim women at different stages of acceptance with their sexual orientation. What they share is the struggle to accommodate both Islam and homosexuality in their lives.[76] This website (afterellen.com) purportedly claimed it was the top website for LGBT women, reaching over 700,000 readers a month as of 2008.[77]

"24 critics and curators were polled and A Jihad for Love was amongst the 55 coolest films amongst 349 screening at the festival that year." Then editor of Indiewire Eugene Hernandez said, "This long-in-the-works documentary exploring the intersection of homosexuality and Islam will surely provoke discussion."[78]

Below is a list of pull quotes from various media:

Critics' pick! Eye-opening, brave, brutally honest - New York Magazine[79]

Revealing and moving-a gifted filmmaker! - Wall Street Journal

Dignity and Despair woven tightly together…Compassionate- The Guardian[35]

Lifts the veil of secrecy - National Public Radio[80]

Courageous...invaluable! - Boston Globe[81]

Fascinating, provocative! - San Francisco Chronicle[82]

An alternative perspective on Islam- Daily News, Egypt

Provocative, deeply felt and emotionally complex - Village Voice[83]

Heartfelt... Nail-biting! - The New York Times[84]

A powerful, important documentary - Film Journal International[85]

Illuminating! Joins two other very fine documentaries about faith and homosexuality: For the Bible Tells Me So and Trembling Before G-d. - Denver Post[86]

Rich with compelling, often heartbreaking stories…a much-needed reminder that the foundation of any great religion consists of love and understanding. - Film Threat[87]

Numerous compelling stories…socially groundbreaking work - Slant Magazine[88]

A remarkable exploration, six years in the making, of the lives and struggles of gays and lesbians in the Islamic world today- Huffington Post[89]

Powerful - Entertainment Weekly[90]

A Leap of Faith- Time Out[91]

Poignant…A quest for love, not war- The Nation[43]

Can your faith really kill you?...Will surprise a Western audience- The Sunday Times[35]

Sharma is right to keep his focus tight…Who should feel shame, gay Muslims, or the Muslims who oppress them? -Washington Post[92]

The film also had its fair share of criticism.[93] On September 5, 2008 Seattle Times said, "For all the research, courage and passion that went into it, the movie is sometimes curiously one-note." [93]

After the film, the filmmaker for three years went on a nationwide speaking tour of college campuses including University of Chicago, Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, NYU, Columbia, UCLA and many more.[94][95]

Significance of the title[edit]

The title A Jihad for Love refers to the Islamic concept of jihad, as a religious struggle. The film seeks to reclaim this concept of personal struggle, as it is used by the media and politicians almost exclusively to mean "holy war" and to refer to violent acts perpetrated by extremist Muslims.

Bismillah was considered as an early working title for the film, but was not considered as the final title to avoid further controversy.

Among Muslims, the phrase (bismillah in Arabic) may be used before beginning actions, speech, or writing. Its most notable use in Al-Fatiha, the opening passage of the Qur'an, which begins Bismillahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim. All surahs of the Qur'an begin with "Bismillahi r-Rahmani r-Rahim," with the exception of the ninth.

Producer DuBowski's previous film, Trembling Before G-d, on Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, also included the name of God, written with a hyphen as in Jewish tradition. Allah is the name of God in Islam and Arabic, and it is often used among Muslims residing in Muslim countries and monotheists in Arabic speaking countries.

Controversy and problems[edit]

Sharma's making of the film has not been without criticism.

The spokesperson of the Singapore Board of Censors, Amy Chua, said to the Straits Times, "The film was banned from screening at the 2008 Singapore International Film Festival in view of the sensitive nature of the subject that features Muslim homosexuals in various countries and their struggle to reconcile religion and their lifestyle."[96]

After its September 2007 festival release at the Toronto Film Festival the film began to generate worldwide controversy. At its premier at TIFF 2007, the director was given a security guard.

On November 2, 2004, the New York Times said, "On Sharma refuses to associate homosexuality with shame, but recognizes the need to protect the safety and privacy of his sources, by filming them in silhouette or with their faces blurred. In one case, the family of an Afghan woman he interviewed "would undoubtedly kill her" if they found out she was lesbian. In another example, one of the associate producers, an Egyptian gay man, chose not to be listed in the credits for fear of possible consequences."[32]

The film was banned in Singapore and many Muslim and some Arab nations. Press reports about the Singapore ban, for example said “About 14 percent of Singapore's 4.4 million population is Muslim. The film was shown in film festivals in Hong Kong, Tokyo and in Jakarta, Indonesia at the recently concluded Q Film Festival.” They also said that “the film’s sale and broadcast on NDTV, South Asia’s largest network in 2008 would have a “remarkable” impact. “NDTV’s broadcast has in effect made the film available to over one billion viewers in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, the UAE, and large portions of the Middle East and Africa – many of which continue to experience tension along religious lines.”[97]

The various distributors and their Total Rating Points in European television, the Indian/ South-Asian sale with its claimed footprint of 15 billion viewers, the theatrical release and the purportedly large numbers of Netflix viewers made the filmmakers and the TRP experts (a term used in South Asia for audience measurement) arrive at a number of eight million total viewers calculated over a period of four years for this documentary. That number was quoted in various books over the years.[98][57][99][59][100]

Sharma has praised the NDTV for taking the “bold and courageous step” to broadcast the film “in a time when India's draconian Section 377 of the penal code that makes homosexuality illegal has been successfully challenged in the Delhi High Court.”[101]

The film was banned in the entire MENA region and 18 of the 22 countries that comprise the middle-east. Egyptian activist and blogger, Ethar El-Katatney [102] wrote the following from Cairo on February 15, 2008, “Homosexuality is not a comfortable, much less a popular, topic among Muslims. Broach the subject in the Middle East, and you’re likely to hear a response like the one Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad gave US audiences last year: “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals, like in your country.” At best, society adopts a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ approach – do what you will, just don’t advertise it.

A controversial new documentary, A Jihad for Love, is shattering that taboo by interviewing homosexual Muslims, including an Egyptian gay man ‘outed’ by his arrest during the 2001 Queen Boat raid and an Egyptian lesbian still hiding her sexuality from society. Filmmaker Parvez Sharma had dual motivations: first, to challenge the mindset that Muslim and gay are mutually exclusive, and second, to challenge the Western world’s own Islamophobia.

The Arab media including Katatney and Egypt Today then reported “A Jihad for Love has polarized the discussion of homosexuality among Muslims. Critics argue that Sharma portrays homosexual activity as permissible in Islam, while they contend that it clearly isn’t. They also accuse Sharma of bias: “As a gay Muslim man, they argue that he began the project with prejudices and a predefined position on homosexuality.” On a television program which used clips of the film and Sharma, called The Right Way, Masoud said Sharma was not trained in the Muslim practice of Ijtihad, saying “Only around 20 of over 100,000 companions of the prophet were “ahl estembat” (those who considered themselves qualified enough to actually interpret Qur'an and Hadith). But interestingly calling for a more peaceful Islam he praised the title of the film saying, “ 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”.[103][104]

The New York Times said “After “Jihad,” Mr. Sharma was labeled an infidel, and in the intervening years, he has gotten more death threats than he cares to recall.”[41]

The fatwa’s calling for Sharma’s death and just the death threats and hate email continued up until Sharma’s next project, A Sinner in Mecca, when they were renewed again.[97][105]

Sharma went on to appear widely in the news media to defend and explain the thesis of the film, which according to him reclaimed the meaning of Jihad and was not an anti-Islam film. The New Yorker said, “Sharma, the filmmaker, grew up twenty minutes from the Darul Uloom, an important center of Islamic learning in Uttar Pradesh, in northern India. Aware of his sexual orientation since puberty, he said the center’s daily calls to prayer haunted him. He came to the United States in 2000, but still faces discrimination. “I attend the Ninety-sixth Street mosque, in Manhattan,” he told me. “You can’t imagine the kind of sermons I’ve heard.”[87]

Sharma has responded to the challenges and contradictions by making documentaries. “A Jihad for Love,” released in 2007, explores the secret lives of gay Muslims in twelve countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Turkey.”[106]

International Muslim Dialogue Project[edit]

The film producer Sandi DuBowski and Director/ Producer Parvez Sharma launched the International Muslim Dialogue Project in 2008.[10][11][87][107]

Part of the aim for the project was to organize screenings of the film in Muslim Capitals. Sharma called it the “Underground Network Model” of film distribution. He invented this model sending unmarked DVD’s of the film with friends and colleagues to Muslim capitals across the world with full permission to sell pirated copies.[108]

Some of the boldest were Beirut, Cairo, Karachi, eight cities in Indonesia and Kuala Lumpur.[109][12][110][111][40]

In a feature titled, "How Parvez Sharma made a Jihad for Love" the U.S. based New York magazine said on May 18, 2008 "As such, Sharma says his ideal audience is faithful Muslims—and not just “gay white men or activists.” To reach them, he’s “smuggled tapes into Iran and Pakistan,” leafleted mosques, blanketed MySpace, and “hosted a screening at a home in Astoria for fifteen key progressive Muslim leaders.” There’s more to do: “Over the last six years, some of the most amazing conversations I’ve had about this film have been with taxi drivers, but I’m stumped about how to reach them again.”[112]

In 2015 he launched a global Muslim empowerment endeavor called Project 786.[113] The project's website says "Project 786 is a worldwide Outreach, Dialogue and Measurable Change Project aimed at significantly impacting and changing contemporary discourse about Islam, today the worlds fastest growing and most contested religion."

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "A Jihad for Love: Excerpts From A Work-In-Progress". Miami Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Archived from the original on June 9, 2007. Retrieved June 13, 2007. 
  2. ^ "Cinema Q: A Jihad For Love | Denver Film Society | Parvez Sharma | USA". secure.denverfilm.org. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  3. ^ Kaiser, Charles (2017-09-10). "A Sinner in Mecca review – Islam, homosexuality and the hope of tolerance". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  4. ^ "A Jihad for Love - Laemmle.com". www.laemmle.com. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  5. ^ "A Jihad For Love | Cinereach". Cinereach. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  6. ^ A Jihad for Love, retrieved 2018-03-03 
  7. ^ A Jihad for Love, retrieved 2018-03-03 
  8. ^ Dawson, Nick. "Parvez Sharma, A Jihad For Love | Filmmaker Magazine". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 2018-03-03. 
  9. ^ Sharma, Parvez (2008-05-21), A Jihad for Love, Muhsin Hendricks, A. K. Hoosen, Mazen, retrieved 2018-03-03 
  10. ^ Sharma, Parvez (2009-04-21), A Jihad for Love, FIRST RUN FEATURES, retrieved 2018-03-03 
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