Parvez Sharma

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Parvez Sharma
Parvez Sharma at a showing of A Jihad for Love in Washington, DC, USA, 2008-09-07
Parvez Sharma at a showing of A Jihad for Love in Washington, D.C. on 7 September 2008
Born India
Residence New York
Alma mater University of Calcutta
Jamia Millia Islamia University
Cardiff University
American University
Occupation Filmmaker and writer
Religion Islam

Parvez Sharma is a New York-based Indian filmmaker and writer. Sharma is best known for his two films A Jihad for Love and A Sinner in Mecca. The first film documented the lives of gay and lesbian Muslims, and for which he received the 2009 GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Documentary amongst seven other international awards.[1]

In 2009, Sharma was named as one of "50 Visionaries changing your world" in a list headed by the Dalai Lama.[2] His second film, A Sinner in Mecca, premiered at the 2015 Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival [3] and is a New York Times Critics' Pick[4] amongst other press attention. Over the years the New York Times has also published two feature profiles on Sharma and his work.[5][6]

Early life[edit]

Sharma grew up in India, where he 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 moved to the United States in 2000.


As a commentator on Islamic, racial and political issues, Sharma's writings have appeared on The Huffington Post, The Daily Beast and The Guardian[7]

In 2009 Sharma reported about the aborted Green Movement in Iran using first hand accounts and interviews with friends in Tehran and often giving readers of The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast a look into the workings of the uprising.[8]

In early 2011 Sharma blogged about the revolution in Egypt, providing a local perspective on the events.[9] He spoke about the nature and extent of social media influence in the Middle East to press across the world, including interviews with newspapers in China, including the South China Morning Post and interviews on various US networks including CNBC, MSNBC and FOX News.

Sharma continues to be a commentator on Islamic, racial and political issues. In 2009 Sharma wrote the forward for the anthology ‘Islam and Homosexuality[10] (Praeger, 2009). He was interviewed and his work was profiled in journalist Robin Wrights book 'Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion in the Middle East'.[11] His work on the Arab Spring was profiled in author Cole Strykers book 'Hacking the Future: Privacy, Identity and Anonymity on the Web'.[12][13] In 2007 he wrote a chapter for the book 'Gay Travels in the Muslim World'.[14]

The US based OUT Magazine named Sharma, one of the OUT 100 twice for 2008 and 2015- "one of the 100 gay men and women who have helped shape our culture during the year". In 2016 a year after Larry Kramer Sharma won the Monette Horowitz award given to individuals and organizations for their significant contributions toward eradicating homophobia.[15]

In his early career he has worked on programming for BBC World Television (India), the Discovery Channel (United States), and the World Bank (United States).

Sharma is currently working on the book version of A Sinner in Mecca. As an author Sharma is represented by literary agency Sterling Lord Literistic.

A Jihad for Love and A Sinner in Mecca[edit]

Main article: A Jihad for Love

Sharma is best known for directing the films A Jihad for Love and A Sinner in Mecca. A Jihad for Love is a documentary that seeks to refute the belief that LGBT Muslims do not exist.[16] The film has also been known by the working title In the Name of Allah.[17]

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." [18]

The film premiered in 2007 at the Toronto International Film Festival and in 2008 at the Berlinale. It went on to premier at more than a hundred film festivals globally and was released in theaters in the US and Canada in 2008 by First Run Features and Mongrel Media.[19] It was produced by Sandi Simcha DuBowski in association with Channel 4 Television (UK), ZDF (Germany), Arte (France), MTV-Logo (US), The Sundance Documentary Fund and SBS. 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. In an early interview he said:

By 2011, Sharma had conducted live events and screenings of A Jihad for Love in many Muslim nations and capitals ranging from Beirut, Lebanon and Istanbul, Turkey, to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In Indonesiathe world’s largest Muslim nation, the film did an 8-city tour to acclaim and also protests. : a multi city tour in Mexican theaters organized by Ambulante used the film as a tool for advocacy in deeply religious communities in that country.[21][22] The film also thrived underground, with private screenings of smuggled DVDs. In July 2009 Sharma conducted workshops on Islam and homosexuality with German parliamentarians in Berlin and was invited to screen and workshop A Jihad for Love by the European Union.[23]Sharma was first profiled by The New York Times in 2004 which 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."[5]

With his second film A Sinner in Mecca the New York Times ran a second feature profile feature on Sharma on September 24, 2015 saying "The documentary, largely recorded on an iPhone strapped to Mr. Sharma’s neck with rubber bands, shows the pilgrimage in unflinching detail. The result is a religious reality film, but also a piercing indictment of Saudi Arabia" [6] The piece also used clips from A Sinner in Mecca[24][25] The film premiered in Toronto at the 2015 HotDocs Canadian Film Festival and opened in theaters in the US on September 4, 2015.[26] In 2016, A Sinner in Mecca won a RapidLion for Best Documentary Feature. A Sinner in Mecca has received a lot of press and audience attention but also lead to online abuse, death threats and hate mail.[27][28][29] The film premiered in Canada on CBC's The Passionate Eye on October 10, 2015.[30][31] It premiered on Arte in France and ZDF in Germany on November 6. The film was acquired by Netflix in October 2015 and is also available on iTunes.[32]

A Jihad for Love was widely written about 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 Speigel, Stern, Newsweek,The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, Variety, Hollywood Reporter, Screen International, BBC, CNN, PBS, SBS, ZDF, CBC, National Public Radio, al-Arabiya and hundreds of other media outlets, writing about and profiling Sharma’s work. In 2008 he was variously hailed as a “gifted filmmaker” (Wall Street Journal), “frankly brave” (NPR), “provocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), and “an apostate” (South Africa’s Muslim Judicial Council). He has been interviewed on more than 200 radio stations worldwide.[citation needed]

Even though both his films were banned in Singapore[33] and parts of the Middle East and led to theological condemnation in many countries, Sharma is a leading spokesperson on defending Islam yet being able to speak for urgent reform, as a Muslim. He has conducted more than 200 live events across the world, talking about Islam and, in part, its relation to homosexuality.

Early career[edit]

Parvez Sharma worked as television journalist in India and the United Kingdom, including for India's 24-hour news television network NDTV. A journalist, Sharma has worked in radio,[34] print, and broadcast. He also worked with the Democracy Now! in New York as a producer; and as a print journalist in India and the US. He has taught as an adjunct professor at American University, developing and teaching that university's first curriculum on Bollywood and other Indian cinemas.

His piece "Emerging from the Shadows" for The Statesman in India was the country's first major newspaper article to discuss the life of Indian lesbians.[18]

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.

Inspirational and Activist Speaker[edit]

Sharma has been a featured speaker at more than 40 college campuses in the U.S., which include Stanford,[35] Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, NYU, Harvard, Syracuse, Northwestern and the University of Chicago. He toured several US Southern States in 2009 and called it his “Bible Belt Tour” speaking directly to issues around LGBT rights (or the lack thereof) within conservative Christian communities.[36]

In 2009 Sharma was invited as a keynote speaker to the United Nations at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy[37] during Durban Review Conference.[38][39] The same year he also addressed one of the world’s largest gatherings of LGBT activists at the Gay Games in Copenhagen.[40] He was invited by the Foreign Services Institute of the US Department of State as a keynote speaker in Washington, DC on June 21, 2012. The event was called "The Rights of LGBT Persons in the Middle East and South and Central Asia." On December 20, 2012 he conducted a day long workshop with officials from the USCIS in the Department of Homeland Security.

As a speaker he is represented by The Lavin Agency.[41]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "A Jihad for Love Wins at GLAAD Media Awards". March 30, 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2014. 
  2. ^ Staff (November–December 2009). "50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World". UTNE Reader. 
  3. ^ Hot Docs Retrieved 7 May 2015.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ "A-Sinner-in-Mecca - Trailer - Cast - Showtimes -". Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  5. ^ a b Hays, Matthew (2004-11-02). "Act of Faith: A Film on Gays and Islam". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  6. ^ a b Glaser, Gabrielle (2015-09-24). "A Gay Muslim Filmmaker Goes Inside the Hajj". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  7. ^ "Parvez Sharma". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  8. ^ "The Basij Will Face Retribution: Exiled by the regime, Ayatollah Mohsen Kadivar Gives His Own Sermon". The World Post. The Huffington Post. 2009-07-21. Retrieved 2015-12-19. 
  9. ^ "Egypt Is Burning, and It Is Not a Facebook or Twitter Event". The World Post. The Huffington 2011-01-28. Retrieved 2015-12-19. 
  10. ^ Habib, Samar (2010-01-01). Islam and Homosexuality. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313379031. 
  11. ^ Wright, Robin (2012-08-07). Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World with a New Concluding Chapter by the Author. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9781439103173. 
  12. ^ Hacking the Future: Privacy, Identity, and Anonymity on the Web (1 ed.). New York, NY: The Overlook Press. 2012-09-13. ISBN 9781590209745. 
  13. ^ Stryker, Cole (2012-09-13). Hacking the Future. Overlook Press. ISBN 9781468305456. 
  14. ^ Gay Travels in the Muslim World (1 ed.). New York: Routledge. 2007-05-16. ISBN 9781560233404. 
  15. ^ "Current Awardees 2016". The Monette-Horwitz Trust. Retrieved 5 May 2016. 
  16. ^ "In the Name of Allah". Retrieved 2006-08-28. 
  17. ^ A Jihad for Love
  18. ^ a b 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. 
  19. ^ "First Run Features: A JIHAD FOR LOVE". Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  20. ^ Dettman, Katie (19 October 2006). "Benefit held for gay Islam film". Bay Area Reporter. Retrieved 2007-02-05. 
  21. ^ "Parvez Sharma - A Sinner in Mecca". A Sinner in Mecca. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  22. ^ "Ambulante | Gira de Documentales". Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  23. ^ "A Jihad for Love and its worldwide impact - A Sinner in Mecca". A Sinner in Mecca. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  24. ^ Films, Haram (2015-09-24). "Filming in Mecca". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  25. ^ Films, Haram (2015-09-24). "The Kaaba". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  26. ^ "Cinema Village - Movie Information". Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  27. ^ Barnard, Linda (2015-04-28). "Security is being added for the world premiere April 29 of A Sinner in Mecca by gay Muslim filmmaker Parvez Sharma.". The Toronto Star. ISSN 0319-0781. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  28. ^ "Hot Docs: Cinema Security Heightened for 'A Sinner in Mecca' World Premiere". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  29. ^ film, Guardian. "Gay Muslim film-maker receives online abuse for hajj documentary". the Guardian. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  30. ^ "Watch A Sinner in Mecca - The Passionate Eye - CBC News Network". Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  31. ^ "The Passionate Eye". Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  32. ^ "A Sinner In Mecca on iTunes". iTunes. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  33. ^ "A Sinner in Mecca | Singapore International Film Festival". Singapore International Film Festival. Retrieved 2015-12-22. 
  34. ^ "The Democracy Now! Staff Talks About the Blackout of 2003". Democracy Now!. 2003-08-15. Retrieved 2007-02-11. 
  35. ^ "Establishing Justice" (PDF). Establishing Justice. Stanford University. January 9, 2011. Retrieved December 21, 2015. 
  36. ^ [1]
  37. ^ "Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy | Speakers | Parvez Sharma". Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  38. ^, retrieved 2015-12-21  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  39. ^ "Fieldnotes from the Durban Review Conference: Parvez Sharma". Fieldnotes from the Durban Review Conference. 2009-04-20. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  40. ^ "Denmark's Got Gay Spirit". Out Magazine. Retrieved 2015-12-21. 
  41. ^ "Parvez Sharma Speaking Bio & Videos | Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau". Retrieved 2015-12-21. 

External links[edit]