Islam, as one of the Abrahamic religions, along with Judaism and Christianity, has sometimes been perceived to reject homosexuality. According to mainstream Islamic beliefs, God sent the prophet Lot to the people of Sodom to preach against their wicked practices and urge them to worship God. Among these practices (as mentioned in the Quran) engaged in by the people of Sodom were sexual acts performed out in the open. Hence, the word sodomite. The exact meaning of this passage has been taken as reference to varying activities. The Quran (Surah Al-’Ankabut> Verse 29) recounts what was preached to the Sodomites. “Do ye indeed approach men, and cut off the highway? And practise wickedness (even) in your councils?” and the Quran also states “If two among you (men) commit it (fornication) punish them both.If they repent and mend their ways leave them both”.(4:16)
Diverse perspectives on homosexuality exist amongst new liberated Muslims, ranging from condemnation through to the Muslim Canadian Congress‘s welcome for legislation redefining marriage to include same-sex partners. In the documentary, a number of Islamic scholars assert that the Qur’anic verse, “we created you as partners”, need not be limited to male-female couples. The documentary shows Muslim gay marriages (nikah) in the United States, Canada and India. It states that this diversity may lie at the heart of traditional Islamic practice. In the formation of the different Islamic schools of thought, which have now become different denominations, such as Maliki and Shafi, scholars accepted there could be different interpretations of Qur’anic Arabic and people could align themselves to whichever they felt represented them most. The documentary asserts that the modern-day call of the politico-religious right for a homogeneous Islam is a new invention, and not at all fundamental.
A Jihad for Love (2007) is the world’s first documentary film on the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality. The film is directed by Parvez Sharma, and produced by Sharma and Trembling Before G-d director Sandi DuBowski.
in a time, when Islam is under tremendous attack-from within and without-’A Jihadfor Love’ is a daring documentary-filmed in twelve countries and nine languages. Muslim gay filmmaker Parvez Sharma has gone where the silence is strongest, filming with great risk in nations where government permission to make this film was not an option. A Jihad for Love is the first-ever feature-length documentary to explore the complex global intersections of Islam and homosexuality. With unprecedented access and depth, Sharma brings to light the hidden lives of gay and lesbian Muslims from countries like Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Turkey, France, India, and South Africa. The majority of gay and lesbian Muslims must travel a lonely and often dangerous road. In many nations with a Muslim majority, laws based on Quranic interpretations are enforced by 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,” the relative freedoms of new homelands are mitigated by persistent racial profiling and intensified state surveillance after the terrorist attacks in New York, London and Madrid. As a result, many gay and lesbian Muslims end up renouncing their religion. But the real-life characters of A Jihad for Love aren’t willing to abandon a faith they cherish despite its flaws. 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 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. However, those who have come forward to tell their stories feel this film is too important for 1.4 billion Muslims and non-Muslims around the world for them to say no. They are willing to take the risk in their quest to lay equal claim to their profoundly held faith. “A Jihad for Love’ is produced by Sandi DuBowski (Director of Trembling Before G-d) in association with ZZDF-Arte Channel 4, and LOGO. Written by
The documentary was filmed in 12 different countries and in nine languages. Sharma conducted 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. He found many of his interviewees online, and received thousands of emails.
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 prestigious 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.
Significance of the title
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 in the media almost exclusively to mean “holy war” and to refer to violent acts perpetrated by extremist Muslims.
The film has gone by several titles, beginning with the official working title, In the Name of Allah.
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-Rahmāni r-Rahīm. All surahs of the Qur’an begin with “Bismillahi r-Rahmāni r-Rahīm,” 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
Sharma’s making of the film has not been without criticism.
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.
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,” Amy Chua, Singapore Board of Film Censors chairwoman was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.
As of May 25, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 90 percent of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 10 reviews. Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 55 out of 100, based on six reviews — indicating mixed or average reviews.
In the end this to give you a good idea of how hard it was to make a movie like that If five percent of all Muslims are gay, that means there are 60 million around the world, and it’s chilling to think that many of them wake up each day either painfully closeted or wondering if their lives are in danger. Sharma shines a bright light on this tough topic. He was brave to undertake it, and his subjects were brave to cooperate with him.