a film by Parvez Sharma
2007 | 84 mins | UK
›› A Jihad for Love - aka In the Name of Allah / US
Islam, homosexuality and a jihad for love
A Jihad for Love by Parvez Sharma Being gay and Muslim is not an oxymoron. But it is difficult, as this painfully sobering film is testament to. For here lesbian and gay Muslims from around the world speak candidly about the struggle to reconcile their faith with their sexuality, one punishable in Islam by death, where the only difference among the jurists is the severity of how you die.

That "the issue of homosexuality within the Muslim community is real" is all but obvious, even to an outsider. For whilst there is no doubt that Islam speaks of peace, of a God of love, the bitter reality is that the majority of homosexual Muslim men and women hide their sexual orientation for fear of persecution in the form of death threats, bloody beatings and imprisonment. Little wonder that many deemed apostates flee their native country in fear of their lives, to await UN refugee status as this documentary demographically details.

The wounds however are deeper. That of an acute inner conflict between a doctrine that forbids your very sexuality. No surprise to learn that many devout Muslims see no way out but by way of self-denial, suicide, or even to leave the faith to which they have devoted their life to. There is no easy option, only that of never ending prayers 'to be normal,' coupled with an eternal hope for a reconciliation between the opposing sides.

As the Islamic version of the Orthodox Judaism work Trembling Before G-D, both documentaries offer a revealing insight into faiths that preach love, only to deliver sexual intolerance. Both share parallels, including many of the interviewees being too afraid to show their faces for fear of their safety and that of their family. And the fact that many of those featured are outcasts, having escaped prison or execution, speaks volumes on homophobia in the Islamic world.

Yet there is light at the end of the tunnel in the form of emerging support groups for gay Muslims, together with those, as here, who either visually, verbally or both have the courage to speak openly about their sexual and spiritual lives. True, it is highly unlikely that a work of this nature will be shown at your local mosque; indeed any Islamic building period. More is the pity. But the fact that this remarkably frank documentary was made in the first case, marks a step in the right direction.

A compelling film in which shocking photos of 100 lashes and talk of the stoning to death of Iranian gays, brings the all too familiar theme of homosexuality v religion home with graphic reality. Essential viewing.
screened as part of the 22nd London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival 2008
featuring: Muhsin Hendricks, Mazen, Sana, Maryam, Maha, Amir, Arsham, Payam,
Mojtaba, Ferda, Kiymet, Qasim, Syed Kalbe Jawad, Ahsan
Copyright 2009 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #202
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