If Islam reviles homosexuality and ignores lesbianism, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told Americans last fall, “In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country,” then there’s more chance of a pig praying five times a day than of mainstream believers heeding a crusade by gay Muslims to “negotiate a new relationship” with their unyielding faith.
Yet, in “A Jihad For Love,” which opens at the IFC Center in Manhattan on May 21, Indian-born director Parvez Sharma – a gay practicing Muslim – disregards the “war-torn present” and instead attempts to reconcile “the quandary of being both homosexual and Muslim” in an unprecedented documentary, which took six years to make and contains secret interviews with gays and lesbians in Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and France.
The characters, engaged in a personal jihad (“struggle”) for acceptance by their brethren, are poignant enough, but offer nothing substantive beyond stories of their own persecutions in a religious culture, which they want to embrace, but which, clearly, recoils from them.
In a contradiction to Ahmadinejad’s ramblings, Amir is an Iranian exile living “a life in limbo” in Turkey after fleeing his rogue nation where he received 100 lashes for crimes of “sexual preference, sexual conduct, illicit speech, illicit dress, makeup and mannerism”; Mazen is an Egyptian, whose pro-Islamic government arrested him during a 2001 raid on a Cairo gay club; Muhsin Hendricks is a gay imam from South Africa, who was raised to “fear God”; Maha and Maryam are Arab lesbians, who met on a Web site for Arab women; Ferda and Kiymet are mystic Sufi lesbians living in Turkey; and Ahsan and Qasim, who live in India, describe themselves as koti (“female donkey”) and zenana, terms used to describe effeminate men.
While there’s no denying the hardship and courage it took to make “A Jihad For Love,” Mr. Sharma would have served the bereaved, baffled, disconsolate, bitter and angry post-9/11 viewer better – and his own community – had he explored the struggle of Muslims to explain the fanaticism behind their faith, and its innumerable woes that now adversely affect the whole world. Moreover, he could have documented why Muslims, gay, lesbian, heterosexual or otherwise, defend their terrorists by ignoring them, excusing them or excising themselves. That problem for decent people everywhere far supersedes the issue of tolerance for gay Muslims. If Mr. Sharma genuinely wants to effect the change he stresses, he would toss caution aside and screen his film in Islamic nations, which would most benefit from its message, instead of airing it in commercial western venues.
When Islamic terrorists gave America her “worst day,” the non-Muslim world became entrenched in the barbarism, intolerance and mania of Muslims. Add to that the dramatic increase in Islam-fueled terror attacks – 658 in the past year, reports the Washington Post, and 11,047 since 9/11, according to religionofpeace.com – and the recipe for understanding the Muslim psyche becomes a poisonous pill to swallow.
In a day and age that is engulfed by the destructive antics of Muslim extremists against the Free World, it behooves Muslims, such as Mr. Sharma, to expose and condemn Islam’s terrorists and reclaim their religion from the gutter of global ill repute.
Regrettably, the “Muslim voice,” which he wields “in the hope of opening a dialogue” falls on deaf ears and, ultimately, begs the questions: What is the point of this film, and why should we care about gay Muslims when Muslim fanatics – some of whom may be gay – live to kill innocent people because they despise the west?
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