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A Jihad for Love
A Jihad for Love
Actor: -
Director: Parvez Sharma
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests, Documentary
NR     2009     1hr 21min

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...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: -
Director: Parvez Sharma
Genres: Indie & Art House, Special Interests, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Indie & Art House, Religion & Spirituality, Gay & Lesbian
Studio: First Run Features
Format: DVD - Color,Widescreen - Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 04/21/2009
Release Year: 2009
Run Time: 1hr 21min
Screens: Color,Widescreen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 5
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: Arabic, English, French, Farsi, Urdu, Hindi, Turkish
Subtitles: English

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Movie Reviews

A Struggle For Love
James Morris | Jackson Heights, NY United States | 04/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Director Parvez Sharma spent more than five years traveling throughout the Muslim world and interviewing lesbians and gay men about their life, their faith and their fears as followers of Islam. The results are enlightening, heart rendering and, at times, shocking. Like the documentary about gay people in the Orthodox Jewish world, Trembling Before G-D, A Jihad For Love restricts itself to the paradox of religious followers of a faith that seemingly rejects their existence. Of course, the penalty for homosexuality is far more severe in countries ruled by Sharia law, but it is amazing to see and learn how the faithful deal with what must seem like overwhelming obstacles in simple things that gay people in the Western world take for granted.

I learned quite a bit from this film that I was previously unaware of, such as the fact that Turkey, although overwhelmingly Muslim, has no laws forbidding homosexuality, and attitudes there concerning homosexuality have always been more relaxed than other parts of the Muslim world. I also was under the false impression, as many Westerners are, that jihad means "Holy war". It actually means "struggle". Thus the film's title is quite apt, and because the film's creator / director is himself a member of the Muslim faith, the film exudes an aura of self-assured confidence, familiarity and respect for its subject matter that many documentaries cannot hope to achieve. In modern Pakistan, of all places, the Sufi sect celebrates the love of a 16th century poet and Sufi saint, Shah Hussain, for a Brahmin boy named Madho Lal. Each year on his urs (death anniversary) their love is celebrated through ritual dances held in the shrine near the tomb of the two lovers. The scenes of Muslims dancing and celebrating this love are jarring, and totally at odds with what many in the West have come to expect from the Muslim world.

One of the most striking things about this documentary is how Mr. Sharma managed to get the men and women interviewed in the film to openly talk about themselves, although most of their faces are not shown. Even though a gay Muslim himself, it must have been very difficult to gain their trust. More striking still is the devotion to their religion that these people still have, and one contrast with Western culture is how close they still are to their parents, and how accepting their fundamentalist parents seem to be, despite the cultural and religious taboos against same-sex love. That is to say, many of the gay people profiled in the film are still close to their families, whereas in Fundamentalist Christian families, many gay children are rejected by their parents completely. There is even a wonderful segment where a Turkish lesbian brings her partner to meet her mother.

There is also a scene where a South African Muslim confronts an Imam, and tells him that the verse in the Qur'an which condemns homosexuality (there is only one, outside of the story of Sodom & Gomorrah) is open to interpretation. The Imam responds that the only portion of Muslim law about homosexuality that is open to interpretation is the severity of the punishment to be inflicted. Such complete close-mindedness will not surprise anyone who has ever tried to argue gay rights with a Christian fundamentalist. It has long been my understanding that one of the most severe problems with homosexuality and Islam is that the Muslim religion has no central leadership, in that almost anyone who is a member of Islam can study to be an Imam and so become a spiritual leader and recognized as an authority on the Muslim religion and what it teaches. As such, many of the leaders of the Islam faith are those who are most fundamental in their interpretation, although the term Imam itself differs completely depending on whether one is a Sunni or a Shiite, the two largest sects in Islam. This documentary is extremely eye-opening, shedding light on what heretofore has only been a shadowy world of isolation and self-hate. It is sure to engender discussion among Westerners, and may even result in some dialogue within the Muslim world. And at least that's a start. Highly recommended.
Homosexuality in the Muslim World
Amos Lassen | Little Rock, Arkansas | 01/16/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

""A Jihad for Love"

Homosexuality in the Muslim World

Amos Lassen

Most of us are aware that it is illegal to be gay in the Muslim world. Homosexuality is very much underground and because of that we know very little about it. Indian director Parvez Sharma has made a documentary that exposes what is going on in the Muslim countries with regard to the gay issue. Sharma, himself, is both a devout Muslim and a homosexual and therefore his film is deeply personal. His story is a heartbreaker and as he tells us how he had been ostracized as a gay man, he further shows that as a Muslim living in America, he became treated unfairly as a Muslim after 9/11.
The film challenges not only intolerance toward gay people in the Muslim world but intolerance toward Muslims in the Western world. Sharma spent six years working on the movie and filmed in twelve countries and in nine languages and managed to gather over four hundred hours of film. What Sharma found is amazing. He found a thriving, secretive gay community in Saudi Arabia and changing attitudes toward homosexuality in both Turkey and India. He also found that, in Egypt, it is possible to be gay, if one lives within the regulations of being secretive and underground. Homosexuality is tolerated in the Muslim world as long as people are not open as long as politics and social identity are not part of the person's life.
I can imagine what a hard job it was to gain the trust of the people who are interviewed in the film and appear with concealed identities, blurred faces, or in silhouette. The fact that he is Muslim unquestionably helped.
The film is one of both dignity and despairs and is a compassionate look at devout Muslims who struggle to reconcile their religion with their sexual preference. It is interesting to note that only one single short passage in the Koran says that homosexuality is a crime punishable by death but even that is questionable by scholars who say that the prohibition may actually deal with rape and not with relations between consenting adults. Even with this some 4,000 people have been put to death in Iran for alleged homosexual acts since 1979.
Sharma feels that his religion has been depicted as a faith of violence when in effect it is not but it seems from what we see in this film that the violence against gay people illustrates what Sharma calls the "high jacking" of his religion.
The movie does not offer solutions. It gives us a picture of what is and does not show much hope for change. It could be the film that brings about change as happened with Sandi Dubowski's "Trembling Before G-d" study of gay and lesbian homosexual Jews. There was a little change in opinion and that is better than none at all.
Oh!! The Things You'll Learn!
Vanes | Stratosphere | 04/26/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is (Not Without My Daughter..another good film..) so marvelously splendid..The absolute beauty of Iran and Egypt by night.The raw and powerful,emotional and moving stories of Mazem,Ferda,Amir,their punishments.The glorious and rare glimpse of Sufi church services,facts about Muslims in the countries of France,Egypt,India,(a turn on..) Bangladesh,Pakistan..The moving story of the celebration of the love between Shah Husain and Madho Lal.Makes al-Suhaq look pretty good if you ask me.Let's all use Ijtihad (independent reasoning) to go on a Jihad ul-Nafs: A struggle with the self."
"Why does the sky have to be the same color for everyone?"
Matthew G. Sherwin | last seen screaming at Amazon customer service | 06/17/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)

"A Jihad for Love showcases the plight and suffering of the gay and lesbian community in countries where Islam is practiced; the laws of Islam dictate that homosexuality is illegal, immoral and sick and that gay people should (or at least could) even be stoned to death for their "sins!" The film is an excellent documentary that lets us meet several gay and lesbian people, some in relationships and others not, who must struggle to reconcile their Islamic faith with their being gay or lesbian. Some of them are expatriates and others still live in Islamic countries and chose to hide their faces for fear of retribution from the local police and other legal authorities. I truly felt that I knew these people by the time the film ended and the bonus features helped me even more to understand their struggle and the situation for gay and lesbian Muslims, even in our country. In addition, the cinematography is excellent and the film moves along at a good pace; it moves neither too slowly nor too quickly and the interviews with these gay and lesbian people make them stand out as human beings with rights and that's terrific.

The film essentially consists of interviews with gay and lesbian Muslims; they all bravely and honestly tell their stories in such a way that it's impossible not to empathize with them and their struggle. One interesting situation is that of a lesbian couple who live apart in separate countries, getting together from time to time yet, at least for one of them, unable to accept that being Muslim and being homosexual can go together. We also see how one man received one hundred lashes for being gay. Another brave soul, who was married and has visitation rights with his children, explores his children's feelings about homosexuality and the results are powerful and moving at once. We also see (in one of the bonus features) a relatively new organization of gay and lesbian Muslims in the United States where they are respected more and are able to organize more openly than in other countries.

Overall, I highly recommend this film for anyone studying gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender issues. It does fall somewhat short of discussing transgender issues but it's still a good film; at least we do see how one man dresses up as a woman to essentially belly dance in a Parisian restaurant. This is also an enlightening film for anyone who wants to understand the religion of Islam as it relates to homosexuality and its other religious laws in general."