Jihad for love

Parvez Sharma

Sandi DuBowski

Press Release



A Jihad for Love


At a time when Islam is under attack, from within, and from the outside, “A Jihad for Love" is a seminal documentary. Filmed in twelve countries and in nine languages, Muslim gay film-maker Parvez Sharma traveled to countries where receiving government permission to film was not an option.
"A Jihad for Love" is the first feature documentary to explore the complex intersections between Islam and homosexuality. Parvez traveled across the globe to capture diverse stories from India, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and France. As a gay-Muslim man he always filmed in secret. As people from within the faith, he and others sharing their personal journeys, while according the religion absolute respect.
In Western media, the concept of 'jihad' is often narrowly equated with holy war. But Jihad also has a deeper meaning, its literal Arabic translation being 'struggle' or 'to strive in the path of God'. In this film we meet several people engaged in their personal Jihad's for love. Their pursuit of love has brought them into direct conflict with their countries, families, and at times themselves.
The majority of Muslims believe that homosexuality is forbidden by the Qur'an. Islam, already the second largest religion in the world is also the fastest growing. 50 nations have a Muslim majority. In a few of those nations laws interpreted from alleged Qur'anic prohibitions of male homosexuality (lesbianism is allegedly absent from the Qur'an) are enforced by religious, tribal or military authorities to monitor, entrap, imprison, torture and even execute homosexuals. Even for those who migrate to Europe or North America and adopt Western identities of "gay" or "queer," the relative freedom of their new homelands is mitigated by persistent racial profiling and intensified state surveillance after 9/11 and the subsequent train bombings in Madrid and London.
As a result, many gay and lesbian Muslims renounce their religion completely. But the real-life characters of “A Jihad for Love" aren't willing to abandon a faith they cherish and one that sustains them. Instead, their struggles are an effort to reconcile their beliefs with their innate reality. The international chorus of gay and lesbian Muslim voices brought together in "A Jihad for Love" doesn't seek to vilify or reject Islam, but rather negotiate a new relationship with it.
As one can imagine, it was a difficult decision for the subjects to be a part of the film given the threat of violence they (and their families) might face. It took the film-maker six years to finish this film and he, like those who have stepped forward to tell their stories, feel that they are Islam's most unlikely storytellers. Convinced of the importance of the film they were willing to take the risk as a part of their quest to lay equal claim to their profoundly held faith.
A Jihad for Love's characters each have vastly different personal takes on Islam, some observing a rigorously orthodox regimen, others leading highly secular lifestyles while remaining spiritually devout. As the camera attentively captures their stories, they emerge in all their human complexity, giving the viewer an honest rendering of their lives while complicating our assumptions about a monolithic Muslim community. Crucially, this film speaks with a Muslim voice unlike prior documentaries about sexual politics in Islam. In the hopes of starting a previously non-existent dialog, and by defining jihad as a "struggle" rather than a "war," the film presents the struggle for love.
A Jihad for Love" is produced by Sandi DuBowski (Director/Producer of the award-winning "Trembling Before G-d") and Parvez Sharma in association with ZDF-Arte, Channel 4, LOGO, SBS-Australia, The Sundance Documentary Fund and The Katahdin Foundation.

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