A Jihad For Love

"Excellent"

A Jihad For Love Review


Being gay in America may have its challenges, but at least American gays don't live in constant fear of 100 strokes of the lash. Of all the troubling images in the documentary A Jihad for Love, none is more disturbing than a photo of the back of Amir, a young Iranian man who suffered a whipping after being arrested for attending a gay party in Teheran. Now living in Turkey, he's one of several gay Muslims sensitively interviewed by director Parvez Sharma, who sets out across the world to find out what it means to be gay and Muslim. In most cases, it means trouble.

In South Africa, we meet Muhsin Hendricks, an outspoken gay Muslim who married at one point to try to straighten himself out. Now the father of three, he jokes with his kids about whether they believe Daddy should be stoned to death as the Koran suggests. Their sobering response: Maybe. Maybe not. It's a truly weird moment.

Next up is Mazen, a sensitive young man who lives in Paris after spending three years in a Cairo jail as part of the "Cairo 52," a group of young gays who were arrested on a party boat in 2001 and summarily sentenced to several years in prison. The huge irony: once Mazen was in jail, he was raped. His job now: male belly dancer in a cramped Middle Eastern café.

In Istanbul, Amir and three friends feel relieved to be living in the one Muslim country with a secular government and a live-and-let-live attitude toward gays, but since Turkey won't take Iranian refugees permanently, their fate is in the hands of the UN High Commission on Refugees, which judges whether they can stay or be forced back to a very uncertain future in their home country.

Old, young, male, and female, the gay interviewees Sharma finds around the world share a love of God/Allah and a true frustration that "The Word" can't be reconciled with their sexuality. Like zealous Christians who latch onto specific Bible verses and refuse to be swayed, the Muslim clerics and Imams Sharma finds are similarly resolute in their beliefs. Death, they seem to agree, is the only inevitable solution to the problem.

And yet, with varying degrees of courage (some interviewees ask for their faces to be blurred out to protect their families), the film's subjects want to make change happen. They look to India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh, where Sharma finds a groovier, hippier form of Islam that is far more lax on these issues and even goes so far as to hold an annual festival in memory of two ancient Muslim leaders who were lovers.

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.

The lights fantastic.



A Jihad For Love

Facts and Figures

Run time: 81 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 21st May 2008

Distributed by: First Run Features

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Fresh: 25 Rotten: 8

IMDB: 6.7 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Parvez Sharma

Producer: Parvez Sharma, Sandi Dubowski

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