Some notes on ‘A Jihad for Love’

Film: A Jihad for Love (2007) dir. Parvez Sharma

Trailer (2:11):


Running theme: Pray to remove desire, replace desire with love, “to die as Muslims”.

Gay Muslim, Islamic scholar, South Africa

  • Reconcile Islam and homosexuality; take the good out of Islam, receive judgment at the end of the day; better than suicide.
  • Others feel homosexuality is “bringing down the name of Islam”, better to be thrown off a mountain, death, suicide.
  • “If it can be changed, god will help me to change”, “could not fit myself into Islam”, married a woman to “try to change”, but feel in love with best friend instead.
  • Still has close relationship with children, having a gay father is “fate”, accept the challenge to emerge stronger. Jihad = struggle with self, personal war.
  • Had to resign from teaching in religious schools, “prepared to die”, knows the mentality of his community.
  • Asked Allah to help rid of this, not a personal choice; fasted, still engage in Ramadan.
  • Different interpretation of Islam VS tailor interpretations to fit desires VS cannot use Koran as blanket condemnation, “taking rights away” as crime, homosexuality per se is not crime.
  • Asked to return to own Muslim society to speak to social workers after a few years.
  • God of fear VS god of love.

Mazen, Gay Muslim, Cairo Egypt

  • Homosexuality considered a crime; got arrested by police who gathered a horde of men outside “Queenboat” cruise.
  • Vice squad detention, obscenities hurled at them, deny homosexuality and got beaten by police, imprisoned for one year, and got raped.
  • Put on second trial and sentenced to another three years, escaped Egypt to be refugee in Paris.
  • “God has a reason for what is happening”.
  • Sees apartment approval as prophet’s birthday blessings.
  • Close religious relationship with mother.
  • Has other “sexually-deviant” friends; dresses up, puts make up, belly dances; “I’m known for dancing like a man”.

Lesbian Couple, France

  • 10% of France is Muslim.
  • “My loving a woman caused no harm… I only loved”; god “created you in the best of forms”, so no one has the right to alter god’s creations.
  • Mercy of god VS shiaria and harem (sin).
  • “Love is something powerful”, love is more important than sex; couple shares religious views, “No other god, but god”, “live through the test together”, live with each other and god.
  • Solution from “Islam Online” is to get married; believe living in monastery might help; asked god to rid of this or help her die; wish to enter holy pilgrimage site to rid of intimate relations, but highly restricted against ladies unless accompanied by husband or brother.
  • Lesbianism without penetration is not serious, only punishment is scolding VS feel guilty, feel better if punished.

Amir, Gay, Iran

  • Shiaria is the legal law; gay party raided, got imprisoned, 100 lashes on the back as punishment.
  • Son of martyr, father died in Iran-Iraq war; police said he disgraced father.
  • Feels god is helping him at every step.

4 refugees, Gay, Iran

  • Being gay in turkey is like suppressing your cries.
  • Afraid for family’s safety despite having left Iran.
  • Misses home but left o save own life; UNHCR asylum, pending case approval to move to Canada, or get deported back to Iran.
  • 2005, proper wedding to boyfriend of 6 years; video spread and seized by police, no evidence for UN now.
  • “How can I be free when so many other can’t”, “Today is my new birthday”.

Lesbian Couple, Turkey

  • Turkey is a secular state, no same-sex penetration criminalization.
  • Preaching: love as the foundation of human relationships.
  • Couple feel being women in Muslim community is like being imprisoned, captives in live.
  • Forced marriage at 16, underdeveloped organs, painful pregnancy.
  • Parental acceptance of relationship.

Historical figures, India

  • India has 2nd largest Muslim population worldwide, after colonialism ended, homosexual laws not as stringent.
  • Annual celebration of gay couple in history.
  • Unnatural tendency will go away if god wishes; if god forgives you, no one can judge you VS you have a disease, you should see a psychologist.
  • God gave a man the heart of a woman; used to cross-dress but feels he was disgracing religion; still cross-dresses to dance now.
  • God is there for everyone, including prostitutes and gays.


Why was the film banned at SIFF?

  • Sg’s OB markers on religion and ethnicity.
  • Censorship restricts information, no alternative viewpoints, preserve dominant ideology.
  • VS controversial hype to up movie’s popularity, arouse more curiosity.
  • State makes sense of judgment at the top level, on behalf of individuals, neglect individual agency, bring down cultural diversity.

Do Muslims treat Gays and Lesbians differently?

  • Strict interpretation of Koran, gay homosexuality is more serious.
  • Gender hierarchy and patriarchy; shameful for men to adopt a subordinate position in the women’s role.
  • Lesbians as love, gays as penetration; phallic-centric sex, no penetration = no sex.
  • Women’s focus within Islam is on virginity and purity.

Disputes among South African social workers about text in Koran.

  • Different interpretations by different authorities; battle of preaching, who is the arbiter of truth.
  • Too many “imans”, democracy VS monopolization.
  • Power is translated from class?

What are the connotations of “community”?

  • Presence of Malay/Muslim community VS no Chinese community.
  • Majority/minority, numbers as power, assume Sg hegemony is Chinese-based.
  • Double-edged sword: minority solidarity from oppression and support VS increases pressures to conform to peer influences, surveillance increased due to fewer numbers. Eg. Tudung wearing.
  • Group becomes isolate, mobile, coherent, “the other”.

Gender segregation.

  • Creates conditions of homosociality, in turn creates conditions for intimacy.
  • Culture caught in a trap.

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