No one said it was easy to be a homosexual, but gay men and lesbians in the Islamic world lead a decidedly less-than-fabulous life. Parvez Sharma’s documentary “A Jihad for Love” details the tormented, often violent lives that gay and lesbian Muslims have faced in trying to reconcile the basic tenets of their faith with their lifestyles.
“A Jihad for Love” is rich with compelling, often heartbreaking stories. The film visits with Iranian refugees who attempted to escape to Turkey – at home in their fundamentalist nation, they face certain death sentences. One young Egyptian who is interviewed was arrested and jailed, but managed to escape to Paris and eke out a living that’s one step from destitution. Two lesbian couples struggle to come to terms with their sexuality and the role of women in Islam. And a South African gay imam puts up with calls for his death (including jokey approval from his young children).
In many ways, the film falls into a somewhat repetitious pattern – since there is no liberal stream within Islam, all of the gay men and lesbians featured here exist as pariahs with no chance of escaping the rigid conservative theocratic interpretation of the Koran (the gay imam’s reading of the holy text is violently dismissed by another holy man). The persecution and hostility brought by their Islamic communities carries over from person to person (those living in Western countries face the double stigma of post-9/11 profiling).
And while those interviewed here do not jettison their religious beliefs, their inability to figure out how they fit into the Islamic world is very sad. As the Islamic communities in the Western world begin to expand, a film like “A Jihad for Love” can serve as a much-needed reminder that the foundation of any great religion consists of love and understanding. Truly, God is on record for hating hate!