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Review: A Jihad For Love

July 26, 2008

The movie hadn’t even hit the Chicago screen, nor had anyone seen it, but it caused quite a stir amongst a group that seemed to be sleeping through the summer, aside from a short burst of energy some experienced in regards to Obama’s visit to Michigan.  Opinions were there, in regards to the subject matter of the movie, and a few references to sources that were enriching.

I expected that I would be moved by what the Muslim LBGT community goes through throughout the Islamic world, that was a given – the movie’s title means “a struggle for love”.   What I hadn’t expected was the sheer power of this movie to move me on so many different levels.

Up until tonight, I could only imagine the struggles that they must face to be free, to be who they are, but I couldn’t quite imagine the spiritual struggle.  I’ve been able to read essays and books relating to LGBT and Islam and  I’m in a Muslim society that I feel is open to discussion and in a society where there exists a movement that is pro-equality so I could never fully understand that there would be a spiritual ‘jihad’ of this magnitude.  Tonight, watching the movie, I could feel their jihad within me and there is this pain that isn’t going away.

The movie takes you through a journey of guilt, pain, confusion and suffering but though they have persevered through many different trials, some eventually fleeing their home countries, they hold onto their faith.   Images of the characters praying, visiting mosques and their conversations about their love for Allah and the Prophet (pbuh) overpower the tribulations that they have experienced due to their lifestyle.  While a person will never forget the brutality and cruelty they have faced one comes away with a greater understanding of the internal ‘jihad’.

The movie itself is pretty much Muslim friendly, you won’t find any scenes of passionate kissing, or the likes. However, there is one scene in which a young man performs a belly dance (someone referred to him as ‘scantily clad’) but quite honestly we’re just as likely to see as much being revealed out at the mall, in restaurants, pedestrians crossing the street but it doesn’t keep us from leaving the house.

In some sense for the Muslim community this movie is a success.  Such a highly controversial subject would draw condemnations and protestors of other faith believers if the movie was just a portrayal of [your religion here] LGBT community.  Surely, one would jump to the conclusion that this subject matter would draw some sort of negative reaction from the Muslim community.  I asked Parvez Sharma, the director and producer of a “Jihad for Love” if he found such a reaction from the Muslim community in North America and the answer was no.  Emails though – yes, he gets his fair share of hate mail.

While last night’s audience of about 100 people was a mix of Muslims and non-Muslims, a Tanzinanian couple, who were, as Parvez put it, “about his parents age”, walked up to Parvez and told him that this movie was really about family, this movie still symbolizes a failure of the Muslim community.  We fail to support those who are unlike us.  We’ve got our Ayaans out there and we insist that it’s not that we won’t accept their criticism because they left our faith.  We insist that we would be open to dialogue if it weren’t an attack on Islam if we felt that there was no hidden agenda.  We insist that we could deal with all of these issues if they were presented in a tasteful way.  Here it is.  Here is a movie that is not only sensitive to Muslims and tastefully produced and where are we?  I’m talking to the MSA’s that weren’t willing to put the effort into being open to the movie.  I’m talking to my friends at the list serve who may be considering sitting this one out. 

Are we going to sit this one out people?  Is the voice not loud enough for you to draw a reaction?  This movie would have drawn huge audiences if the characters were angry apostates. Such a movie that portrays ‘jihad’ in it’s true sense, a movie which has focused on Muslims who stayed within Islam, whose love for Allah is great, is the movie we’ve all been waiting for. This movie is for YOU my fellow Muslims.  Go see it!  Support it!  Don’t just let it go.

Chicagoans – the film is playing through July 31, you can get more information and purchase tickets here:


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