Friday, April 3, 2009

A Jihad For Love

Parvez Sharma's A Jihad for Love is the first ever documentary to discuss the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality. Like other monotheistic religions, Islam bans homosexuality pretty much across the board. This film showed people from various parts of the world (South Africa, Egypt, France, Iran, India, Turkey) and their personal struggle (or jihad, which translates to struggle) to find a place for their homosexual desires or acts in their religion. Some people clearly had an easier time reconciling their relationship with Allah with their personal tendencies than others. It was very interesting, and taught me a lot about laws governing homosexuality around the world, and a lot about Islam, a religion I knew little about. One of the people interviewed was a South African imam who had been cast out by his community after coming out, but was trying to argue a different interpretation of the Qur'an in the only verses in which it (arguably) covers homosexuality, which is with the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. After the film, there was a discussion led by a professor of Middle Eastern Studies. A few things really stuck out for me in the discussion. First, the professor argued that if the clerics and scholars did not keep up with lived experience they would become marginalized, as has happened with Christianity. Also, someone argued that the movement for gay rights would gain momentum much like the movement for women's rights. Someone countered, saying there are a lot more women than there are homosexuals. Then a member of Lambda mentioned that while there aren't as many homosexuals, there are plenty of allies. As soon as someone realizes that homosexuality hurts no one, and therefore the marginalization of homosexuals is more harmful than homosexuality itself (as one Muslim woman in the film put it, "I was just loving, I didn't hurt anyone") and will see that that is unjust.

The film was certainly eye-opening, but left space for hope that Islam may come to see homosexuality as another type of love, and not as haram. All monotheistic religions have trouble with this, and some of the worst trouble comes from interpretation.

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