Gay Muslim talks about taboo lifestyle, new film

By Becky Reiser

An Indian-born film director invoked terms of war to discuss love ‘mdash; gay love.

Parvez Sharma, who spoke to a crowd of about 50 people in Pitt’s Public Health Building Thursday night, directed a controversial film, “A Jihad for Love.”

For the last six years, Sharma has filmed in 12 nations and in nine languages, conducting interviews with people who have struggled to identify themselves as both Muslim and gay. His film shows that, in some cases, this can lead to a deadly combination. Sharma spoke about the Muslim community’s hesitancy to discuss sex and sexual preference.

The Islamic religion doesn’t permit homosexuality, he said. Such hesitancy forced Sharma to film without the government’s permission in several countries.

“In my lifetime, I don’t see Islam saying that homosexuality is permissible ‘mdash; but I don’t see the Vatican saying that either,” said Sharma.

Sharma said he aims to educate his audience. The event’s organizer, Rainbow Alliance business manager Julia Wester, said the film does just that.

“It was interesting to see different views on homosexuality and how it is treated differently throughout the Middle East,” said Wester.

“Most see the Middle East only having one viewpoint and only being in one place. It causes you to [feel] guilty, because you’re living in the U.S. and have guaranteed rights you take for granted.”

Nicole Potase, the Rainbow Alliance publicity chair, said the group chose to host the advance screening of the film because “[the director] deals with different, diverse stuff. He himself is Muslim, Indian and gay. The film was very controversial and informative.”

Sharma told the audience in the Public Health Building that he thought making the film was his own personal “jihad.” He said that as a Muslim he is not supposed to “mess” with the Quran.

“I grapple with my own contradictions,’ said Sharma. He is unlike the people shown in his film, who either renounce their faith or give up love. ‘I became a defender of my faith in the post-9/11 world, but I need to critique what needs to be changed,” said Sharma.