A Jihad for Love (2007) is the world’s first documentary film on the coexistence of Islam and homosexuality. The film is directed by Parvez Sharma, and produced by Parvez Sharma and Trembling Before G-d director Sandi DuBowski.
The film has also been known under the working title In the Name of Allah.
The documentary was filmed in 12 different countries and in nine languages. Sharma conducted interviews throughout North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Middle East. Countries included Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, France, India, South Africa, the United States and the United Kingdom. He found many of his interviewees online, and received thousands of emails.
The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2007, and has been screened to great acclaim at several film festivals around the world. The U.S. theatrical release was 21 May 2008 at the IFC Center in New York City. The film will screen at the Frameline Film Festival in San Francisco on 28 June 2008.
The title A Jihad for Love refers to the Islamic concept of jihad, as a religious struggle. The film seeks to reclaim this concept of personal struggle, as it is used in the Western media almost exclusively to mean “holy war” and to refer to violent acts perpetrated by extremist Muslims.
The film has gone by several titles, beginning with the official working title, In the Name of Allah.
Among Muslims, the phrase (bismillah in Arabic) may be used before beginning actions, speech, or writing. Its most notable use in Al-Fatiha, the opening passage of the Qur’an, which begins “Bismillah ar-Rahman, ar-Rahim.” All following surat of the Qur’an, with the exception of the ninth, begin with these words.
Producer DuBowski’s previous film, Trembling Before G-d, on Orthodox and Hasidic Jews, also included the name of God, written with a hyphen as in Jewish tradition. Allah is Arabic for God, and the Arabic word is often used among English-speaking Muslims.
Sharma’s making of the film has not been without criticism.
|“||About every two weeks I get an e-mail that berates me, condemns me to hell and, if they are nice, asks me to still seek forgiveness while there is still time.||”|
Sharma refuses to associate homosexuality with shame, but recognizes the need to protect the safety and privacy of his sources, by filming them in silhouette or with their faces blurred. In one case, the family of an Afghan woman he interviewed “would undoubtedly kill her” if they found out she was lesbian. In another example, one of the associate producers, an Egyptian gay man, chose not to be listed in the credits for fear of possible consequences.
The film was banned from screening at the 2008 Singapore International Film Festival “in view of the sensitive nature of the subject that features Muslim homosexuals in various countries and their struggle to reconcile religion and their lifestyle,” Amy Chua, Singapore Board of Film Censors chairwoman was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.