Jihad For Love

Posted by sepoy on September 28, 2007 · 3 mins read

Parvez Sharma's A Jihad for Love looks quite promising and I will try and seek it out. It comprises of profiles of various couples from across the Muslim world - such as Ahsan and Qasim:

In India, his home country, director Parvez Sharma documents the lives of Ahsan-a Sunni Muslim and Qasim-A Shia Muslim. Both men, coming from poor backgrounds do not adopt western personae of 'gay' and instead rely on local constructs like 'koti' and 'zenana'-used by many men in the Indian sub-continent to self identify around their sexualities. The terms are often also used derogatorily to describe effeminate men but within their own circle of friends they become markers of identity. Ahsan laments the lack of a religious education as he walks the corridors of the Nadhwa Madrassa in Lucknow-an Islamic religious school that is amongst the most prestigious in the Indian sub-continent. Qasim who has faced questions around his sexuality and faith travels with the Director to meet Syed Kalbe Jawad-one of the most prominent clerics and authorities on Shia Islam outside of Iran. This is a meeting that will go to the very heart of the conflict in this film and leave the audience and indeed Qasim, with more questions than answers. Ahsan and Qasim both have found a sense of community within their circle of friends and it is their one moment of celebration and self expression-that finds itself joyously depicted in the film-using the vocabulary of Bollywood cinema-certainly the most familiar vocabulary to a billion Indians. In a remarkable way, the story of Ahsan and Qasim most directly challenges Western notions of sexuality and allows the audience to experience a way of being-and indeed a way of living sexuality, in a way that is different and enlightening.

Sharma also has a post on Ahmedi Nejad's statement regarding the lack of homosexuals in Iran [posted at HuffPo].

To get a glimpse of this living sexuality on the Pakistan side, I recommend looking at two amazing bloggers: Danial- who has been silent for too long - and the bitingly funny Sin. For Danial, I recommend reading Goal, Million Dollar Smile, and My First Love Letter. For Sin, you just will have to read his entire archive - or at the very least the Queer Rage category. Sin also owes me a post on Hijras. And he knows it.

You can also check out this old post of mine: Eye on Queer Pakistan - which looks really dated.

update: I forgot, duh, to mention that I am greatly impressed by, what I have read so far, Joseph Massad's Desiring Arabs. I confess that my reading of the book is hampered by the amount of time I can spend in the Sem Coop. Maybe I should just buy the book. In the meantime, looks like Massad is getting good press in Jordon, too.


Sin | September 29, 2007

I'm blushing. A lot, seriously. But I most certainly do owe you a post on hijras, and I will write one veddy veddy soon. Promise.

Sahar | September 29, 2007

I'm not sure "Jihad for Love" is the great hope for queer Muslims we're looking for. It's a film made basically for the West. The major problem is in the premise - why make a film about queer Muslims in the first place? And the name "jihad" evokes only negative connotations in the West and I don't think is helpful. Maybe this film will be useful, but I fear it might end up having the same impact as Irshad Manji's work, which is to say that it might essentialize and pathologize "Islam" (in the broadest use of the term) for being irredeemably oppressive.

Parvez Sharma | September 30, 2007

Dear Sepoy: Thanks for an excellent post. Please continue to visit Huff and also my newly formed blog at www.ajihadforlove.blogspot.com Re: Sahar's comment- I invite you all to watch the film and only then form opinion and/or judgement about it. To say a film will essentialize or "pathologize" 'Islam' without seeing it (films being a visual medium) serves no one. Please join our mailing list to know when the film is coming to a theater or film festival near you. Regards and Salam Parvez