01 July 2009

Movie Review: A Jihad for Love

The Muslim shahada "There is no god but God and Muhammed is His messenger" is repeated with such conviction, but without the haunting doubts of fanaticism, by many of the informants that you almost begin to believe that the future of Islam rests upon the shoulders of gay and lesbian Muslims. Even though I don't think that was the intention of the filmmaker.

The documentary follows the lives of several gays and lesbians who are Muslim. A number of them have left Islamist states like Iran and Eqypt for Canada and France, while others live in the country of birth -- like Turkey.

The debate over the place of homosexuality and Islam finds the same tensions that appear in every monotheistic Judaic religion. Repeated several times is the Qu'ranic verse cited by clerics throughout the world is the verse where God condemns the "Nation of Lot" at Sodom and Gomorrah. Gay and lesbian Muslims, however, point out, as do many gay and lesbian Christians do, that the story of Sodom and Gomorrah and its condemnation by God involved nonconsensual sex (rape) and absolute disapproval of the mistreatment of visitors (inhospitality).

One of the first informants interviewed, who lives in a Muslim community in South Africa, was invited back to his community after being expelled, to discuss issues of homosexuality and Islam -- as apparently expelling him didn't resolve the underlying conflict the community is facing. He presents his arguments to a group from the community and they discuss it (as many clerics and scholars discuss it with other informants, on camera, arguing their points very level-headedly and without emotion).

Then, one old woman, who seems swayed by the informant's presentation says, "Islam commands us to learn from the cradle to grave." She insists that each member of the community not rely upon clerical interpretations and find out the truth of God for themselves -- including on this issue.

I was very much moved by this movie, much more than Dangerous Living -- which discusses the Cairo 52 case -- but seems to flatten the experience of non-European/non-American gays and lesbians as though the forms of extrajuridical, everyday patriarchal based violence a bakla in the Philippines experiences is equivalent to the state-sanctioned, extraordinary religion-based violence a gay man in Egypt experiences. (I mean there are similarities, but they were not treated very well by Dangerous Living.)

If you have any interest in the relationship of homosexuality to monotheism (or have your doubts or concerns), or you have a general interest in the relationship of sexuality to religion, this is definitely the movie to watch.


  1. I've heard about this one. Too bad we don't get to see these movies here in Manila. And video stores don't have these kinds of documentaries in stock.

  2. I looked for it on the Malaysian Filem Gay blog site but couldn't find it (which is why I didn't post a link) but I'm sure its floating around there somewhere on the net. Damn the Optical Media Board and the Bureau of Customs. hehehe.