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“Protect us from committing acts you won’t forgive.”
To hear the review
To hear the review
This seems like an unlikely prayer to offer one’s God. In fact, to me, it seems counter-intuitive. That’s kind of saying to your best friend “I know you would never forgive me for sleeping with your wife, so if you could just keep her far away from me at all times we could avoid that, and I would appreciate it”. It really doesn’t make any sense. Simply the thought itself would likely anger your best friend. Or, at least, it would anger mine. I know this because when I said that previous sentence to him, he was very angry. But wouldn’t your God be angry as well? Wouldn’t it just be easier to renounce your God and move on without that religion?
Well, for me it would. And maybe for you. But A Jihad For Love is about people for whom that decision is simply not an option. Maybe because they live in an area where not being a Muslim is as dangerous as being gay. But mostly because their faith is as strong and as binding as their homosexuality. Like For The Bible Tells Me So, a terrific documentary released last year, A Jihad For Love deals with homosexuality and religion. In this case, it is the Muslim religion rather than Christianity. Both religions offer very interesting perspectives on the gay community. In both cases, it appears to be extremists in those religions that want to condemn homosexuality completely.
Most importantly, however, in both cases a religious case can be made for homosexuality as easily as it can be made against it. This is the reason the Muslims in the film have not turned their backs on their religion. They are fervent believers, and that belief tells them that they are the way they are because Allah made them that way. Almost all of them are aware that homosexuality isn’t something they have chosen to do, or someone they have chosen to be, but rather that they were born that way. And therefore it was Allah who ensured that they would be born that way. And just like the Christian bible, a careful reading of the Qur’an leads to multiple interpretations of the text – either homosexuality is immoral and evil, or it is normal and shouldn’t be punished.
A Jihad For Love doesn’t take a long look at the religion itself. It doesn’t question the religion. It’s just a fascinating look at the people who are caught in the precarious position of being both gay and Muslim. We meet many of these people, gay men and lesbian women, some of whom are willing to come out and speak about their sexual orientation in the context of Islam (one of them, an Imam in South Africa, is a very inspirational figure). Others are willing to speak about their lives, but only under condition of anonymity. Their faces are blurred, and they can’t be identified.
This is the biggest difference between gay Muslims and gay Christians. Gay Christians may be marginalized, and ostracized, and excommunicated and possibly even threatened. But they will likely not die because of their sexual orientation. Gay Muslims face this very real possibility in many countries around the world. Several of the men and women depicted in the movie are seeking asylum on humanitarian grounds, and they are heading for Canada and other safe havens around the world. They don’t want to show their faces because they still have family back in Iran or Egypt or other countries, and they fear that there could be retribution against their families shoudl they be outed.
The point is made in the film that “jihad” doesn’t only mean “holy war”, it means “struggle” as well. And theirs is, truly, a “jihad” for love. For the freedom and understanding to live their lives according to their nature and not according to the extremist elements of their religious affiliation. It’s a painful process, and you can see the struggle in each person as they try to reconcile the two. I like the fact that A Jihad For Love doesn’t talk to a lot of religious scholars, or religious figureheads, but rather lets these people tell their stories in their own words. The whole thing is subtitled – some of it is in French, some of it in Arabic, but the powerful words come through loud and clear.
There are some emotional scenes, like one of a young man on the phone with his mother, unable to see her and not knowing if he will ever see his family again. But the movie doesn’t rely too heavily on emotion either. It doesn’t delve too deeply into the punishments homosexuals face in Islamic nations, and it doesn’t hammer home the negatives. Instead, it shows us a group of people we’ve never seen before, in a heartbreaking situation, and we get a terrific character study that provides great insight into both the gay community and the Muslim community. A Jihad For Love comes out April 21st from First Run Features.